Nurturing Student Development (2) Obstacle Courses and Coaching & Mentoring

Obstacle courses

Obstacle courses provide an array of opportunities for school students, enabling the acquisition of a variety of skills. The students get an opportunity to challenge their performance in gross and fine motor activities. They are among the best ways to ensure that the students remain physically fit and healthy by jumping, pushing, crawling and sliding through an obstacle course. This kind of approach not only develops teamwork, mental and physical training attributes, but also situational awareness. The difficulty levels of the challenges should be in accordance with the abilities of the students.

Obstacle courses can be introduced in schools or by commercial organizers. They can range from a mix of well developed semi-permanent structures with familiar obstacles to one-off special events.

Listed below are some of the benefits and examples of the obstacle courses as physical challenges:

  • Memory and sequencing – These obstacle courses teach students how to sequence a multi-step activity as their memory is challenged by progressively increasing the demands of the physical activity. The steps of this activity should be steadily increased as the students’ sequencing and memory skills improve.
  • Sensory input – Various activities may be incorporated within the obstacle course to allow for multiple sensory inputs. The students may be engaged in heavy work through the provision of pressuring inputs, for example the pulling of a heavy wagon from one point to the next and have the student(s) unload the heavy wagon. The obstacle course may comprise of all the activities in all the planes of vestibular motions.
  • Bilateral coordination – Steps that can challenge the students’ bilateral coordination may be incorporated in the physical activity, for example having them play tug-a-war.
  • Motor planning – the obstacle courses provide an ample opportunity for the students to improve on their motor planning through transitional steps in the physical activity.
  • Balance and strength – Multiple physical activities within the obstacle courses will avail an opportunity for the students’ to build on strength and balance, for example having the students crawl over couch cushions to recover a certain object.

Importance of coaching and mentoring school students

For any effective student development program, coaching is considered to be a vital constituent. Both coaching and mentoring are forms of one-to-one support relationship aimed at facilitating the personal development of each student. Unlike coaching, mentoring is aimed at supporting students in their personal and career development. Coaching and mentoring techniques should complement the traditional modes of training rather than replace these techniques. A coach can nurture conditions in which learning and deep reflection can occur. The following are some of the benefits that can be realized whilst guiding and supporting students:

  • Improvement on the performance of the students
  • Management of stress
  • Avails an opportunity to nurture social networks
  • Enables the students to be able to learn on their own rather than being taught
  • Encourages the students to tackle complex tasks
  • Provision of a well-intentioned environment for discussion
  • Boosts on motivation and morale

Coaching and mentoring have positive impacts through improving self-reliance, confidence, and self-awareness levels. Subsequently, mentoring and coaching have been quoted as having the highest transfer of knowledge. As long as the right mentor or coach is preferred, there are multiple alleged gains for the school students as well as the organization and the coach or mentor.

“Evidence of direct impact on young people from mentoring and coaching within their organization is rare. However, reports from researchers and teachers suggest that a culture of mentoring and coaching will, over time, have an impact on young people and their learning. “

–National Foundation for Educational Research & TDA, 2008

About the Author

PhD in European Languages and Cultures (specialising in Literary Translation) Department of International Studies Macquarie University