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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Heidi Ristolainen: Becoming an interested listener – a coaching course in Ljubljana

by Oona Hallasaari
Language: EN
Document available also in: FI SV


A key skill for a trainer in liberal adult education is competence related to group guidance. When working with adults, a lot of expertise usually emerges in the group and a skilful trainer can use this expertise to support learning in the group. The most optimal environment for this to succeed is a group with a trusting atmosphere and a good team spirit. The Erasmus+ course “Peer coaching as a sustainable source of professional development”, which I attended, promised to offer tools for strengthening interaction in a peer group.

Coaching aims at helping the other person – a student, a customer or even a friend – find their strengths and achieve their personal targets. In coaching, you do not advise or propose solutions. One of the key rules of a coach is: Be interested and do not judge. Even if you have a proposed solution for the other person’s problem, it is not necessarily suitable for them. Adopt an interested attitude and think how fascinating it is to hear about the solutions the other person has come up with.  

As an advance assignment for the course, we did an SRI test that helps to determine the sources of your motivation which guide us in our actions. The goal is both understand both your own behaviour and other people’s ways of acting. We wore glasses in different colours: knowing that we look at things through differently coloured glasses helps us act constructively in different interactive relations. I was told my SRI colour is blue. A blue person is driven by the willingness to help. When we learnt to know each other better we noticed how accurate the descriptions of this first course day turned out to be in everyday life.


The remaining four days of the course were reserved for practising the coaching process. The course went through four different techniques: listening actively, building trust, explaining things in your own words and posing coaching-oriented questions. The course programme followed the GROW model that is generally used in coaching. The idea of the model is to bring more clarity and concreteness into the goal that the person being coached has with regard to the problem as well as to find the right questions to help the person find a suitable solution and approach for the situation.  GROW is an acronym of the word Goal, Reality, Opportunities and Will. Without clear will, it is difficult to proceed towards the correct solution. During the course, we did many exercises ourselves and followed other people’s exercises. Indeed, the best way to understand the idea of peer coaching is to exercise and experiment. Towards the end of the week, it seemed to us that we were already quite good at coaching.

An important part of Erasmus+ courses is learning to know new cultures. My course group was small, only four participants, leading us to call ourselves a small family. The other participants came from Malta, Spain and the Czech Republic. Ljubljana offered sympathetic surroundings for the course. The city is architecturally old but young as a capital. Slovenia split peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991.  Slovenia has approximately 2 million inhabitants, with 280,000 of them living in Ljubljana. Considering the population, the city has extensive education and training offering and its university has more than 60,000 students.

The Erasmus+ course benefits my work in many ways. I learnt a lot about different education systems and ways of working with groups and, on the other hand, I had the chance to share ideas of liberal adult education methods with people who work in formal education. The method itself and the related interaction techniques can be used in nearly all interaction and group work. As the course involved a lot of discussions, it strengthened my English skills even more than I anticipated.

However, the course contributed first and foremost to my personal growth and development. Taking the leap of participating in an intensive course with unfamiliar people did not seem easy beforehand but it provided me with an enormous amount of enthusiasm for developing own training methods and for following the European discussion on education and training more actively. The course participants became close and we still keep in touch. How great it is to get a nice summery picture from Malta in the middle of Finland’s freezing winter or receive a video of a Spanish school play! The distance across Europe, from north to south, that used to seem so long became much shorter. One gets this kind of experiences only rarely and I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my perspectives and learn new things.


Heidi Ristolainen
Sivis Study Centre   

This article is part of a series of articles about learning experiences in the field of adult education in European context. Our ERASMUS+ KA1 project is called “European Educational Know-how Supporting Civil Society”.

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