From Coach to Mentor


A few weeks ago I joined David Clutterbuck’s live webinar in Pordenone, Italy where he talked about how he perceives the similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring. Organised by Assomentori, the Masterclass was aimed at qualified coaches like myself who are interested in gaining more knowledge about those similarities and differences and the situations that are more suitable for a blended approach.

I am particularly interested in having discussions around this subject because I have been blending coaching and mentoring tools and techniques with teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) over the past couple of years. I would argue that blending coaching and mentoring tools and techniques makes my teaching more effective since my students gets the results they need while at the same time growing in maturity as they quickly learn to acknowledge, appreciate and practise academic conventions. Something that many university students in the UK and Italy struggle with these days.

Here are a series of the best quotes from David Clutterbuck’s Masterclass that, for me, demonstrate how university teachers in the academic services departments across the UK and Italy can be helping their students to get better results and raise levels of overall satisfaction within university systems.

“The mentor’s role is to pass on their knowledge and experience to someone with less experience so that they can gain that knowledge and increase their confidence in their desired field.”

This is the perfect basis from which to work with clients in higher education. Good EAP teachers have the skills to be highly effective mentors to students who struggle to write academically, have limited knowledge of referencing conventions and only a superficial understanding of the negative impact of plagiarism.

“Neither coaching nor mentoring is about telling people what to do. Rather they are about drawing out and encouraging reflection.”

This is the key to why I think coaching and mentoring make the difference for students and why it is important to blend both disciplines. With conventional EAP teaching there is a gap that we need to close between teaching students how to produce academic texts and the frustration they feel at being required to follow academic conventions. Many students do not understand the importance of academic rigour and what the potential negative impact is if that is not followed. When teachers use coaching and mentoring tools and techniques students raise their own awareness of these issues and start to internalise them. This leads to less overall frustration and a calmer, more focused and happier approach to their academic learning experience.

“Coaching helps a person understand themselves, their values and beliefs and mentoring helps see the mentee as part of an overall system. It is about learning, new horizons and new career opportunities.”

When combining approaches the student is able to look inside themselves to see what is stopping them or limiting them from achieving their desired results. This is rooted in their values and belief system and how they see the world. So they are encouraged to reach inside via coaching techniques but at the same time the student is being prepared for the path that will lead them outside with the mentoring tools, both within the context of the university system and the working world beyond.

“A mentor gets you to look at your networks and widen them or make them work better for you.”

David Clutterbuck spoke about how via your influence, information and learning networks you can become more aware of the specific culture and politics of an institution which I believe helps you to get the most benefit out of your academic experience.

“You can having coaching around some specific goals…a mentor takes a client on a much longer journey.”

An EAP teacher trained as a coach can use coaching tools to help students with issues such as short term time management, procrastinations and confidence/self-esteem issues in relation to specific assignments while mentoring techniques help the student navigate the whole university experience to plan what they want to achieve by the end and be helped on the path to reach that overall objective.



Mayer, R. E. (2004). Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning? American Psychologist, 59 (1), 14-19.

Whitmore, J. 2009. Coaching for Performance. Growing Human Potential and Purpose. The principles and practise of coaching and leadership

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