S-O-L Coaches have on-going learning conversations with aspiring S-O-Lers. They have four different levels or areas of expertise.
At the first, primary level they are able to conduct a Task-Focussed Learning Conversation which enables the learner to become aware of and then challenge the Task skills which as an the aspiring S-O-Ler they intend to improve.
At the beginning of this first level discussion the Coach is enabling the learner to more fully comprehend their current levels of understanding of and competence in carrying out the task; and then to plan how they are going to improve and even change how they do the task.
The Coach has already prepared to conduct a Task-Focused Learning Conversation with the learner. This means that she-or-he is firstly going to talk with the learner about what they understand and perceive the task to be. Referring to the figure above the Coach is encouraging the learner to explore their current understanding of the task by formulating a series of PLCs.
The PLC is a Personal Learning Contract that the learner makes with themselves. This process is described in more detail in the conversational methods of this website, but basically the learner commits themselves by making of a detailed plan of how they are going to improve their performance of the task.
The Coach encourages them to do this but does not offer any material content about the nature of the task itself. Instead they develop the conversation into a discussion about how the learner might best find out about this. Who might they ask, who might they watch or where might they read about this? Or are there other ways of discovering what it is and better ways of doing it?
The MAP model of any conversation is worth looking at before proceeding. It accepts and explores how people interact with one another. It is not simple, even among experts in any topic the personal meaning in one person is not the same as that in any other.
Even when it is similar the actions they perform to communicate their meaning will certainly differ; and how they prepare to receive the others contribution will also be different. This is certainly true when one is an S-O-L Coach and the other is a new learner. See Oliver Sachs book, ‘The Minds Eye’.
Without pursuing this further in terms of its psychology, it exposes the issues that will arise as the S-O-L Coach goes about the job of supporting and enabling the learner to explore the actual job of Task Learning.
The learner is not only responsible for how they go about learning some-thing. They are also responsible for finding out about what the task is that they want or need to learn, because different people concerned will have different ideas about it.
But not only will they have clarified and now know what their reasons for learning it are, and how these can best be achieved in the circumstances confronting them. For example, “Strictly Come Dancing”, a cat burglar, a sixth former, a young entrant into the Royal Navy, into Arsenal Football Club, or into RADA.
The same issues similarly face, any five-year-old, eleven-year-old, sixteen or eighteen-year-old starting, changing, or finishing, their education; or convicts leaving prison: or 45 or 60 year-olds planning the rest of their lives.
The purpose of the Coach, is in our terms, to support the learner into the Self-Organising Process well enough for the new S-O-Ler aspirants to understand what they are letting themselves in for and enabling them to understand the PLC sufficiently well to be able to really improve and develop whatever it is that they need and/want to do.
This is so that they not only come to do it well, but have understood the circumstances it places them in, so that they can do the best for it and for themselves, even if these differ.
The skill of the Coach is therefore to enable the learner to discover what they really want to know, to understand it and to become able achieve it. We have described the MAP idea for describing how a task is achieved earlier in “What is an S-O-Ler”. Also the following diagram:
To help the user improve their performance of the task, the Coach encourages them to become increasingly more aware of the step-by-step PROCESSES by which they achieve their purpose.
In the early stages, this awareness raising activity often seems threatening, and the user may become quite reluctant to continue. If and when this happens the Coach needs to SUPPORT the user through their attempts to improve the way in which they carry out the task.
As the user tries to improve their skill the Coach encourages them to become more aware of how they are collecting and evaluating the QUALITY of the outcomes of what they are trying to achieve.
This Task-Centred Conversation gradually enables the learner to become much more aware of how (PROCESS) they are going about the task and how they are recognising improvements in what they are achieving.
Early on we have found that the SUPPORT conversation is in most cases necessary for the learner to continue, but once they have successfully achieved improvement on two or three occasions they begin to gain the confidence to go about their learning without so much need of this type of SUPPORT from the Coach.
This SUPPORT level of the Learning Conversation often occupies much of a Self-Organised Learners’ time, but once they become aware that the drop in the learning curve is only temporary and necessary for them to begin to improve their reconstruction and development of how they are carrying out of the task and the quality of what they are now achieving, gradually they learn how to SUPPORT themselves through a sequence of improvements.
Once the apprentice S-O-Ler begins to value their own ability to improve their skills and task-achievements, the Coach begins to converse with them about how they learn.
This Learning stage of the LC can take many forms depending both on the nature of the learner and the tasks they are improving and on the empathy that the Coach can bring to the situation. But once they become interested in thinking about how they learn, the whole process becomes more effective. They both improve their skills and their implicit belief in their ability to improve their learning processes.
Once the apprentice S-O-Ler becomes really involved in improving their own learning processes, the Coach begins introduce a wider and deeper view of where S-O-L might take them.
At this stage the Coach not only converses about their skills and learning abilities, but they also begin to encourage the learner to think in wider and longer terms about the more general aspects of how and why they are improving their task skills and their learning skills.
This encourages them to think about and discuss the personal implications of what this means to them.
So at this stage the coach is carefully conducting the Life and Relevance Learning Conversation so that not only are their task skills improving, they are also beginning to become of aware and willing to talk about how they approach the whole process of learning: and they also begin to think and want to discuss the consequences of this on how they are living their life, both in the learning situation but also more widely.
As the Coach begins to recognise that the learner is not only totally involved but also capable of appreciating all three of these aspects of their process of Self-Organised Learning: the Coach also begins to encourage them to take increasing responsibility for the nature and quality of the conversation.
Eventually the Coach can encourage the S-O-Ler to carry out the whole of the LC with themselves. But for some time the S-O-L Coach still remains in the background as a willing supporter/encourager of this process.
So there are 4 stages in becoming a fully fledged S-O-L Coach. But with the increasing insights into themselves and their situation that being a Coach offers, you often discover that they are also living a fuller and more rewarding life outside the learning domain.
Here are some old diagrams illustrating S-O-L and coaching: