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Michelle LaBrosse


Coaching vs. Teaching

Why the difference matters in project management education

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 12:01

A wonderful thing about humanity: most people love to learn. Think about how much fun it is when you have a question, and you are able to succeed in finding the answer through your own efforts researching online or in a library. You are intrinsically motivated to learn and to feel good about succeeding with your own investigative efforts. This, at a very fundamental level, is considered “learning.”

Satisfying an emerging curiosity on a topic by researching an initial question is the first level of learning: awareness. But to truly achieve mastery (the highest level of learning) on any topic, you have to move through four levels of learning: awareness, knowledge, skill, and mastery.

Many project management (PM) education programs teach the basics of PM knowledge from, for instance, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Project Management Institute, fifth edition 2013), including knowledge areas, process groups, project management framework, and so forth. This brings students through the first two levels of learning, awareness and knowledge. And while many folks are passionate about becoming better project managers, few are genuinely excited about the details of this PM knowledge—so learning about them can become a real chore.

For students to really engage with their learning and to reach the level of mastery, they shouldn’t simply be taught—they should be coached. In a “teaching” model, project management classes deliver PM knowledge to students, whose role is to memorize information and (if they’re lucky) think about its application to real projects. “Teaching” is often one-way communication that focuses on the teacher’s point of view: Teachers share wisdom from their own experiences in order to offer students a model for how they might navigate their own situations.

A better method to teaching is coaching. For example, in Cheetah Learning’s four-day Cheetah Exam Prep for the PMP exam course, Cheetah coaches help students quickly absorb and assimilate a large quantity of information in a short amount of time. And rather than teaching students about the PMP exam, Cheetah coaches guide students through a proven process to quickly master the skills required to pass the PMP exam.

This difference between teaching and coaching is critically important when preparing to pass the rigorous Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. Having a seasoned coach guiding you through the most efficient way to pass the exam means, for many people, the difference between easily and comfortably passing, as opposed to struggling and not achieving desired results from self-directed PMP study efforts. Passing the PMP exam is a significant personal career goal. The more important the goal, the more important it is you get effective coaching to better ensure your chances of success.


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.