Coaching and Active Listening (Lesson)

Part 1: Intro & Objectives

In this lesson, you will learn about active listening, coaching language, and how to ensure communication.

After completing this lesson you will be able to:

  • Identify the elements of coaching that are different from mentoring;
  • Use coaching skills in special situations;
  • Identify active listening techniques.

Part 2: Video Demonstration

In this video, observe what the mentor does to coach. Take notes to record what the mentor does to coach the new principal.

Consider the following:

  • What are some personal qualities which might prevent you from fully listening?
  • How do you know when to keep listening and when to give advice?


  • How is “coaching” different from “mentoring”?
  • How did the mentor know when to change from mentoring to coaching? What kinds of issues would make you switch?
  • Did the mentor ask permission to coach? If so, how?
  • How did the mentor bring the focus back to goals and needs?

The new principal reveals during a mentoring session that he is doing the bookkeeping for the PTA. The mentor puts on her coaching hat to provide needed advice and support to help the new principal follow school district policy and to continue to appropriately support the PTA.


Part 3: Resources & Activities

Due to copyright law, several readings cannot be hosted on this site. However, we encourage you to ask for assistance locating materials from your library media specialist. Many library services are freely available to educators.


Orientation for Mentoring and Coaching

This PowerPoint presentation offers an overview of how to create an orientation for the mentoring relationship that will leave open the doors for coaching.

Download Orientation PPT

Coaching Leaders

Robertson, J. (2004, January). Coaching leaders: The part to improvement. Paper presented to the Biennial conference of the New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society, Dunedin.

This articles provides information about the process of peer coaching as a method for professional development. As you read the article, think about what you can do to ensure that the coaching you provide is sustained over time. Consider making a T-Chart to compare and contrast coaching and mentoring language.

View Article

Effective Listening 

How can a mentor actively listen to the beginning principal? Although this article is about school leaders listening to teachers and community members as well as colleagues, the suggestion holds true that “four conversational practices that contribute to both dialogue and discussion: deep listening, respecting others, suspending assumptions, and voicing personal truths” (n.p.).

The author states that “deep listening” is most difficult for him. What will be the most difficult practices for you personally? What will you do to cope with your difficulties and overcome them?

Glover, E. (2007). Real Principals Listen. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 60-63.

View Article

Try Out Active Listening

Follow this link to a resource on EducationWorld.com. It offers a synopsis of the book The Trust Factor: Strategies for School Leaders by Julie Combs, Stacey Edmonson, and Sandra Harris. Their book presents eight listening habits for school leaders to avoid as they develop strong active-listening techniques.

Let’s try it out. Take one of the cards from the Card Deck of Beginning Principal Situations . With a partner, role play with one of you as the new principal and one as the mentor. The mentor should listen as the new principal tells about the issue. As the mentor listens, he or she should:

  • Avoid interrupting
  • Avoid telling personal stories (sometimes also called “war stories”)
  • Pay attention to what’s said
  • Rephrase what’s said for clarity (“So what I hear you saying is…”)
  • Lean in; look like you’re listening

View Article

Critical Conversations

Watch this video about handling critical conversations: http://leanin.org/

As a mentor you are modeling active listening for the beginning principal.  The video illustrates how important it is for a leader to practice active listening during times of crisis or conflict  Mentors may want to share this brief video with a beginning principal and discuss how this strategy could be used with a problem they are discussing.

Watch Video

Part 4: Review & Reflect

Review and Reflect

This lesson has provided information about coaching. Compared to mentoring, coaching involves more guidance. A good mentor knows when to switch between coaching and mentoring language.

  • What are the differences between coaching and mentoring? When should a mentor switch to a coaching role?
  • What role does active listening play in this? How can mentors demonstrate active listening?

As you consider what you’ve learned, how will this change your approach to mentoring? What will be hardest for you? What will you do to help yourself overcome any bad listening habits?

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