Key Principles of Coaching - Self Directed Learning (SDL)

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.” Abigail Adams

Over the next few newsletters we will explore the key principles of Coaching – those foundations on which the Coaching profession has been grown and shown to be such a powerful investment.

The cornerstone of Coaching is SDL. This aspect alone sets coaching apart from many other development mechanisms such as mentoring, training and consultancy.

“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.” Mortimer J Adler

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Self Directed Learning
Contemporary learning models continue to move towards being 'Learner Focused'. The learner takes ownership for the direction of the learning, and the results achieved. And, it works.

In our experience, the self-directed learning (SDL) model within coaching works for two key reasons:

  1. Individual have different learning styles
  2. Individuals are more highly motivated to achieve outcomes they have set for themselves, as opposed to those set by others

Differing Learning Styles - Learning is a very personal experience. Each individual has different ways of processing information and adapting that information to their needs. Some individuals prefer to learn by attending topic-specific seminars, while some prefer to read textbooks and journals. Others prefer to learn by experience (trial and error).

Self-directed learning allows the individual to devise development strategies based on their preferred learning method. From a coaching perspective, the coach works with the coachee to ensure that the strategies are relevant, and most likely to achieve the desired outcome in the required timeframe.

Personal Drivers – Intrinsic motivation is a powerful tool. Malcolm Knowles developed a set of assumptions in relation to andragogy (adult learning), revolving around the intrinsic motivators for adult learning. These internal drivers result in a far greater commitment to the actions required to achieve the desired outcome which, when combined with the support and accountability provided by the coach, result in a powerful force for development.

Coaching builds on andragogical and cognitive learning theories to ensure that the coachee is self-motivated to achieve the desired outcome, and that the coachee has the opportunity to learn through discovery, and practical application of learnings. By doing so, there is likely to be greater commitment to the strategies devised, and far more likelihood of success in achieving the desired outcome.

“Change is the end result of all true learning. Change involves three things: First, a dissatisfaction with self -- a felt void or need; second, a decision to change to fill the void or need; and third, a conscious dedication to the process of growth and change -- the wilful act of making the change, doing something.”  Leo Buscaglia

The coach plays a key role in this self-directed learning process, supporting the coachee to devise the most effective strategies for development and/or achievement by:

  • Establishing a trusting, mutually respectful climate;
  • Building the coachee’s confidence;
  • Providing genuine commitment to achievement of the coachee’s desired outcome;
  • Developing the coachee’s existing skills and strengths;
  • Providing the opportunity for the coachee to assess and clarify their present needs; and
  • Ensuring practical application of new or enhanced skills and knowledge

For more information about the Key Principles of Coaching, and self-directed learning in particular, please contact Simon Altschwager on 1300 788 678 or, or refer to our website at

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