As part of the offer from Aston University’s student enterprise company Beautiful Canoe to the participating students, until this year the team have been able to offer the support of a fully trained coach who specialised in Organisation and Relationship Systems (ORS) coaching. This methodology encourages participants to acknowledge and focus on the team as an overall system, and the culture and aspirations that they are working toward as a whole.

Using ORS coaching supports teams to take collective ownership of their team culture, objectives, and ways of working, rather than on individual issues or blame. The approach looks to address challenges by getting the participants to explore the perspectives of others, drawing on emotional and social intelligence, developing effective empathy that can be used to deepen understanding of how these all affect and reflect their success at reaching the vision they aspire to.

This practice has been utilised since Beautiful Canoe came into being. The students have found it to be very effective and rewarding, and to help them to identify meaning in their work and career choices. Staff supporting the programme have employed some of the ORSC techniques in their broader teaching and research practices, including disseminating the techniques to those staff delivering the second year undergraduate Team Project. This led to a transformation of the way the computer science team project module is delivered and assessed, as well as the experience students get from taking part.

The coach has recently left Aston University so five other staff linked to the delivery of Beautiful Canoe and the Team Project have undertaken the ORSC@Work Fundamentals course so as to be able to support this year’s students. Several of those staff whose roles are more associated with student support are intending to train in greater depth on the ORSC model. Once this has taken place, they will be moving toward being recognised as professional team coaches (in this coaching discipline) from where they will be better able to support students in future and to disseminate some of the techniques to other staff within the department.