Aspects for Successful Peer Coaching

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Examination of various researches revealed that practicing peer coaching in any institution is vital for effective teaching, but it is significant to consider certain aspects of peer coaching prior to implementing it in any particular institution. This section of the literature review analyses different aspects that are essential for peer coaching and are common to most of the peer coaching studies. Following few paragraphs addresses the significance of establishing trusting relationships, conferencing with peers, and collection of data during observation and analyzing and reflecting on data.

Trusting Relationships

Collegiality among peers or peer coaching partner is one of the key elements of effective peer coaching. Costa and Garmstone (2002) advocates the importance of building trusting relationships, to them building and maintaining trust among peer coaches is the most important aspect of successful peer coaching. The researchers further emphasized on carrying out effective conferences to communicate with eachother and develop goals. Furthermore, It also determines the careful observation and collection of data and giving feedback which allows certain prospects for the individual who is being observed during the peer coaching process and helps them to alter their teaching practices as well (Costa & Garmston, 2002). Likewise, Kettle and Sellars (1996) stresses upon developing friend relationship and called it “an important component of critical reflection” (Kettle & Sellars, 1996, p. 23). Friendly and trusting relationship among peer coaches helps at many levels, partners share their past teaching experiences with each other and both can benefit from each other’s experiences. Forbes (2004) recommended two sessions in a week to participants to develop bonding and establish a trusting relationship with each other. Participant in that study accepted that developing a good and trusting relationship helps them a lot in peer coaching process as it makes it easier to interact with people having similar experiences (Forbes*, 2004). Considering the critical and fragile issue of developing trust relationship among peers Lam et al. (2002) conducted a study involving Hong Kong school teachers, the researchers at first made peer coaching pairs themselves without considering any conditions or similarities among the participants. The results drawn from interviews, group discussions and surveys shows that participants were uncomfortable and felt threatened by their peer partner in terms of their professional integrity, however, in the second phase the researchers then adjusted the conditions of study and tried to decrease the factors with consultation of the peers that caused psychological pressure among participants (Lam, Yim, & Lam, 2002).

Hence, these studies substantiate the argument that establishing trusting relationship is not only important but it is also a crucial and delicate task. Trusting partnership among peers helps to explore other vital aspects of peer coaching like conferencing.

Peer Conferencing

Though every coaching experience have its own unique features and details regarding the process but certain elements are common to most of the peer coaching process. A similar study is conducted by Lam, Kim and Lam (2002), they included similar contents like pre-conference sessions, a classroom observation and a concluding session for analysis. According to the researchers the analysis and reflection is not the end of the coaching process, in fact, it is just a  part of the process and when all features are included in a logical sequence, further trust is built and coaching cycles continue to establish experience and skills for coaching pairs (Costa & Garmston, 2002)

There are several traits of conferencing but most common traits discussed by Ling Li (2004) which are considered the essence of peer coaching are identification of problems, making suggestions, solving issues and developing consent about the problems identified (Ling li*, 2004). Santa Rita and Donanngelo (1996) suggested pre-observation conferencing and post-observation conferencing. According to the researchers the pre-observation conference that can be of maximum twenty minutes helps the partners to talk freely and comfortably and also allows peers to discuss and select methods of gathering data (Santa Rita Jr & Donanngelo, 1996). Another study by Costa and Garmston (2002) acknowledged the idea of pre-conference which let the peer partners share their goals and strategies for a classroom observation.(Costa & Garmston, 2002)

However, the post-observation conference suggested by Rita and Donanngelo offers collegial pairs a chance to share and discuss the data collected during a classroom observation. They further recommended the immediate post conference after the gathering of data to provide opportunity to the individual who was observed and hence allows an opportunity to utilize and analyze the factual data and practice for improvement.

Collecting Data

Gathering data during observations is critical yet vital part of peer coaching process that require particular attention. Pre-conferences are held to develop criteria and methods for data collection. Costa and Gramston (2002) in their cognitive coaching model emphasized on the importance to achieve “Specificity  of what should be recorded” (Costa & Garmston, 2002, p. 48). During the observations, coaches observe two distinct behaviors, one of the students that includes attentiveness, class participation, and interactions with the teacher or classmates and one of the teacher who was being observed that includes mannerisms, pacing, and classroom movement (p. 383).

