Many coaching models have been developed. One of the earliest models is the GROW model, developed by Sir John Whitmore. It offers a learner-centred approach to structuring a conversation or thinking independently about an issue, to help a person move from setting a goal to identifying next steps include a timeframe.

Let’s explore each of the parts of the GROW model in turn:

The GROW Model


For this exercise, have a think about your own experience of setting goals:

Think of a time you have achieved something you are proud of. This could relate either to work or a hobby. What factors enabled you to achieve your goal?

Chances are that the factors you listed may be among some of these:

 • Specific  Set by self
 • Measurable  Stretching
 • Achievable  Wanted
 • Relevant  Owned
 • Timebound  Supported by others

Research on goal setting has found that goals that incorporate these factors are more likely to be successfully met. It is often very useful to identify the goal that you would like to work towards.

Often, you will come up with an issue which you think is a goal. Examples might be:

  • I want to become a great doctor.
  • I don’t want to fail my exams.
  • I want the other students in my study group to contribute more

Let’s think about at these in turn and see how they relate to the factors listed above.

I want to become a great doctor.
One problem with this goal is that it is too vague. To shape it into something more specific, you can ask: What does ‘great’ mean for you? What would it look like and feel like if you achieved this goal? What would be going on? What would other people notice? 

I don’t want to fail my exams.
The problem here is that this goal is phrased in a way that it is moving away from something (failing exams) rather than towards something. Rephrasing this into something you can work towards will you to visualise it and develop motivation to achieve it. You can ask yourself: “What do I want instead?”

I want the other students in my study group to contribute more.
The problem here is that the goal is about a third party-in this case the other students. It is worth remembering that unfortunately you can’t directly make the other students behave in a different way. So ask yourself: “what part of this is within my control?” If you can identify something, then you have something to work on through a coaching approach. 

Taking care to ensure your goals are effectively worded may take some time but it is time well spent, and will help your thinking to flow more smoothly.


In this part of the model, you explore the ‘here and now’ of the situation. It’s a bit like holding up a mirror to your issue by asking yourself powerful questions which may lead to new perspectives on your issue.

Examples of questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What is going right?
  • What do you want ideally?
  • What is stopping you achieving your ideal outcome?
  • What is at the heart of this issue for you?
  • What would you say to yourself if you were your own best friend?


In this part of the model, the aim is to generate as many options as possible relating to your goal. Options could be written down as a list, or as a spider diagram. Once these have been generated, you can evaluate them using criteria that are important to you.


This part of the model is about identifying and commit to next steps for action. It is really about asking “what will you do?” and “when will you do it?”

It is worth remembering that the best plans can become unstuck if these next steps are not properly thought through. Sometimes, students feel so overwhelmed with everything they are juggling that planning these next steps feels impossible. In these situations, it can be very helpful to get this planning out of your head and onto paper so you can see and think much more clearly.

By applying coaching approaches to your issues relating to studying or life more generally, you may be able to identify the solutions that will work best for you.