Academic Coaching vs. Teaching: What’s the Difference?

When students struggle with school, they often don’t know who to turn to for support. Can their teachers put them back on track, or might they benefit from a service like academic coaching? What are the differences between academic coaching and teaching in the context of getting students the help they need? 


You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Academic coaches and teachers both serve valuable roles in students’ lives. Let’s explore some frequently asked questions about academic coaching vs. teaching. 


Academic Coaching vs. Teaching: 6 FAQs


1. What can a student expect from academic coaching that they won’t get from a teacher?

A teacher’s primary role is to lead students through a specific course with a curriculum designed to help them pass the class and continue on their academic journey. Teaching is generally curriculum-led, with a focus on the content that’s in the lesson plan. 


In contrast, academic coaching has no agenda or curriculum and is intentionally student-led. Rather than letting content be the driver, academic coaches support students with general life skills, offering support and guidance to help them overcome bigger challenges than those associated with a particular subject. 


Another key difference between teachers and academic coaches is the level of in-depth support they provide. Don’t get us wrong—many wonderful teachers put in the effort to develop relationships with their students. But teachers are incredibly busy and may not have the time to sit down with a student for an hour each week and get to know them in depth. 


Academic coaches offer students highly focused, intentional, 1:1 relationship-building over a long period of time. A student may only have a teacher for one class throughout all of high school, but they could work with the same academic coach from freshman through senior year—and even into college! 


2. How do academic coaching and teaching overlap? 

Despite some of the differences between coaching and teaching, both are ultimately in service of the same general goal: getting students from one phase of their journey to the next. 


One thing all educators have in common is that they care about students’ well-being. Teachers and coaches simply approach this principle from different perspectives. Teachers teach content to promote learning, and coaches shepherd students through the milestones of high school. 


3. What are some signs that a student should ask a teacher for support? What are signs they should engage an academic coach?

Students should ask a teacher for support when they are experiencing problems specific to a type of content (i.e., struggling to grasp mathematical concepts or falling behind in English class). In some cases, a subject tutor can also be incredibly helpful, but it’s best to talk to the teacher first. Additionally, if a student is having a hard time adapting to a teacher’s expectations, teaching style, or approach to grading, they should go directly to that teacher and confront the issue at the source.


Academic coaching is best suited for students who are struggling in a broader sense. These students frequently need support across multiple subjects—and likely even outside the classroom. They may understand math concepts well enough but consistently struggle to organize their math materials and complete their homework on time. Academic coaching can also benefit students who are performing well in school; these students may have challenges with anxiety, perfectionism, or a lack of clear direction or purpose.


4. How does academic coaching augment classroom learning?

If the teacher is the one creating the curriculum, the coach is the one who empowers a student to navigate that curriculum successfully. In a general sense, academic coaching helps students process information and gives them the organizing and planning skills required to:



5. What kind of training do academic coaches have?

While teachers have specific credentials, academic coaches’ training can vary pretty widely, typically comprising a combination of takeaways from their own academic experiences (e.g., college, Master’s or PhD programs, classroom teaching) and formal training. 


At Signet, our academic coaching combines the International Coaching Federation coaching method with a signature focus on the executive functions most critical to academic success.


6. Do teachers and academic coaches ever work together to help a student? 

Yes, frequently! In fact, some of the most successful academic coaching engagements involve the coach collaborating closely with a student’s teacher(s). 


With permission, coaches can serve as the intermediary between the student and teacher, relieving parents of this responsibility. And since academic coaching relies heavily on a student’s self-reporting and self-reflecting, teachers can often provide a helpful outside perspective. 

Want to know more about Signet’s academic coaching services? Schedule a free call today, and let’s start a conversation!

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