Peer Coaching in Review

Introduction

This is the final post reflecting on EDTC 6105 and peer coaching. Over the past 10 weeks we’ve learned about peer coaching and explored in-depth how to integrate technology and pedagogy while providing a collaborative and inquiry-based environment for our peer teacher. This blog post will share my reflections on a number of questions posed by the professors and evaluate my own peer coaching experience.

My institution doesn’t have a peer coaching framework in place and there are not any official peer coach relationships. Without a clear path forward my peer coaching experience got off to a rocky start. However, I was fortunate to collaborate with an excellent and flexible colleague who served as the peer teacher.

Peer Coaching Overview

My peer teacher was Robbin. She is the assistant director of educational technology and media at my institution. We often work together on many initiatives supporting faculty educational technology needs and have served on a number of technology committees together. This year we are teaching a course on untethered teaching for faculty members to integrate active learning strategies and use an iPad as a way to untether themselves from teaching behind a fixed podium.

This past October Robbin led a workshop titled, “Working for Justice in a Digital World: From Internet Activism to Digital Citizenship” for the Day of Common Learning. She is adapting it for a conference proposal–which was accepted!!–and we used it as our learning activity for our coaching relationship.

Peer Coaching Evaluation

Below I respond to a number of questions posed by the professors as a way to self reflect and evaluate this peer coaching experience.

1: What support do you need from your school to support success in your coaching work?

My institution can support a successful coaching program by launching focus groups and conversations on the topic and inviting a peer coach trainer to a couple brown bag sessions to showcase what it is, how it works, and why it might be beneficial. These sessions would be helpful for faculty to get introduced to the concept and practice. Currently there isn’t an official peer coaching framework in place and beginning one could launch productive conversations which may lead into forming a sustainable coaching practice.

2: What additional professional learning do you need to become a more effective coach?

Personally, I need more practice coaching to become more effective. The strategies–such as inquiry, deep listening, and not providing immediate answers–must be developed and exercised overtime. I found these skills difficult to execute well, but with practice I felt improvement in my capacity to do them well.

3: What worked well?

Robbin and I have a great working relationship and regularly collaborate on a wide range of initiatives. Our desks share a wall, so our close proximity lends itself to not only a good working relationship but one where we connect with one another about our lives. This proved to be one of the best aspects to the coaching relationship. Building on our prior familiarity and knowledge about how one another worked created the ability to dive right into redeveloping her session for a new audience because we didn’t need to spend time building a relationship. I suspect when a peer coach and peer teacher begin the process without a prior relationship it might be harder to get started. Building trust, respect, and collegiality will take time. I benefited from beginning my peer relationship with these aspects already developed for a strong foundation.

4: What needs to change?

There isn’t anything in particular that needs to change to be more successful. However, continual development of coaching skills will improve by ability to peer coach. As mentioned earlier, I am confident that these skills will improve with practice. One skill, in particular, is my confidence in knowing what to add to a conversation and what  questions I should ask. I find myself saying less and less when I lack confidence–especially when discussing an area that is unfamiliar or where my expertise is lacking. However, coaching is about listening deeply and carefully returning the peer teacher to self-reflection and being inquisitive. Further, Robbin’s evaluation of my coaching revealed that I am already doing a great job.

5: What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

Strengths:  I have the ability to care about how the peer teacher feels–their emotions–about the topic in discussion. I am able to emphasize and listen well to capture the full range of emotions and experience the environment. I believe this ability helps me as a peer coach because I am able to understand their situation, know their own perspective, and see how they want to make it better. This allows me to truly listen and support their growth without simply telling them what to do.

Weaknesses: Simply put, it is really easy to tell someone what to do. Even when you sneak it in through brainstorming! I need to continue to develop stamina in not saying what I think is the answer. I don’t think I did this too much, but I know my brain was going crazy with ideas so it took work to hold back and let her come to her own ideas!

6: Based on your learning and experiences to date, what additional learning and support is necessary to make you more successful?

Practice! I think that is the most important thing I need. Time and experience will improve my coaching capabilities.

7: What can you do to meet these needs on your own?

Opportunities. One thing I started to imagine is how we might partner with faculty on campus in peer coaching relationships to build a network for faculty to integrate new strategies in their teaching that promote student learning. For example, rather than leading workshops or teaching faculty in educational technology courses, we might build a framework for them to learn from their peers who are trained as coaches.

8: What can your school provide?

As I mentioned before, there isn’t much going on at my institution in the form of peer coaching. As least not that I am aware of. The school could provide support for a program like the one described above, allowing for those of us who train faculty, to develop a peer mentoring framework so faculty peer mentor other faculty allowing us to be sure more faculty receive quality supprt.

Peer Feedback

I enjoyed working with Robbin as we redeveloped her original “Working for Justice in a Digital World” session with new strategies and content for her EduCon presentation this coming January. I look forward to hearing from her about how it goes!

I asked Robbin to share her thoughts about my first coaching experience. Here is what she said (Robbin granted permission to post):

My coaching experience with Ryan was very useful, informative and helpful. I have a lot more confidence in my presentation now. The coaching sessions really helped me to think about my presentation from many perspectives, and tailor it for my anticipated audience. We were able to work on multiple scenarios for how I might be able to run my activities based on who is attendance and how many participants I have. It was actually a pretty rewarding experience to go from being very frustrated with my content and scared of taking it to a new audience, to being happy with the final plan and encouraged that I have something of value to share with other educators. Thanks, Ryan!

Conclusion

This course introduced me to a whole new concept and method for partnering with our colleagues in a relational and collaborative way to improve teaching and learning. I am hopeful that my skills will improve with more experience and I am excited to see how and where this model might be successful and sustainable.

  2 comments for “Peer Coaching in Review

  1. Marsha Scott
    December 13, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Great reflection, Ryan! I liked how you explained the importance of a coaching relationship in your post. “Building trust, respect, and collegiality will take time. I benefited from beginning my peer relationship with these aspects already developed for a strong foundation.” Thinking about your response, made me realize the different relationships coaches have to develop when they begin working with several collaborative teachers.
    I also enjoyed reading the “Peer Reflection” section. It sounds like the peer coaching experience was most beneficial for Robbin. I appreciated the last part of her feedback, “It was actually a pretty rewarding experience to go from being very frustrated with my content and scared of taking it to a new audience, to being happy with the final plan and encouraged that I have something of value to share with other educators.” Thanks for sharing and congratulations on a job well done!

  2. December 14, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Great job, Ryan! I love that you formally sought feedback from your collaborating partner, I think it’s so helpful. I like that you emphasize how much practice this takes, coaching really is an art and these skills take time to build. You did a fantastic job of making this experience work for your specific position, you really pushed through obstacles and taught those of us around you a great deal about perseverance and taking ownership for your learning. Thank you!

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