Peer coaching is the process of assisting teachers from peers by mutual development of techniques, skills, and strategies. It may be implemented for various purposes, and this determines the strategy chosen. The report will focus on an analysis of four types of strategies and draw similarities from the approaches.
Strategies for fostering peer coaching
Educators can foster peer coaching through four key strategies: instructional capacity improvement, the connection of practices in classrooms to policies, supporting evaluation processes, and the installment of a professional standards culture (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). When developing standards for professional coaching culture, schools often start with a rationale for peer coaching as this will rally teachers and other stakeholders behind it (Ebling, 2011). In addition to having a general understanding of the need for the program, administrators then need to redesign their institutions to facilitate teamwork and collaboration. The coaching culture firmly depends on school members’ ability to value professionalism amongst themselves. It is also crucial to define the role of the mentor and peer in this collaborative effort (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Several scholars in the subject matter feel that reciprocal learning is a unique aspect of peer coaching. A strong professional culture of peer coaching also depends on teachers’ ability to participate in the program willingly (Ebling, 2011). They need to give consent and interact with one another freely. In such a culture, a school ought to have a criterion for mentor selection as not all teachers may handle this role effectively (Wong & Nicotera, 2003).
When building a professional culture through peer coaching, schools need to consider certain approaches that make peer-coaching effective. Teams of peer educators need to accept and put into practice what school heads decided at the administrative level (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Additionally, schools need to examine how various teams can work together using different formats. They need to consider the budgetary implications of each team as well as the workability of various plans. Sometimes teachers may find difficulties in handling tasks that they initially did alone. In such scenarios, it is crucial to have structured illustrations of activities such as the planning process (Showers & Joyce, 1996). For instance, members of the team may be prompted to think about their overall goals for students. They can then go through the first one and a half months of school and establish the objectives as well as the time they need to implement them. Teachers may also think about an overlap between their curriculum goals as well their annual goals (Wiles & Bondi, 2007). All these walkthroughs may assist educators in creating a professional culture.
Instructional capacity improvement is also another strategy for peer coaching. Schools can determine the resources and incentives required for teacher collaboration to build capacities (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). They can then provide training for educators who will act as mentors. Additionally, these institutions ought to have a process for supporting the collaborative, modeling, and coaching efforts (Ebling, 2011). New information obtained through the peer review process may then be incorporated into prevailing values, experiences and knowledge. Mentors can advise about instructional strategies and curriculum content (Ebling, 2011). Even ideas about the curriculum should be shared among mentors. They should demonstrate classroom instructions through this endeavor (Wong & Nicotera, 2003).
When conducting instructional capacity improvement, teachers ought to support each other throughout the implementation of change. Once they support each other at the onset of the peer coaching process, then they are likely to do so even after understanding and making the strategy their own (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Furthermore, planning should be a central component of peer coaching (Ebling, 2011). Coaches and peers need to work together in developing instruction and curriculum goals. If schools perfect collaborative planning, then chances are that they will divide labor between them. Teachers will create new lessons effectively and with much less strain than would have been the case if individuals handled the matter on their own (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). School administrators can enhance this process by setting release times for all the peer coaches. They may also fund their training or workshop attendance. Schools need to change schedules to allow teachers to leave their regular duties and engage in peer coaching. Institutions may also hire volunteer aides that can substitute for teachers who are in the program (Showers & Joyce, 1996).
In supporting evaluation processes, the school should not treat peer coaching as a substitute for evaluation but should think of it as a method of facilitating continuous improvement (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). Mentors observe instructions within classrooms regularly. They act as companions and sources of support to peers. Mentors also consult peers on lesson objectives as well as lesson plans. Some of them assist with an analysis of classroom application of principles and feedback. It should be noted that the topic of feedback has generated a lot of debate in peer coaching circles; however, most scholars do not recommend giving verbal feedback as this impedes information sharing (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). If schools place too much emphasis on verbal feedback, then they reduce peer coaching to a supervisory endeavor. The coach ceases to be a mentor and turns into an evaluator. This tendency stems from clinical supervision, to which many educators have grown accustomed. Showers & Joyce (1996) recommended that coaches ought unlearn that approach and dwell on collaboration instead. After extensive use of peer coaching, it eventually becomes unnecessary to give feedback as the participants will already have understood and perfected new behavior (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). Additionally, when applying such a strategy, one ought to experiment with a series of teaching strategies. Coaches need to encourage peers to reflect on their teaching as well learning processes. As an evaluative strategy, peer coaching ought to be assessed to understand its impact on both educators and students. However, an assessment of the peer coaching process should not be regarded as the evaluation strategy for the institution (Ebling, 2011). Schools should endeavor to differentiate between evaluation and peer coaching. The latter can be used for peer review.
