Developing a Different Mindset

Recently I participated in a workshop given by three coaches from Landmark College.  The title was Using Non-Directive Techniques to Empower Students.  The coaching model used at Landmark and in schools and colleges, in general, is based upon the premise that we are all creative, resourceful, and whole.  From this, the job of the coach/advisor is to help the student identify and achieve goals based on knowing and valuing oneself.

As I think about the idea that students are creative, resourceful, and whole, I realize how often, in my work, I don’t fully operate from this belief.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  In meetings, my colleagues and I find ourselves complaining about what the students don’t seem to possess in the way of both academic and non-academic skills.  From this “deficit” viewpoint, it’s hard to trust that students really are resourceful, creative, and whole and that they have the ability to direct themselves towards their goals. 

So how do we help students become more self-directed?   How do we help them to uncover their own creative, whole, and resourceful selves? The strategies we learned from the Landmark coaches involve the use of curious questions that help students to access their own wisdom in solving problems, creating goals, and encourages them to value themselves in the process.


Curious questions help uncover options and opportunities.  For example, asking a student what options she has to help herself improve her grade in a class, might help her to explore resources that can support her academics e.g.  use of tutoring, study groups, etc.  If she is unsure of her options, another curious question might be “How can you find out what resources are available to you?”


Using curious questions requires believing that students are capable of coming up with their own answers.  It requires believing that if we ask the right questions, students will find their way to answers that support their success.


Next time you’re with a student or friend or loved one, try asking a “how, what, when, who, where” question and be curious about the answer.

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