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Why Would I Want to Utilize a Coach Approach?

Faculty and staff interact with students in a myriad of ways, through office hours, to individual meetings, to lectures in the classroom. Using a coach approach in these interactions can enhance and support student growth.

At its core, Academic Coaching is a method of facilitating a dialogue that empowers students to: 1). take action on their goals; 2). better understand their strengths, weakness and habits; and 3). improve an aspect of their academic life, from studying effectively, to creating a balanced schedule to making decisions about their future.

When staff and faculty utilize a coach approach with students, they partner with them to discuss a range of topics, such as exploring a career or major, or deepening their understanding of course material, or navigating issues around life in a residence hall. Using a coach approach gives students the space and practice to think critically and creatively, and guides them in forming their own, reasoned decisions and action steps. Coaching conversations encourage self-reflection and spark/empower students toward achievable goals with accountability.

Growing research points to academic coaching as an increasingly promising new practice in colleges and universities. Likewise, participants of the Learning Center’s Coach Approach Training report an increased use of key coaching skills that are associated with greater academic success.

Overview of Coach Approach Training

The Learning Center offers Coach Approach Training for UNC faculty and permanent staff.

The full-day training mixes content delivery, coaching demonstrations and interactive practices, and incorporates proven strategies to improve participants’ learning, such as metacognition, self-testing and skill review. Participants will learn the fundamental coaching skills necessary to apply a coach approach in their unique professional settings.

Coach Approach Training Leaders

Learning Center staff members Kristen Rademacher, M.Ed, PCC and Marc Howlett, PhD, CPCC have co-led the trainings since its inception in 2015. Both Kristen and Marc received professional coaching certification from the Co-Active Training Institute, one of the first and most comprehensive coaching training programs in the U.S. Kristen is also certified with the International Coaching Federation. Kristen and Marc, along with their colleagues in the Writing and Learning Center, have presented on academic coaching at national conferences numerous times. Kristen and Marc literally wrote the book on academic coaching in higher education, releasing the first comprehensive book on the subject, Academic Coaching: Coaching College Students for Success, published by Routledge in 2023.

Kristen collaborated with Dr. Theresa Laurie Maitland, PhD, PCC (national expert on ADHD and retired from the Learning Center since 2018) in designing the original training in 2015.

Who Might Consider Attending the Training?

The training is geared to UNC faculty and permanent staff members who want to enhance and optimize their interactions with students. Staff from offices across campus have attended the training, including Academic Advising, Career Services, Honors, Kenan Flagler and the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. Since the first delivery of Coach Approach Training in 2015, over 500 faculty/staff from more than 100 departments have attended over 30 total trainings.

Coach Approach Training Testimonials

  1. “This was one of the best professional trainings I’ve attended. The presenters were excellent, and it was nice to have so many opportunities for practice. I think the skills we’ve learned and the coaching theory will be invaluable as we interact with students on a daily basis.”
  2. “This training was effective because there was a good balance between listening, interacting and practicing. I think this is the first training I’ve walked away from knowing that I can put what I have learned to use in my appointments and know that it will stick too…THANK YOU!”
  3. “This was the BEST training I have received thus far on the topic of coaching, and I have attended a few locally at UNC and regionally… I cannot say enough good things about how well this was executed. It was a perfect balance of material, book read-ahead assignments, and practical in class exercises. The material was not only learned, but internalized. Having such experienced instructors share their extensive knowledge and experience was invaluable, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable and put on the spot for the sake of learning, with an absolutely fantastic result. Thank you!!!”
  4. “This training was so useful. I learned practical skills that I can implement NOW… starting next week! Thank you for helping me to add strategies to my tool box.”
  5. “This training was OUTSTANDING! I am so very glad that I participated and have already recommended it to coworkers. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”

Upcoming Training Dates

Coach Approach Training is open to UNC – Chapel Hill faculty and staff and is provided at no cost to participants. There are three training dates for Spring & Summer 2023:

  • Friday, May 19 — completed
  • Friday, June 16 — full (waiting list open)
  • Friday, July 21 — full (waiting list open)

All trainings are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, held in person in SASB North Upendo 1118. Lunch will be provided. To be added to the waiting list for a training, fill out the form here.

If you have any questions or would like to be notified when future Coach Approach Trainings are scheduled, please email Marc Howlett.

Ongoing Support and Training for Coach Approach Alumni

Participants of Coach Approach Training are invited to stay part of the ever-growing community of trainees. The Learning Center offers additional events each year for Coach Approach Alumni who want to continue to practice and expand their coaching skills.

Academic Coaching Resources


Howlett, M.A. & Rademacher, K. (2023). Academic coaching: Coaching college students for success. Routledge.

Kimsey-House, H., Kimsey-House, K., Sandahl, P. & Whitworth, L. (2018). Co-Active coaching: The proven framework for transformative conversations at work and life.  Fourth edition. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishers.

Quinn, P., Ratey, N. & Maitland, T. L. (2000). Coaching college students with AD/HD: Issues and answers. Advantage books.

Stoltzfus, T. (2008). Coaching Questions: A coach’s guide to powerful asking skills. Virginia Beach, VA: Stoltzfus.


Bettinger, E. P., & Baker, R. (2011). The effects of student coaching in college: An evaluation of a randomized experiment in student mentoring. National Bureau of Economic Research Program Working Paper, #16881.

Cohen, M. (2012). The importance of self-regulation for college student learning. College Student Journal, 46(4), 892-902.

Dalton, J. & Crosby, P. (2014). The power of personal coaching: Helping first-year students to connect and commit to college. Journal of College & Character, 15(2).

Field, S., Parker, D., Sawilowsky, S. & Rolands, L. (2013). Assessing the impact of ADHD coaching services on university students’ learning skills, self-regulation and well-being. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 26(1). 67-81

Howlett, M. A., McWilliams, M. A., Rademacher, K., O’Neill, J. C., Maitland, T., Abels, K., Demetriou, C., & Panter, A. T. (2021). Investigating the effects of academic coaching on college students’ metacognition. Innovative Higher Education.

Howlett, M. A., McWilliams, M. A., Rademacher, K., Maitland, T., O’Neill, J. C., Abels, K., Demetriou, C., & Panter, A. T. (2020). An academic coaching training program for university professionals: A mixed methods examination. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.

Richman, E., Rademacher, K., & Maitland, T. (2014). Coaching and college success. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 27 (1). 33-50.


Coaches Training Institute (CTI):  One of the oldest coaching training organizations in the US. The Learning Center model is adapted from the co-active model developed by this organization.

International Coach Federation: National organization and governing body for the coaching field.

The Edge Foundation: Organization dedicated to providing coaching to high school and college students with ADHD.