Managing Time and Direction using the GROW Method

Effective time management is a skill which many people list on their CV yet few actually understand and even less employ. It is a crucial skill for teachers to develop an awareness of, as they demonstrate this to their students on both a conscious and a subconscious level. The best lesson is one which activates learning, includes the sharing of information and elicits high student engagement. By using a clear structure within both the planning and classroom setting, teachers can provide a greater sense of stability within their classroom routines. This encourages clearer expectations and direction for all involved.

Lesson planning is the bane of many teachers’ existence. With so many varying critical factors to consider, it can be quite the challenge for a new teacher. Indeed, even an experienced teacher meeting a new class, grade or school for the first time can be a somewhat harrowing. There are several “right” ways to plan a lesson, and yet one critical factor often overlooked is the structure of a lesson. This article serves to introduce a simple model that can be used to consider the framework of a singular lesson, a series of lessons as part of a unit, or a series of units creating the curriculum.

The GROW model is an adaptable 4-step model that was first developed in the late ‘80s by Sir John Whitmore. It is a highly interactive technique which can be used to structure team discussions or overall classroom goals by looking at the purpose, measures of success, obstacles and ways to move forward. In coaching, I personally use the GROW model to structure the time and direction of individual sessions. For the purpose of this article, we will investigate the use of the GROW model within an individual lesson.

G – Goal. Several studies have concluded that there is a direct link between setting goals and achieving success in them. Within a coaching context, co-creating a clearly defined session agreement is critical to measuring success. This could be compared to a student’s learning objective in a classroom environment. However, in a classroom setting, the learning objective is often directed to the student from the teacher. By asking powerful questions, the teacher as a Classroom Leader can explore their student’s motivations behind learning. Involving students in the early stages of goal setting could have a greater impact and therefore help them to commit to achieving the goal of increased learning. With better understanding, the teacher as a Classroom Leader can plan activities to elicit higher student engagement and learning happens intuitively.

R – Reality. The reality is that not every student has the desire to learn every subject or possess the same level of ability within a class. This is especially true within the TEFL classroom. In fact, there are several barriers to student learning across the education industry. However, one key element of the coaching mindset is detachment from the outcome. Truly, there is no way to force any student to learn; it is a process they must take their own responsibility for. As teachers, all we can do is create an environment where they feel safe enough to take their own leaps of faith in learning and vulnerable enough to try. This can be done by assessing internal and external barriers to learning, and removing or minimising them as much as possible. It may also be of value to discuss some of the barriers to students. For example, discussing their internal feedback allows them to develop greater self-awareness. This, in turn, enables them to learn for themselves what motivates and what disempowers them. Ultimately, this leads to greater autonomy and responsibility for their own learning.

O – Options/ Obstacles. In assessing the reality of the situation, student’s and clients alike are probably going to feel a little disheartened. This is where the coach and the teacher as a Classroom Leader need to trust the method the most. Instead of slipping into the spiral of despair, this is the point in the model where we get to open up to greater possibility and inspiration. It can be easy to give in to the temptation to advise; instead, try challenging your student’s and really listening to their responses. Paraphrase their obstacles and return them with a question that requires them to think. Yes, it might be challenging, so what would make it easier? Yes, this might be boring for you, so how can you share your knowledge as a resource with your classmates? Yes, I acknowledge that you aren’t interested in practising this grammar point, so how can we make it more fun? Involving students in this process encourages participation in dialogue which allows them to feel heard and acknowledged.

W – Way/ Will forward. As long as students can come up with ideas and feel listened to, record their responses. Collect these as they may be highly valuable later when you want inspiration for the next lesson/ unit/ class. Show them you respect their ideas by incorporating some of the feedback you were given. Ask them how they would like to get started. How will they stay accountable? How will they show you they are successful in their goal? How committed do they feel to this goal now? How will they stay accountable? How do they want to improve on this in the future? This builds further on their autonomy, putting the responsibility back on them for their learning.

By following the GROW framework, teachers as Classroom Leaders could boost student engagement and autonomy. This creates the space to focus on the time, direction and completeness when delivering their lesson. There are multiple scenarios where this method could be effective from curriculum planning, team meetings or drafting a field trip Try using the GROW model, stay curious to what opportunities open up, and let me know how effective it was for you!