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Addressing the Challenge of Change Together

Due to the global pandemic, education systems and teachers everywhere find themselves in a period of uncharted change, euphemistically dubbed the “new normal.” Perhaps it is premature and limiting to use this buzz phrase to describe where we are and where we are going. I suggest it is healthier for educators to view this time as a great challenge and use a strategic methodology in order to determine the best responses for ourselves and our students. A thoughtful approach does not presume what “normal” is, but rather builds insight and prepares for successful outcomes.

To foster successful outcomes, I’d like to propose an approach that combines two well-known behavioral models. The GROW model is a coaching and mentoring tool, and the AAAbc model is a stress management tool. Together, they create a framework for dealing with many of the challenges foisted upon educators during this pandemic. I suggest trying out this approach personally first; then, after reflecting on its possible application to a mentorship relationship, consider using it as a tool to coach others. As a VIPTeach Global Online Teaching Fellow, teacher mentorship is an important component of the professional learning experience for both novice and experienced online educators. Perhaps now more than ever these relationships can provide needed support among peers in education to navigate the challenges of change together.


The GROW model is a simple framework detailing the four main steps of a coaching or mentoring session. Thought leaders and writers Alan Fine, John Whitmore and Graham Alexander collaborated to pioneer the steps for this model that is often used in executive coaching. The acronym GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will/Way Forward.


The AAAbc stress management model created by educators and authors Donald and Nancy Tubesing contains three steps: 1) Alter it, 2) Avoid it and 3) Accept it (build resistance, change thinking). 

Combining these two models, we have a framework consisting of a series of relevant questions that we can ask ourselves when addressing a challenging situation as educators. 

GROW + AAAbc in Online Education

Let’s look at an example of this approach. Here is the scenario: After teaching online during this pandemic, I have recognized that fostering learner engagement online requires a different approach than face-to-face teaching.

This is how I might apply the GROW + AAAbc framework to help transition to effective online engagement tools and techniques.

GoalWhat do I want to achieve?

  • What would I like to work on?
  • What would I like to have after answering this set of questions (e.g., a first step, strategy or solution)?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?

Asking questions about my goal leads me to the following answers, for example:

I would like to increase my students’ engagement in the online classroom. I am hoping to find one or two tools I can use to help me because I want my class to be interactive and not solely consist of reading and listening to lectures.

RealityWhere am I now?

  •  What action have I taken so far?
  •  What is moving me toward my goal?
  •  What is getting in the way?

Asking these questions helps me assess my current reality. For example: 

So far, I have not done anything to spice up my online class curriculum. I know that students tend to zone out if they are not involved. I am afraid I will not be able to master the technology well enough and I will impede, rather than enhance, my students’ learning.  

Options (+ AAAbc) What else could I do to achieve my goal?

  • How can I alter things positively?
  • What pitfalls do I want to avoid?
  • What needs to be accepted in order to reach my goal? How can I build my resilience? Can I change my thoughts?
  • If I could get advice from anyone, whom would I ask? What would I ask them? 

Asking questions about my options while using the AAAbc model will help me take steps to change the current reality. For example:

I could alter the resources I currently use face-to-face, such as websites, articles, textbooks, stories and videos, and adapt them to an online environment. I could alter the teaching techniques I use in my face-to-face classes, such as discussions, active participation and group projects, to make my online classroom interactive and engaging. 

I need to avoid trying to make too many changes all at once. 

I need to accept the fact that, initially at least, my classes may be less exciting than those of an experienced online teacher. I can stop labeling myself as “afraid” or “technologically challenged” and start referring to myself as a “developing online instructor” instead! 

I can talk to my colleague about gamification and using Google Suite to heighten interaction opportunities in the classroom.

Will/Way Forward – What actions am I willing to take or changes am I willing to make, and when?

  • What options did I choose?
  • When will I put this into practice?
  • How will I measure success?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how excited am I to implement my chosen options?

For example:

I am willing to look at ways to include and adapt my current teaching techniques so that they are effective in the online classroom. I will also devote four hours of my own time this week to studying Google Suite tutorials and learning how to use this tool to improve student engagement. I will check in with my colleague for advice and opinions about my changes. I will also ask my students for feedback in a weekly class survey. I feel like I can make these changes, and I am looking forward to the challenge. I give this plan a nine out of ten!

These four steps can be cycled through until you reach a conclusion that works for you or your coaching partner. Within a few focused sessions, you will be able to:

  • Clarify your goals for the session
  • Describe your current reality
  • Explore potential options for action 
  • Identify a specific action for the way forward

This framework for challenging change can help you move forward with courage and wisdom during this chaotic time in world history. Regardless of what the year 2020 brings, remember that with the right tools and the support of fellow educators, you can learn and grow to meet the challenge. 

Blanche Norris
Blanche Norris

Blanche Norris is a 2020-21 VIPTeach Global Online Teaching Fellow, the inaugural cohort.

Blanche is an educator, senior learning and development consultant and professional facilitator with over 20 years of experience. She is an expert in soft skills, leadership, and business communications training. Blanche holds a Master of Education in Global Human Resources Development from the University of Illinois.