By Yi-Wen Liao

Mental health is a big issue for first-year undergraduate students adapting to university life in recent years. Although my role is as a career coach, I have found the purely coaching approach may not be sufficient because students face many more challenges nowadays. Therefore, they need far more supports and experiences sharing. The better way is to compose different kinds of elements from mentoring and coaching, consulting theory in the process. Before we empower others, we need to be authentic to understand narratives from our personal stories (George, Sims, McLean, & Mayer, 2007). As I practise more, I would rather name it as “conversation.” What I can do is to enrich conversations by providing a trusted and caring space for the flow of energy in conversation. I believe that although I have limitations because of my life experience and environment, I still can help in a way which brings love and care to enrich people ‘s lives.

The person in conversation with students can be described with the similarity to a teacher’s role in the educational field. In reflection-on practice, teachers build their confidence and capability in teaching through the systematic and rigorous reflection on their practices (Ghaye & Ghaye, 2011). Boud and Miller (1996) indicated that learning comes from experience and is socio-culturally and emotionally connected. In addition, without the attention to emotion and feelings, the result may lead to difficulty in learning (Boud & Miller, 1996).

In Holt’s book How children learn, children learn in a special way that is more suitable for their styles (2017). He found that due to the school system, people do not learn better than when they were in childhood. To trust children, we need to trust ourselves from the heart without worrying or fear (Holt, 2017). However, in the current education system, student’s achievement mainly refers to academic performance. The associated competition reinforces fears and worries. Gallegos Nava (2001) called it mechanistic education. It focuses on teaching them knowledge and skills by disciplines and developing their thoughts (Gallegos Nava, 2001). Nava also mentioned that behavioural changes are limited, mainly at the superficial level. In the contrary, holistic vision is founded by the nature of human beings integrating with the universe, the spiritual pursuit of wholeness and truths (Gallegos Nava , 2001). Nurturing the whole person is the core of holistic education (Miller, 2006). Miller concluded that the holistic education emphasizes the development of human’s intelligence, emotion, physics, social relationship, aesthetics and spirit. However, spiritual development is seldom addressed in the current education system (Miller, 2006).

Holt’s theory helped me to rethink my concerns in conversations with undergraduate students. Trust is the foundation for positive relationships (Holt, 2017). It starts with authentic leadership from coaches (George, et al., 2007). To be authentic, coaches needs to be honest and vulnerable to themselves in order to serve others.

Author Bio

Yi-Wen Liao is currently a graduate student in Education at the University of Prince Edward Island. As a career coach, she enjoys helping the younger generation maximize their full potential. She has worked in global professional firms as a human resources consultant in Mainland China and Taiwan for 20 years.


Boud, D. J. & Miller, Nod. (1996). Working with experience: animating learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gallegos Nava, R. (2001). Holistic education: Pedagogy of universal love. Brandon, VT: Foundation for Educational Renewal.

Ghaye, A. & Ghaye, K. (2011). Teaching and learning through critical reflective practice. New York, New York: Routledge.

Holt, J. (2017). How children learn (50th anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Da Capo Press. Miller, J. (2006). Educating for wisdom and compassion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

George, B., Sims, P., N. McLean, A. N., & Mayer, D. (2007) Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 85(2), 129-140.