Coaching for Student Wellbeing and Agency

The following article comes from Rhiannon, Director of Student Engagement and Experience at Geelong Grammar School in Australia.

The focus on supporting and enhancing student wellbeing in schools has increased in recent decades – at a program, research and policy level. This emphasis has never been more pertinent for educators than in the past 18 months, as teachers and students have navigated the twists and turns of the pandemic and remote learning. It is very likely that the school within which you work has already adopted a range of proactive approaches to wellbeing; possibly involving an emphasis on social emotional learning, resilience education or character education. Or your school might be like mine – having engaged with positive education with the aspiration of cultivating a flourishing school community.

My school, Geelong Grammar School, has been committed to a whole-school approach to positive education for over a decade now.

We define positive education as ‘engaging wholeheartedly with pro-active practices which strengthen community wellbeing.’ We do so according to the tenets ‘Learn it, Live it, Teach it, Embed it’ – emphasising the importance of prioritising staff professional learning in the area of positive education, then applying this learning to our own daily lives – before we seek to teach these skills and strategies to our students.

Most importantly, this positive education philosophy should be embedded throughout school policy and practice.

Like all schools, we have continued to adapt and evolve our approach to student wellbeing to respond to contemporary research and practice – as well as the changing needs of our community. Most recently, our school has introduced a coaching approach as the next iteration of our whole school wellbeing model – with the intention of amplifying our positive education programs and enabling student agency. To this end, each of our secondary students is now supported by a Learning Coach, with whom they engage in regular coaching conversations to determine their individual goals for wellbeing and learning. With the support of their Learning Coach, students are able to shape unique pathways through secondary school and beyond.

What is coaching? Grant (2003) defines coaching as a collaborative, solutions-focused and systematic process aimed at enhancing performance, self-directed learning and wellbeing. Coaching provides a powerful framework for positive and generative conversations within a school environment. The goal-oriented, strengths-based process of coaching has the potential to empower individuals to achieve their best. There is also encouraging research which suggests that coaching can enhance wellbeing, goal striving, resilience and hope in both adults and young people (Green et al, 2006; Spence & Grant, 2007; Green, Grant & Rynsaardt, 2007). Therefore, coaching not only has the potential to increase the efficacy of existing wellbeing programs – but engaging in the coaching process can be considered a wellbeing intervention in its own right.

students are able to shape unique pathways through secondary school and beyond.

Your school may already have adopted a coaching approach to enhance professional practice and student outcomes. There are certainly a myriad of ways coaching can be introduced into the school community – from leadership coaching to peer coaching, or even training students as coaches. Coaching can also be integrated into existing programs and practices – such as annual review processes and graduate teacher programs. Ideally, schools and organisations would develop a ‘coaching culture’; whereby solutions-focused conversations which enable personal agency, wellbeing and performance would be a part of the fabric of school life.



Grant. A.M. (2003). The impact of life coaching on goal attainment, metacognition and mental health. Social Behaviour and Personality, 31: 253-264.

If you are interested in learning more about coaching in educational communities – start with Growth Coaching International.

Green, L.S., Oades, L.G., & Grant, A.M., (2006). Cognitive-behavioural, solutions-focused life coaching: Enhancing goal striving, well-being and hope. The Journal of Positive Psychology 1, 142-149.

Green, L.S., Grant, A.M., & Rysenaardt, J. (2010). Developmental coaching for high school teachers: executive coaching goes to school. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research, 62(3): 151-168.

Spence, G.B., & Grant, A.M (2007). Professional peer life coaching and the enhancement of goal striving and well-being: An exploratory study. Journal of Positive Psychology:2 185-194.

Author: Rhiannon Mcgee

Director of Student Engagement and Experience at Geelong Grammar School, Australia

Rhiannon Mcgee is the , leading the school’s wellbeing strategy across four campuses and overseeing its Indigenous programs. Rhiannon commenced her time at GGS as Head of Positive Education and prior to this, she held a range of wellbeing leadership positions in other schools. Most recently, as Director of Wellbeing and Positive Education at Loreto Toorak, where she oversaw the development and implementation of a whole-school approach to Positive Education. Rhiannon is passionate about the promotion of community wellbeing and she is committed to strengthening the nexus between research, policy and practice in the educational context. This has led her to complete the Masters of Education (Student Wellbeing) and the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne. Rhiannon is also an English teacher with an interest in the arts, philosophy and politics.

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