Who Is My Peer?

The end is near! This is my first post of the final year in the Digital Education Leadership program! In this course, Educational Technology Leadership, we are exploring peer coaching. As with previous posts, we are presented with an event which is based on the ISTE standards where we refine a given question for our context, explore other resources to help answer the question, integrate ideas from cohort members, and finally work towards a resolution.

ISTE Standards for Coaches

This week centers around the first standard, visionary leadership, covering part b and part d. This standard discusses the need for the coach to “contribute” to all integral aspects of developing and seeing through a strategic plan. Furthermore, the standard emphasises the coach launching strategies that are sustainable while collaborating with others to see the project through.

Triggering Event

The triggering event, in which we build our own question, is “What is essential for successful coaching?”

Triggering Question

My question, based on the ISTE standards and the triggering event, speaks to my own context and personal situation. In what ways can a peer coach be successful when they are not necessarily a peer. For example, how can a non-professor peer coach a professor? In my role I am not a faculty member at my institution and I wonder how can I still be a successful peer coach when I have a entirely different role and classification.

Exploration and Integration

Based on feedback from my cohort, the overall impression is that peer coaches are peers when they know and understand the context of a teacher. They might not have the same job responsibilities, but they understand the profession and participate in the activities of the profession. Providing an excellent one word summary, my cohort member, Annie, responded saying that we need to pay attention to the “perception of what a coach is” and work towards a “common understanding” of what is expected in a peer coach and peer teaching relationship. Therefore, with this approach, in my position I can be considered a peer coach in the sense that I am also an educator who participates in the activities of teaching and learning. My professor, David, reminded my of the TPACK framework, which I learned about and discussed in my blog last quarter, as a central point of emphasis in my role as a peer coach. Using this framework, the peer teacher I may be supporting brings the content knowledge (CK) I bring technological knowledge (T) and we work together to bridge those areas with appropriate pedagogical knowledge (P). Therefore, it is important to note that my audience (or participants) may be different at times and my classroom is bigger than the typical four walls of a for-credit undergraduate course. To that end, my exploration focused more on what attributes successful peer coaches need.

In Glazer, Hannafin, & Song (2005) one key requirement  for a successful peer coaching relationship is an atmosphere where authenticity reigns supreme (pg. 57). When authenticity fails to make an appearance the result is “less meaningful” for the learner. How do we create authenticity in a relationship? It starts by building a relationship that is initiated and sustained by mutual respect and trust. To that end, their research provides a picture of collaborative partnership as a part of peer coaching. Collaborative partnership exists in the sense of peer coaching, but also in a community of practice environment. While their model is a little more rigid than my perception of Foltos (2013), their design promotes the idea of peer learning taking responsibility and the peer coach searching as a guide. What is key is a three prong approach to their collaborative apprenticeship model; a) “mutual engagement”; b) “shared repertoire”; and c), “joint enterprise” (pg. 59). In the community of practice environment the peer coach creates an environment focused primarily on providing support for the peer teachers to learn more about integrating instructional technology effectively. After intense focus on supporting the peer teacher in their setting, the peer coach relaxes (pg. 59). The key is to move the peer teachers to the point of self sufficiency so that they can become peer coaches.

The key aspects of the collaborative apprenticeship models requires a coach to build communities of practice, support the creation of competent technology leaders–teachers–on campus, and empower teachers beyond their previous level of capacity (pg. 63). The idea of building capacity connects to the key in Foltos (2013) in which peer coaches are to sit back and listen to their peer learners. When a coach listens they allow the learner to express and develop the capacity for growth–digesting what they’ve learned and returning it to the fold by eventually becoming a coach for other learners–this is the epitome of a cyclical coaching process (pg. 10). Further to the point, Foltos writes:

Effective coaching aims at helping individual teachers develop the capacity to improve teaching and learning and to assist the school to develop the collective capacity necessary to improve teaching and learning based on the district and school goals and the needs of the student (pg. 68).

A successful coach understands the role and responsibilities of the peer learner–seeing as a peer–who has knowledge of the context and works towards the ongoing cycle of creating peer coaches built by well-coached peer learners.

Concerns

My concerns around the concept of “peer” have been assuaged. I appreciated the wise console of my cohort and these two sources. The key is being a good coach who is knowledgeable about the situation, listens well, and provokes inquisitive action and reflection by asking wise questions.

Resolution

My triggering question related to my current context as one who works with university faculty while not being a faculty member myself. The answer, therefore, to my question–which was processed above–is simply understanding that even though my “peer-ness” isn’t the same, it is equal. My role provides me a unique opportunity to build an authentic relationship, listen and learn from faculty members–understanding their needs and concerns–which all leads to a successful coaching experience.  A peer is one who, as Foltos (2013) states, builds capacity regardless of position. “Whether a coach is working with others who teach at her grade level, a subject-matter team, or all of the colleagues at her school, the school’s educators are developing collective capacity to improve teaching and learning” (pg. 75).

Resources

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Glazer, E., Hannafin, M., & Song, L. (2005). Promoting technology integration through collaborative apprenticeship. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 57–67. http://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504685

  3 comments for “Who Is My Peer?

  1. Marsha Scott
    October 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I like the title of your post, as it leads me to consider our role as coaches. Your post also made me realize that peer coaching doesn’t necessarily stop after helping an individual teacher. But that peer coaching moves towards building “collective capacity” [which is] necessary to improve teaching and learning based on the district and school goals and the needs of the student” (pg. 68): a cyclical coaching process.

    Thanks for your thoughts on “Who is my peer?” And as always, I look forward to following your posts this quarter.

  2. October 12, 2015 at 10:35 am

    The end is near… No! Don’t say it! I’m glad to see that you also incorporated TPACK into your reflection this week, Ryan. Once David mentioned it, it really helped me to see how I (a younger and less experienced educator) could bring something to the table and be an effective peer coach. As I mentioned earlier, your personality is naturally one of guidance and patience, making you an ideal fit for the peer coaching role.

  3. October 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    This is really nicely organized Ryan. I was with you the whole way as you navigated how peer coaching starts to fit into your educational realm. You are keepin’ it real, …. I mean authentic as you say in your post! This takeaway is so important – a coach has to be sincere and credible in motive and practice. This isn’t a place for lip service, but a place for conscientious pursuit of shared goals. The phrase “joint enterprise” really resonated with regard to this. I think you also made it clear that a coach has to meet a peer learner where he or she is. It is not about what the coach brings to the table, but what both participants seek to achieve together. Great job!

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