Coaching as support for postgraduate students : a case study

27 Jun 2019

BACKGROUND : Undergraduate students as a group are well researched, with focus on enhancing student engagement and improving learning and teaching methods. However, working postgraduate students have become a growing trend in the higher education sector, with little known about their experience. The purpose of this research is to better understand and to gain insight into the inter-role conflict experienced by postgraduate students owing to managing the multiple roles of work, personal life and studies. This article reports the case study of a coaching intervention administered to a group of postgraduate students over a 5-month period. The study concludes that the inclusion of a coaching intervention to assist postgraduate students in dealing with inter-role stress can no longer be ignored. Coaching support is an authentic way to support these students, with benefits reaching beyond the classroom. RESEARCH PURPOSE : The purpose of this research is to better understand the inter-role conflict emanating from managing work, personal life and studies, and to gain insight into the role of coaching as a support function. MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY : There is limited research focusing on the experiences of postgraduate students, who are often working either part-time or full-time while pursuing their studies, and navigating three overlapping role domains simultaneously. Furthermore, even less is known about coaching as a support function to strike a balance between these three demanding roles. RESEARCH, APPROACH AND METHOD : This study is qualitative in nature. A coaching intervention over a 5-month period was used to assist postgraduate students in managing inter-role conflict. MAIN FINDINGS : The study suggests that coaching can be used as a method to address the interface between work, personal life and study demands for the working postgraduate student. To ensure successful throughput rates in the allocated time, a new support framework is required to complement the often insufficient academic interventions. CONTRIBUTION : The contribution of the research is twofold: Firstly, it focuses on working postgraduate students to gain insight into and a better understanding of the potential of coaching. Secondly, it highlights coaching as a potential support function. Very little research exists in the general literature on how to support working postgraduate students in higher education. The research also shows the potential of coaching as a support function to help postgraduate students navigate the three demanding role domains.