Coaches are Educators

November 3, 2019

Problem of Practice

How does incorporating student-to-student interaction in a graduate level online course affect students’ career readiness in Engineering?

Part 1

This week, I spent just over an hour observing a gymnastics gym on a Monday night.  Once again, I am normally here with my daughter, but participating in the classes.  It was nice being able to take a closer look at how the employees and coaches interact with the gymnasts at all age levels, rather than just the toddler age.

As with the dance studio, gymnasts were also working on more skills than just learning the skills of being a gymnast.  They were also working on soft skills such as teamwork, ability to receive feedback, communication, confidence, self-management, persistence, and discipline.

Part 2

Date:  October 28, 2019

Site:  Gymnastics Gym


Like most educational systems, there was an entrance area with a secretary, snacks and gymnastics attire to purchase.  The secretaries would help with answering questions, switching classes, signing up, and for purchasing snacks.

Once in the actual gym, my first observation was that the entire system was extremely well-thought out.  The gym was divided up into different sections including a toddler area, boys area, girls area, ninja area, and a shared area. Even though there were multiple classes and teams practicing at the same time, each coach knew exactly where to go and how much time to spend in that area.  When older gymnasts would go to a new station, they would walk in a single file line behind their coach.  When class started, the gymnasts would work on stretching, even at the toddler level.

There was obviously a curriculum for each level of gymnastics.  Prior to class, the coaches would look over a binder with a list of stations that would be completed during class, along with the goals of that station.  The younger children had smaller versions of the stations including rings, bars, vaults, balance beams, and floor.  Throughout every class, the coaches would work one-on-one with a gymnast at a station, while the other gymnasts would work on other skills on their own (self-motivation).  The coach would give feedback after each gymnast would perform a certain skill.  After the feedback was given, the gymnast would try again and again until that skill was perfected – leading to learning persistence.

Gymnastics and Education

Being an observer I realized that there is a set curriculum for each of the level of gymnasts.  This is more than likely prescribed by the Olympics commission (tightly coupled).  This leads me to believe that the gymnastics gym is an educational system.  Similar to the dance studio, the gym has stakeholders (Olympic commission, parents, students, coaches/teachers, administration) that make up the system.  While there is a curriculum, each coach approaches the skills teaching differently.  This past week, my daughter started crying and it was obvious the coach cared by the way she responded (laid on the floor with her).  Because of this, coaches have autonomy in how they teach the skills and interact with the gymnasts (loosely coupled).

Part 3

Meyer, J., Francisco, R., & Soysal, Y. (1992). World Expansion of Mass Education. Sociology of Education. Vol. 65, No. 2. p. 128-149


Mass education can be defined as the number of enrollments for primary schools (ages 5-14) in different countries .  This study focused on the increase of mass education in regards to countries all over the world.  The goal was to find how mass education changed around the world between the years of 1870-1980 by looking at reported enrollments in primary school in different countries.  The study found that once a country began mass education, the enrollment  steadily increased until it hit 70% of the age 5-14 population, then the enrollment increased at a slower rate.  The study also found that the earlier that the closer countries were to the world center, the faster that mass education was adopted.


Sometimes assumptions must take place in order to complete study.  For example, this study assumed that primary enrollment included ages 5-14.  It also assumed that countries that did not have reported numbers meant that it had not yet started mass education.

Highly industrialized countries and countries close to the world center have a faster increase in mass education.  This could be for two reasons:  (1) these types of countries need highly educated populations and (2) “education is seen as maintaining discipline and order in a system controlled by dominant economic and political elite; it maintains the legitimacy and power of dominant classes and effectively controls the lower classes” (Meyer, Francisco, & Soysal, 1992, p. 130).

Fullan, M., Rincon-Gallardo, S., & Hargreaves, A. (2015). Professional capital as accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(15).


Research has shown that the largest school improvements have been centered around professional capital.  Giving teachers the autonomy to create their own strategies for reaching a small amount of ambitious goals, gives them the confidence and motivation to hold each other accountable. Creating internal accountability at the local level allows educators to be intrinsically motivated.  In addition, educators are given the exact time and resources they need to discuss, look at data, and adjust their strategies.  Taking this one step further, it also eliminates the silo mentality and makes teachers talk to each other about best practices, data-analysis, and to give feedback.


  • The most important part of internal accountability is to have a group of educators with a growth mindset.
  • We can’t do it all at one time.  There must be a focus on a small amount of ambitious goals.

Part 4

  • If faculty are extremely busy with external accountabilities, how can we take away the silo mentality and get faculty to attend workshops to improve the online course development?
  • How does mass education and global competition effect the focus on external accountability?  How can we make policy makers see the importance of changing our current strategies for improving education?

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