Coaching for Communicative Competence: A Student-Focused Approach

  • Aidan Topping University of Manitoba


This paper focuses on instructor led, student-focused coaching sessions undertaken in the senior (capstone) design classes at the University of Manitoba. The team-based design approach used in capstone courses allows students to work in a manner more closely reflecting industry practice; however, team writing does not allow for individualized scaffolding which could ensure each graduate meets the standard for communicative competence. Rather than allow students to rely on the team’s collective communication skills, we developed an approach that incorporates individual coaching sessions at multiple stages in the writing process. These sessions require students to reflect upon their work, and allow them to discuss it in a meaningful way with the instructor. Doing so at various stages affords students the opportunity to engage in an iterative approach to developing communicative competence: applying what they learn, reflecting on their work, and discussing communicative gains and new methodologies.
While integrating individual coaching and directed instruction into the curriculum can be challenging, this paper demonstrates how student-focused coaching sessions provide a platform from which senior design students can increase both communicative competence and their value to industry as future engineers