Learner Mentors and Student Progress Coaches – Welcome to the FE sector

A new role is appearing in more and more FE colleges to provide a dedicated focus on encouraging and tracking learners’ progress. In some colleges the label is Learning Coach or Learner Mentor; in others it is Student Progress Coach.

I think this role is a welcome development for a variety of reasons:

  1. For learners it provides a point of contact for discussing academic and pastoral issues outside the classroom on a confidential 1:1 basis
  2. For learners it allows for continuity in relationship and a focus on their wider learning experience beyond curriculum content
  3. It means that even if a learner is studying a series of modules or courses, one person is looking at progress in overview, tracking and reporting on it
  4. With a Learner Coach and a teacher collaborating well, there is potential to provide wider support and follow up than if only one person is involved
  5. It allows a group of staff to develop a specialized skill-set and range of approaches for helping learners move forward. This role really enables people to hone their skills related to communication, motivation and feedback, and specialize in this area. It offers an alternative or progression route for staff who want to work in small group and 1:1 settings, with a developmental focus as opposed to a teaching/ instructional one.
  6. As this role also takes on some of the logging/ online tracking responsibility for learner records, it takes some of the administrative pressure off main course teachers, which will be welcomed in many quarters!

What are the key responsibilities within this role?

I have been delivering skills training to Progress Coaches and Learner Mentors at a range of colleges recently and it has been interesting to note how differently the role is shaped in each setting.

1. Focus on 1:1 support

Some colleges see 1:1 planning and review of the Individual Learning Plan as a key element of this role. Some colleges will use these staff to provide support to individuals when they have issues on the course, need catch up help etc.

2. Target setting and review

Some mentors and coaches will be setting targets for English and maths or employability and study skills, after reviewing coursework with learners.

In some settings, the main class teacher will set all targets but the coach or mentor will follow these through with the learner and review progress with them.

3. Group sessions

In some settings, the mentor or coach will lead group tutorial meetings to focus on study skills development and reflection on learning. Some of them will deliver support workshops to help learners build skills and maintain motivation, taking on a training or delivery role in this instance.

Who is taking this role?

The background and profile of people in this role is extremely varied. There are main class teachers who want to spend part of their week in a different way and they may be doing this on a fractional basis. There are graduate interns, coming off PTLLS courses and into this role as they start on DTLLS programmes. There are some Additional Learning Support staff whose role is evolving in a new direction, to focus more tightly on progression and achievement for learners, as opposed to wider support. There are teams who work full time in this role with a caseload of over a hundred learners each to follow up. There are youth workers making the move into the post-16 education sector, bringing their many transferable skills into our context.

For me, it will be a fascinating year following these teams as they develop their role and their skills in their different settings. I would be very interested to hear about how this role is evolving in other colleges as well, so do get in touch with me here if you have any experiences to share:


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