Digital Identity Development: A Coaching Playbook

Coaching is the art of helping others achieve more. Coaches help their players to advance in their sport, improving their skills, increasing their strength and stamina, and challenging their endurance. Perseverance, dedication, tactical aptitude and so much more goes into being a top contender in any sport or industry. More often than not, a coach holds the key to unlocking player potential, transforming them into elite athletes who are capable of achieving more than they ever thought was possible.

Through sports, coaches empower their players to become their very best. Similarly, student affairs professionals are often empowered to coach students, helping them to unlock their potential, to harness their power as social change agents, and to enrich the development of their many identities. One identity in particular that higher education and student affairs professionals should consider paying specific attention to is the digital identity development of their students.

Student affairs professionals are often empowered to coach students, helping them to unlock their potential, to harness their power as social change agents, and to enrich the development of their many identities.

One of the most important things we all should know about the internet is that privacy does not exist online. More importantly, however, is that our reputation can be defined by our digital identity. Therefore, we must go to great lengths to protect it, as well, to harness the power it possesses.

Students must understand the consequences of their actions, both in-person and online, and hopefully, they will seek to become purposefully congruent. The internet and our social networks provide users with a limitless virtual platform to create their own digital identity.

The internet and our social networks provide users with a limitless virtual platform to create their own digital identity.

A digital identity can be thought of as a person’s individual brand and can facilitate both positive and negative impacts on the 21st Century life experience. This blog series, Digital Identity Development: A Coaching Playbook, will explore seven facets of digital identity development and provide educators with the coaching tools to help students strive for congruence, both online and in-person.

With a foundational nod to Arthur Chickering and Linda Reisser (Education and Identity, 1993), this blog series will take a twist on their "Seven Vectors of College Student Identity Development," and outline ways professionals may attempt to coach college students as they navigate and harness the power of their digital identity.

Here is an overview of the topics we will cover over the course of this blog series:

  1. Developing Digital Competence
  2. Managing Online Emotions
  3. Moving through Autonomy, towards virtual Interdependence
  4. Developing Mature, Interpersonal, virtual Relationships
  5. Establishing a Digital Identity
  6. Developing Virtual Purpose
  7. Developing Digital Integrity

For the purposes of this blog series, the “pedagogy” used in this series as related to coaching students through these seven “virtual vectors” will be rooted in Positive Psychology, Gestault Theory & Principles, along with a focus on core Coaching Competencies. Positive Psychology can be defined as the “scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play"(Positive Psychology Center. University of Pennsylvania, 2016. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/).

A “Gestalt approach to coaching is critical, because while coaches may in fact have a great deal to teach a [student], a precondition of learning is that the [student] be available to be taught – to be interested in and excited about a partnership for learning” (Simon, S. (2009). Applying Gestalt Theory to Coaching. In Gestault Review, p. 233).

Coaching Competencies, as created by the International Coach Federation, are a simple yet effective framework to infuse within your coaching pedagogy. Here are the competencies they have developed:

Setting the Foundation
  • Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards
  • Establishing the Coaching Agreement
Co-creating the Relationship
  • Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client
  • Coaching Presence
Communicating Effectively
  • Active Listening
  • Powerful Questioning
  • Direct Communication
Facilitating Learning and Results
  • Creating Awareness
  • Designing Actions
  • Planning and Goal Setting
  • Managing Progress and Accountability

Keeping in mind these foundational approaches to coaching, it could be assumed that many students want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling isn’t only attainable in real time, as these tenets are vital to the satisfaction of our online, or virtual lives. Most importantly, this drives home the point that congruency and purposefulness must occur online as well as in-person. The framework outlined in this blog series overview will be the lens in which we look at these virtual vectors and encourage practitioners to coach students in pursuing digital integrity.

Subscribe or tune in over the course of this academic year to learn how each “vector” has been translated into the digital realm, and discover ways to refine your coaching pedagogy as it is related to helping students develop their digital identity.

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