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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anna L. Patton

Coaching v. Consulting: What is the Difference?

By: Dr. Anna L. Patton

CES Consultant Anna Patton with her dog Bhoebe
CES Consultant & COO, Dr. Anna L. Patton

At our heart, Capital Educational Solution’s mission is to “build a comprehensive and innovative approach to meet the complex and unique needs of each student and family through expert educational partnerships and guidance.” We offer a wide range of services in alignment with our keywords: educate, coach, and navigate. Our team members are all educational consultants who can and do engage in academic coaching. That all sounds great, but what is the difference between consulting and coaching? While often used interchangeably, there are some core differences between these two types of support. To kick off the New Year, let’s take a minute to break down the hallmarks of consulting versus coaching, and identify when one might be more appropriate.

First and foremost, consulting focuses on a subject matter expert providing advice, input, or guidance to others. In consulting, the goal is for the client to receive professional, technical advice related to a specific industry or business. On our team, each CES consultant provides in-depth knowledge about various parts of the educational sector, which we bring to our students and families. But what might be some situations that call for a consulting approach? Grounded in providing expert advice, consulting is appropriate for questions such as, “is my student at the right school?,” “does my student need accessibility tools in the classroom?,” or “how can I increase my test scores for college applications?” These questions are ultimately ones that are seeking direct input from an experienced professional, which reflects the purpose of consulting. Indeed, School Choice and IEP/504 Consultations as well as SAT/ACT advice are some of the most frequent reasons families seek out our consulting team! Ultimately, consulting is a powerful way to leverage the knowledge of an experienced professional to assist clients in making the most informed, personalized actions possible.

So, where does coaching fit in? As opposed to giving direct, technical input, a coaching partnership takes a slightly different approach. The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (ICF, online). Through coaching, the goal is for the client to develop their insights, goals, and strategies. The coach aims to provide a focused space with deep listening to support the client in authoring their intentions and outcomes. Coaching-appropriate questions might be “how can I be clear on where I want to apply for college?,” “how can I develop more motivation in school?,” or “how can I manage my time better?” Each of these questions positions the client at the center of their goals with the coach as an ally in discovering the answers. A number of our hottest topics lean toward a coaching approach including executive function challenges, college application management, and academic motivation development.

While the differences may not seem that drastic, utilizing the right approach can make all the difference for a client! At CES, we are committed to implementing the best fit with each of our students and families. Are you thinking that consulting or coaching could benefit you or your student? Have you set academic goals for which you are seeking support? Struggling with education-specific questions that could use some experienced perspective? Check out our services pages to explore everything we have to offer and learn how CES can be an important part of your educational journey this year! #educate #coach #navigate

Source: International Coaching Federation. 2023. “What is Coaching?” Accessed online

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