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Ways to support learners when you don’t know the content

Some coaches are experts on the content their learners are studying and can provide alternative explanations and examples when learners get stuck. However, not every coach feels comfortable being the teacher, and that’s OK! Here are a few simple ways you can support learners without needing to know the material upfront.

Learn with them

Education is about learning how to learn. Since we all confront new challenges every day, we must all be lifelong learners!
Modeling this behavior is incredibly powerful. Practice math skills, watch videos actively, and create computer programs alongside your learners. If you have time, you might also find it helpful to take a look at the material before your learners do.
You and your learners can ask each other questions and discuss what you’re learning. This can be a great way to bond. Most importantly, listen to your learners and treat them as peers.
When the kids get a problem wrong, they don't need me to tell them the answer. The hints do that. They just need to vent about what went wrong and then they can move on and do the next problem.
  • An afterschool instructor

Be the cheerleader

Sometimes a coach is most powerful as a cheerleader. Telling learners to "keep up the hard work" or "try one more time" encourages perseverance and builds motivation. When learners get stuck, remind them to watch the video, read the hints, and take notes on questions they still have so that they can ask you or another coach for help with specific concepts.
When your learner works on a skill they've already practiced, you might ask them why. ("Are you working toward a specific badge? Are you afraid to move to the next skill?") Based on this information, you can decide whether to encourage the learner to move on to the next skill.
The reports are so helpful. I check to see how many problems my kid tried and if they watched the video. If I don't see the camera symbol, I know they haven't watched the video and I tell them to check it out. If I don't see the question mark symbol, I know they didn't look at any hints, so I nudge them to take a few.
  • A Khan Academy parent

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