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Help your students GROW their English

What is GROW?

GROW is a simple coaching tool which can help your students focus their goals and commit to improving their English. It can also help teachers define and adapt their approach, particularly when working with groups and individuals in-company where there is a need to address frustrating behaviours such as poor attendance, distraction, making excuses and general lack of motivation.

Lets first have a look at how and when to use GROW and end by considering why it can be a good idea to use this coaching tool with learners in the context of teaching in-company and teaching Business English.

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How can I use GROW?

You can use it in a one to one tutorial with your students or, having demonstrated how to use it, you could get them to form pairs and use it with each other.

First get students to consider their Goals (where they want to get with their English), the Reality (Where they are now) Obstacles and Options (What might stop them reaching their goal and possible ways to overcome these obstacles) and the Way Forward (a plan of action). The table below summarises this and provides some example questions to help students think about this. You can have students make notes first and then talk to you/their partner or do the activity as an interview with you/the partner taking notes. The notes on the right of the table below add some further suggestions for how to develop the exercise. Students should keep the notes, in particular the Way Forward section which is their route map for achieving their goals in English. They can then return regularly to the notes in short follow up meetings (again with you or with a fellow student) to discuss their progress and modify their strategy if necessary.

When can I use GROW?

Use GROW at the start of a course and then at regular intervals. For example on an extensive 3 hour per week course over 9 months you may visit the GROW once a month, or once every three months. It is also a good idea to use it when you are experiencing some of the typical frustrating behaviours you can encounter teaching in-company described earlier such as poor attendance, distractions, lack of motivation. More on this below.

Why should I use GROW?

  1. The GROW model helps to focus on Goals rather than behaviours, so you avoid nagging students about their lack of commitment or motivation and allow them to focus on and take responsibility for the consequences. If I choose to take the call on my mobile rather than continue in the class, I won’t make as much progress to my goal. You can discuss strategies which can help students increase their motivation, with the clear understanding that the choices are theirs not yours. By focusing on goals students are more likely to commit to practicing outside class when they see this as a route to reaching goals quicker. They are also more likely to get themselves organized, as the discussion with their teacher/peers will generate ideas and strategies they will want to try out.
  2. The GROW model develops peer motivation. Students are motivated by seeing what their peers are aiming for and achieving and are more likely to step up their own efforts in this context. Activities around the GROW model help them to see each other’s learning, empathise and build a sense of team spirit and support.
  3. The GROW model invites students and their teacher to measure their progress. For example they can record themselves speaking each month and notice the improvement in their performance (or lack of it). This can be a huge motivator.


GROW questions



What do you want to be able to do in English?

What are your goals for this course?



Students discuss these questions with you and each other. Prompt them about the four skills, vocabulary etc. Use CEF descriptors. Students write down their goals


What is your current level of English?

What can and can’t you do in English?


Audio or video record the student speaking. Get a sample of their writing. Use these later to demonstrate progress


How much time can you dedicate to improving your English at home and attending classes?

How confident are you will succeed?

What might get in the way of you reaching your goals?


Students discuss these questions with you and each other. Prompt students if necessary to talk about the time they have/need to dedicate, possible obstacles, their previous experiences of learning


How can you practice English outside class?

How can you best take advantage of classes?

How can you improve your confidence?


Brainstorm options (Use From Language Teacher to Learner Coach). Students can make weekly/monthly plans.

Way Forward

Having considered GROO, what is your plan? What will you do, when and who with?

How will you know when you have succeeded?



Students write this down.

Agree how they can measure progress e.g. comparing future audio recordings of them speaking with the initial one, testing performance, passing exams etc.

Refer regularly to the plan.

Further Reading

From Language Teacher to Learner Coach Daniel Barber ad Duncan Foord (2014) the Round.  E-book available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Duncan is also our tutor on the Leadership in ELT course. If you would like to learn more about leadership in an ELT environment, develop your communication skills or explore different approaches to problem-solving, contact us to find out more or apply for the course here.

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