Teachers, Coaches and Mentors

I recently attended a seminar on teaching critical thinking hosted by the University of Louisville.

There were several “table exercises” which were brief discussions on various topics. I found myself at a table with people from Dental Hygiene, School of Medicine, and School of Engineering. I don’t even remember how the topic arose, but the question was, “What is the difference between teaching and coaching, and which do we do?” That question has haunted me since. Maybe I should tone that down some and say that the question has been on my mind since.

When I was looking for the link to Steve Blank’s article for my previous posting, I found this article:

Steve Blank: Teachers, Coaches and Mentors.

Mr. Blank carries my original question step further and includes mentoring. He provides some guidance as to the difference. However, he does not provide the answer as to which do I do.

In a classroom or online setting, I mostly teach. As Mr. Blank puts it, “At worst I deliver knowledge to them. At best, I try to help my students to discover and acquire knowledge themselves.” It is the last part of his quote that I strive for, but I am never satisfied with my attainment.

In a small lab setting, I hope I do a mixture of coaching and teaching. Sometimes, I am coaching undergrads in a specific skill that might be needed in upcoming job coop rotations.

It is the mentoring that perplexes me. Mr. Blank refers to mentoring as a “back and forth dialogue.” I am very fortunate to have a colleague that has been a mentor when it comes to teaching and navigating academia. Having had 30+ years out in industry before coming to academia, I would like to think that I provide some mentoring to some students, but I never thought about it as a two-way street.

Hmmmm…. mentoring as a two-way street… that might haunt me for a while.