Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Evolution of Peer Coaching

The Evolution of Peer Coaching
Beverly Showers; Bruce Joyce
Educational Leadership, March 1996 v53 n6 p12(5)

“Peer Coaching” differs here from Collegial Coaching in that it does not include verbal feedback.  In this model, Peer Coaching teams are formed where teachers discuss new initiatives in curriculum design or classroom practice that they plan to implement.  Feedback is not offered in this model because of the evaluative connotation that is associated with the word. 

The authors have been working with the peer coaching model for over 30 years, having initially introduced it as a structure for school improvement in 1980.  They offer a history of peer coaching from pre-1980 to 1999, in which they detail the evolution of peer coaching.  Initially, structures did not exist at school to assist teachers in implementing new skills or sustaining new practices that were learned during the year or over the summer at training programs.  In the 1980’s the authors looked at teachers who had formed “coaching” relationships (meaning they shared their practice with a colleague) and found that teachers who did so were more likely to effectively implement new skills.  Specifically, “members of peer-coaching groups exhibited greater long-term retention of new strategies and more appropriate use of new teaching models over time (Baker and Showers 1984).”

In the 1990’s, the authors began to work with entire school faculties to implement the peer-coaching model.  They follow four design principles when working with staff at a school-site on peer coaching:
1)   All members of the staff must agree to the initiative, support one another in the change, share materials and practices, and collect data
2)   Omit verbal feedback (This is done to ensure that no staff feel the process is evaluative, which the authors have found can be a danger and can take away from the growth potential that is possible when teachers do not feel they are being evaluated).
3)   Define “coach” more broadly (The “coach” in this case completes observations not to give feedback to the person being observed, but to gain insights into his or her own practice).
4)   Define peer coaching more broadly (Instead of observing and giving feedback, the coaching relationship involves all of the collaborative interactions that occur during planning, finding materials, watching one another, informally discussing practice, and thinking about student actions and reactions.

Four recommendations are offered for training sessions:

1)   Rather than just providing time for collaborative planning, support can be offered during specific training sessions.
2)   Peer coaching teams should be formed on the first day
3)   Examples of formats or structures for collaborative planning should be provided
4)   Peer coaching teams need to be able to monitor the effectiveness of what is being implemented

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