Thursday, April 7, 2011

Enhancing Teacher Quality: Peer Coaching as a Professional Development Strategy

Wong, K., & Nicotera, A. (2003). Enhancing teacher quality: peer coaching as a professional development strategy. Informally published manuscript, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Retrieved from

The authors recognize how the use of effective professional development strategies has become a major focus in education around the country. This focus is in part due to the additional funding granted by NCLB to schools who develop mentoring programs for teachers and devote time for teachers to investigate standards, assessment and curriculum. In this article, the authors talk about the resources that have gathered on effective professional development strategies.

The authors provide a table that shows the different approaches taken by different schools and can be classified into four broad categories: (1) establishing a culture of standards and expectations, (2) improving instructional capacity, (3) supporting a process of ongoing evaluation, and (4) connecting classroom practices to policy context. One controversy they found is whether or not peer coaching should incorporate feedback and risk feeling evaluative or not. Most of the research they read argues that peer coaching should remain distinct and separate from evaluation.

There is also a list of components necessary to have a successful peer coaching program and these include: trusting relationships; administrative support (emotional, organizational and financial); faculty recognition for the need to improve and learn; clear expectations; assessment for measuring outcomes; release time; and funds to pay for training and personnel. The major problems that occur in peer coaching models are insufficient training, limited resources and a lack of evaluation. They conclude that peer coaching can be an effective strategy and has clear potential to promote a culture of collaboration and professionalism. It can in some cases improve the level of implementation of new instructional techniques and curriculum.

I found the chart at the end as a helpful tool to evaluate the effectiveness of an existing peer coaching model. It has categories with specific targets for each category. The categories include: development of a professional culture, building instructional capacity, ongoing support for evaluation and linking classroom practices to policy context.

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