Hey there! You are using an outdated browser. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to upgrade to a modern browser, such as Google Chrome.

What is the difference between group coaching and group teaching?

Last week, astute reader Sue Paananen, in response to my blog post, Survey Says, Not Enough Coaches Run Coaching Groups, asked, “…could you please describe how group coaching is different than group teaching, at least in a nutshell?”  She wasn’t the only one who has asked me this, so I decided that it was time to write a post about this topic, and try to fit it into a nutshell.

Here’s why this whole subject of coaching groups is on my mind. My virtual conference on coaching groups has a name and 23 speakers lined up! 

 Presenting the

First Annual Group Coaching Megasummit

How to Win Big with Group Programs: from Mini-Groups to Membership Sites to Masterminds  

Get Fantastic Client Results, Leverage Your Time and Expertise, And Earn More Money!

Save the Dates!  We’re starting this incredible Megasummit on Monday, October 28 and continuing through November 1.  Enter those dates in your calendar and clear out everything else.  You will learn SO much from this summit!

Back to the question of what is the difference between a coaching group and a class or course.

There is actually a continuum between a strictly defined “class” and an equally strictly defined “coaching group.”  It’s easier to describe each one if I start at the two extremes.

What happens in a class or a course

  1. The teacher sets the agenda
  2. The teacher is the center of attention
  3. The teacher has information that you are there to learn
  4. The goal is for you to attain knowledge (and in school or a certification program prove you’ve attained it by taking a test).
  5. The students can ask questions for clarification purposes, and the teacher will answer.
  6. Discussion among students is sometimes allowed, but the teacher makes sure that this discussion stays in the knowledge base and agenda that he/she has set out.
  7. When the predetermined number of classes have been taught, the course stops and there are no more classes
  8. The goal is for the student to have learned something.

What happens in a coaching group: 

  1. The group sets or “co-creates” the agenda with the coach
  2. Interaction between group members is encouraged and expected
  3. The coach listens and asks powerful questions to facilitate the conversations that develop
  4. Each person’s input in the group is valuable
  5. The expectation is that the group will provide more than just what the coach can provide.  This is often called “the wisdom of the group”
  6. The information learned in the process of group coaching is not primary.  The idea is that it takes something beyond information; it takes community, connection, leadership, taking action and being held accountable, and coaching in order to help people change.
  7. A coaching group can run for an indeterminate length of time
  8. The goal is for the client to make some kind of internal transformation, and most importantly, to take action

Most coaching programs are actually teaching programs

I have found in my experience and in discussing this issue with many coaches, that most coaching programs consist of classes, not coaching groups.

Here is a chart showing my semi-scientific guess of what percentage of group programs are actually classes, coaching groups, or a combination.

 What Coaches Really Do in Coaching Programs


Both Teaching and Coaching Are Good!

Don’t get me wrong, teaching is wonderful, and coaching is wonderful.  I’m not saying that one is preferable to the other.  The needs of the client, the preferences of the client, the skills and preferences of the teacher/coach, all go into making the decision about which to offer.

It’s important to educate yourself about the advantages of both teaching and coaching in groups.  Perhaps you’ll decide to learn some group coaching skills.  Learning group coaching will open up whole new worlds (and sources of income) to you, so consider adding it to your skill set!


Which have you experienced, group coaching or group teaching?

Had you been confused about the difference before?

Would you like to learn more about group coaching?



10 thoughts on “What is the difference between group coaching and group teaching?

  1. REally loved how you distinguished between both of them.

  2. Thanks for making the distinction Gina…that was interesting. I am also looking forward to your summit as a speaker and as a participant. I love having group programs – mine our teaching and coaching combined. I’m sure there will be a lot of great things to learn from your speaker lineup!
    Maribel Jimenez recently posted..Are you a perfectionist?My Profile

  3. As an adult educator I can say that you hit the nail on the head with your summary of what happens in a class or a course Gina! I really liked how you gave us a concrete list for each type so it was easy to see what the characteristics are. Super helpful for me.

    Can’t wait for the MEGA Summit!
    Brenda recently posted..Is the Fitness Industry Part of the Obesity Problem?My Profile

  4. Thank you, Gina, for selecting my question to write this post about. It was indeed clarifying. I really like how you compared them in parallel, to help us clearly see the differences. It can help us to know what we should call what we are planning to do, such as in tele seminars.
    Sue Paananen recently posted..Do You Take Too Long Making Little Decisions?My Profile

    • Sue, there’s nothing like a good question to bring out the creativity in me. It’s so much more fun answering something that you know that someone wants to know. You probably know that as writers, we are out there in the blogosphere wondering if what we’re writing has relevance to the readers. That’s why I love getting comments on my blog. So thank YOU, Sue!
      Gina Hiatt recently posted..Why Membership Sites Work to Make You Money – Part 3: Charge Less, Earn MoreMy Profile

  5. Is there a link to information about the summit? I’m interested but worried about scheduling it…

    • Kathryn, we’re putting the webpage together right now. I’ll be posting on this blog and in my emails when that’s up. Also, you’ll be able to buy all 23+ recordings plus transcripts plus summaries, and also have a live Q&A with some of the speakers, for $97. Also the recordings will be free for 24 hours, so you can catch the ones you want in that way.
      Gina Hiatt recently posted..Survey Says: Not enough coaches run coaching groupsMy Profile

  6. Rose, thank you so much for relating that experience. What a perfect description of how age (or experience in whatever the group is about) differences can actually be beneficial to all. I’ve experienced that in the mastermind that I’m in, where I’ve been a newbie at some things and very experienced in others. Just lovely. I’m so glad this is in my blog so I can refer back to what you wrote!
    Gina Hiatt recently posted..Survey Says: Not enough coaches run coaching groupsMy Profile

  7. Rose said:

    Looking forward to the summit. I’ve experienced both. The best example I can give on the value of group coaching is a bit abstract but it certainly applies. I was in a two year social service worker program in college. Class size was 60 students ranging in age from fresh out of high school to late 50’s.
    Although there was curriculum to follow the teachers in this course valued and encouraged sharing life experiences their own included. The wisdom in this group was amazing and honestly a very huge part of learning occurred through the sharing of life experiences, very deep experiences. For the younger in the group it was an eye opener to experiences they haven’t yet gone through. Really important knowledge and insights to have so they can relate to those they help upon graduating. For the older crowd it was seeing the value of sharing, sometimes the most difficult times, with this younger group. The age range also helped to bridge the gap and bring a better awareness and understanding for each other. It helped to immensely in reducing judgements, criticisms and first impressions. It opened minds to new perspectives and insights that you could never get from a book. I would guess that more than 50% of the hands on learning and retained information was due to open sharing of experiences and the input of the class. Totally amazing teachers helped of course.
    I know many groups are arranged by certain criteria but one major one to consider it allowing for age gaps. There is so much wisdom to be shared.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge