Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Administrators Support Peer Coaching

Garmston, R.J. (1987). How administrators support peer coaching. Educational Leadership, 18-26.

The author of this article illustrates the differences between technical, collegial and challenge coaching and instructs administrators on how to select a coaching model for his/her staff and how to actively support the coaching process. Garmston argues that a coaching model can have significant positive impacts on a school culture if an administrator selects an appropriate model to fit the school goals and takes steps to show how he/she values and supports the coaching relationships and process.

Technical Coaching Model:
"Technical coaching helps teachers transfer training to classroom practice, while deepening collegiality, increasing professional dialogue, and giving teachers a shared vocabulary to talk about their craft." There are many positive impacts for adopting a technical coaching model. These include teachers: practicing new strategies more frequently and increasing capacity; using new strategies more appropriately; retaining knowledge of new strategies for longer periods of time; teaching the new strategies to their students; and understanding the purposes behind such strategies. There main drawback or cost associated with this model is time and resources. A large time commitment is required since teachers often need from 20-30 hours of instruction with new strategies, 15-20 hours of practice time, and 10-15 hours of coaching sessions. There is also evidence that this type of coaching may inhibit collegiality and dialogue and creates a more evaluative dynamic between coach and coachee.

Collegial Coaching Model:
"The major goals of collegial coaching are to refine teaching practices, deepen collegiality, increase professional dialogue, and to help teachers to think more deeply about their work. The model assumes that teachers acquire and deepen career-long habits of self-initiated reflection about their teaching when they have the opportunities to develop and practice these skills." In the collegial coaching model, it is most often done in partnerships and each teacher develops the areas he/she wishes to concentrate on and improve. It is not pre-determined by a set of school goals or an instructional method. The peers need to consistently observe and provide feedback to one another around the self selected focus. It is a good choice for administrators who wish to impact the culture of the school as it increases the work environment, professional community, and professional dialogue. The largest cost of this model is training. Collegial coaching is more effective when the teachers receive training on how to facilitate thinking processes, how to refine coaching skills and how to identify practices that impede movement and promote student achievement. It also requires patience as it may take years for measurable growth.

Challenge Coaching:
"Challenge coaching helps teams of teachers resolve persistent problems in instructional design or delivery. The term challenge refers to resolving a problematic state. The model assumes that team problem-solving efforts by those responsible for carrying out instruction can produce insightful, practical improvements." This type of coaching often evolves from other forms since it requires collegiality, trust and norms. It is different from the other types of coaching in that it uses a set process and focuses on identifying a persistent problem and bringing all of the stakeholders to help solve it. The authors provide several examples including a group of math teachers who want to streamline their ability to effectively teach students subtraction with re-grouping.

Additional Important Quotes:
"Administrators develop and maintain peer coaching in their schools in five ways. The most critical action is (1) selecting a coaching model most likely to produce the outcomes the school deems important. Thereafter, administrators support peer coaching by (2) demonstrating that they value it, (3) providing a focus for coaching activity, (4) providing training for coaches, and (5) modeling positive coaching behaviors."

"Administrators support peer coaching programs by giving teachers a structure for gathering data and providing feedback, by targeting a particular instructional content, and by ensuring frequency of coaching."

"Training in coaching is essential... a little training is not enough. Good training uses the best available information about adult learning providing teachers with theory, information, and demonstrations; addresses teachers' concerns about giving and receiving feedback; and helps teachers develop and refine specific coaching skills... During each actual coaching session, coaching teams also evaluate their own processes."

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