During the evaluation strategy, peer coaching participants need to know how they will monitor the impact of their program. Many individuals misconstrue peer coaching as a strategy that needs no assessment. Teachers need to know whether their efforts have paid off in terms of their students. However, the entire school needs to agree on the change agenda for the program. They can combine a series of ideas on how to measure the impact of their effort (Ebling, 2011).
Institutions may also apply peer coaching as a strategy for linking policy with classroom practices. In this regard, peer coaching may be used as a source of advice for the availability and use of district resources (Wong & Nicotera, 2003). Teachers may also learn about the suitability of their parent relations by national or district requirements. Teachers can learn about other general expectations from the state or district.
To link classroom practices with policy, coaches and peers need to be informed about the various laws that apply to their profession. To acquire this knowledge, they may attend conferences or workshops (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Schools should also provide material for understanding how certain regulations work.
In all, the four strategies, the coach and the peer are equals (Ebling, 2011). All participants in peer coaching do so to learn from one another. The one conducting the observation is the coached teacher while the subject of the observation during the teaching process is the coach (Showers & Joyce, 1996). When discussing the observation process, the person doing the observation will normally thank the coach for letting them watch. They will also give insights into some of the ideas that they have learned from the experience. Therefore, coaches play a facilitative role in which they explore the motivations, skills, and needs to be needed to teach. In achieving these goals, they must observe and listen (Ebling, 2011). Additionally, question-asking is a vital part of ensuring that they identify appropriate solutions for their challenges. A coach also supports the goal-setting process and encourages peers to stay committed to those goals. Perhaps one of the most outstanding components of the peer coaching process is the maintenance of a non-judgmental point of view among coaches. They need to offer positive support rather than negative criticism. Furthermore, they ought to foster independence amongst their peers by assisting them to develop personal competencies (Showers & Joyce, 1996). To derive maximum benefits from such an approach, a coach ought to focus on his area of personal competence. The coach determines the method of data collection and the expectations that will emanate from a coaching session.
The peer or coached teacher is not an inexperienced person who merely absorbs information from the other individual (Showers & Joyce, 1996). He or she is an equal who also engages in learning and improving. Additionally, the peer engages in a trusting relationship with the coach (Ebling, 2011). He or she will collect data about the concerned topic. The person should interact in the classroom as this adds a practical dimension to the observation process. Primarily, the peer should observe and learn from his or her coach (Wong & Nicotera, 2003).
Collaborative work is more complex than mere observations. Teachers need to attend conferences and share experiences (Ebling, 2011). Perhaps more importantly, they need to learn from each other during instruction planning, creation of support materials, and gaining knowledge about the effect of their approach on student learning (Gupton, 2010). Trust-building is a fundamental aspect of project success. To achieve this, the concerned peers need to have good conversation skills and listening abilities. They ought to make practical use of non-verbal language. Furthermore, the process is dependent on the use of constructive feedback. In handling the latter aspect, the focus should be given to descriptions of observable behavior rather than generalizations or assumptions (Showers & Joyce, 1996). It is also essential to do this in a timely way so that the receiver can act on the information as soon as he or she receives it.
Schools often benefit from peer coaching by having trusting relationships between the coaches. Administrative support, through finance, school structure and emotional backing, also facilitates peer coaching. It also curbs isolation among educators and thus concretizes learning efforts (Ebling, 2011).
The four strategies of peer coaching involve policies, instruction, evaluation, and coaching culture. School administration involvement is just as essential as teacher commitment to the program. However, the most essential component is the establishment of a trusting relationship among participants. Peer coaching is helpful to peers and coaches by enhancing mutual learning amongst them.
Ebling, M. (2011). A study of the impact of peer coaching on improving teaching techniques. Web.
Gupton, S. (2010). The instructional leadership toolbox: A handbook for improving practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Showers, B. & Joyce, B. (1996). The evolution of peer coaching. Educational Leadership, 53(6), 12.
Wiles, J. W., & Bondi, J. C. (2007). Curriculum development: A guide to practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wong, K. & Nicotera, A. (2003). Enhancing teacher quality: Peer coaching as a professional development strategy. Vanderbilt University Publication, 5, 1-10.