Coach the coaches

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The course is teaching the necessary knowledge and competences on three levels: Knowledge transfer, development of competences, and fostering of reflexivity and critical thinking. Since the students coached a team parallel to the course they could directly apply and improve their newknowledge and know-how.

The goal of the course was competence development – students should be able (and willing) to coach technical teams in innovation projects beyond technical expertise. The coaching of teams should be done in a structured way and helping the teams to use their full potential in the process of developing a product innovation. Therefore, the lecture needed not only to focus on coaching competences but to enclose innovation, project management, and team development topics. The special challenge was to build up the necessary know-how fast enough to be of use for the actual coaching. We used two different approaches to overcome this hurdle: a base camp (one day at the start of the semester) to give the students an overview and a „starter set“ of competences, and doing peer-hospitations rather at the start of the semester than equally distributed over the semester. The peer-hospitations did help to correct the learned competences from the beginning and helped to engrain coaching behaviour.
The course was initiated in this current form in 2016 and will be part of the regular lectures offered at MAVT. The main reason for initiating this course is the increasing need of project based learning. More and more university graduates need not only theoretical knowledge but need to apply it in their field of expertise. Furthermore, students and graduates alike need the skills to perceive, understand, and classify complex information in order to be able to make sensible decisions.

A clear concept of how to coach technical innovation teams as well as practical exercises for defined coaching competences have been developed. The learning took place on three levels: interactive lecture, peer-hospitation of the coaches, and individual coaching lessons for the students. The lectures focused on the knowledge and know-how acquisition. The peer-coaching was intended as practice for the learned coaching skills as well as reflexivity. The feedback by the students showed that this extension of the classroom worked very well. The individual coaching lessons was giving the students the possibility to get a role model for individual coaching and to adress real-life coaching topics since all participating students did coach a technical innovation team.
Participating students did not only improve their knowledge and know-how about coaching and the limits of coaching. Moreover, they were motivated to improve their competences further after the course: „I really liked the course and the way of interactive learning, I will use and hopefully further improve the learned competences in my study activities and life.“
Since some of the students will go on and coach other collegiate projects or teams in the future the teached coaching approach will be part of an ETH support structure for these kind of teams.