There are number of Ways in which data can be collected, Bowman and McCormick (2000) in their study which involved pre service teachers experiences accentuates that data can be recorded in forms of notes and later in post-conferencing the peer coaches can share and analyze that data gathered on notes, however, Wynn and Kromrey (1999) advocated the use of detailed forms for data collection, those forms clearly specify data that is to be gathered by pre-service peer coaches and similar format is followed for each observation.

A detailed insight into different studies affirms that whichever method is employed for data collection, it is crucial and valuable and determined by the specific needs of the peer coaches and thus it must be carefully crafted. After the process of data collection, data is the analyzed and reflected.

Analyzing and Reflecting on Data

The information gathered is the basis for post-conference discussion. It provides an opportunity to the teacher to reflect on the data collected and recognize both weaknesses and strengths of his/her teaching practices. Costa and Garmston (2002) professed that analyzing and reflecting on the data by the teacher aids in valueable self-assesment as well as establish better classroom practices. Kettle and Sellars (1996) in their study on pre service teachers analyzed the factors that influenced professional development, in their conclusion they remarked that crticical reflection on the data has positive impacts on professional development of both teachers and students  (Kettle & Sellars, 1996) however, Wynn and Kromrey (2000) hold an opposite views and stated that feedback from the coach/teacher/supervisor/observer makes the person who is being observed conscious and concerned that “the feedback is evaluative rather than supportive” (Wynn & Kromrey, 2000, p. 73).

To conclude, analysis and reflection is not the end of coaching cycle but just a part and key element of peer coaching process, ideally when all key aspects are integrated in a logicsl order with trusting relationships, the coaching cycle continue to develop expertise for coaching partners. EmplOying all the key element eventually makes the peer coaching effective and successful.

Silvana Vacilotto and Rhoda Cummings in their paper “Peer Coaching in TEFL/TESL Programs” (2007) investigated the effectiveness of peer coaching model as a tool of professional development for pre-service ESL/EFL teachers. They proposed the applicability of this tool to the Binational Centers in Brazil and to all the other teacher development programs in general also. Peer-Coaching is a reflective approach to teacher development which proposes that teachers share data collected through peer observation as a means for reflection on their individual teaching practices. The findings show that peer coaching facilitates the exchange of teaching methods and materials, fostered development of teaching skills, and made participants rethink and reconsider their own teaching methods. The study also unraveled those behaviors which participants thought are most effective for supporting a successful and healthy relationship among peers in a peer coaching program. (Vacilotto & Cummings, 2007)

One of the challenges that are faced by academic directors at the Binational Centers (BNCs) and many other language institutes in general is improving the level of excellence of their teaching staff. Most teacher development program models require the academic coordinators and their task is to provide guidance about improving instruction to increase the efficiency of good teaching. As a result, these supervisory practices often give rise to tension, defensiveness, and suspicion in teachers, which hinders their ways from recognizing the professional development program as a process that focuses on improvement of instruction rather than on revealing weaknesses for the purpose of punishment. Based on the experiences of one of the authors, who served as academic director and member of the teaching staff in one of the BNCs in Brazil, we suggest that such challenges can be tackled and overcome. This might happen when teachers engage in practices and conversations that nurture and promote professional growth; study new methods, approaches, and techniques; experiment with and implement novel ideas in their classes; and share their professional experiences, doubts, insecurities, successes, and failures, free from the fear of being evaluated.

A peer coaching programme that leads to reflective practice might provide teachers with such an opportunity. There is consensus among teacher trainers that both K–12 and EFL/ESL teacher professional development models should encourage reflective practice, which leads teachers to develop skills in exploring their own classroom practices and to critically evaluate themselves as professionals (Richards & Lockhart, 1994). Such models challenge teachers not only to update their technical knowledge, but also to devise new methods of reasoning. Moreover, they require teachers to construct and test new categories of understanding, strategies of action, and ways of framing problems. Through use of these methods, teachers bring their decision making processes to a conscious level and build up their own repertoire of skills to use in their practice (Schon, 1987) (Wallace, 1991). The peer coaching model allows teachers of equal status to engage in a process of mutual collaboration and interpersonal support, assisting one another in reflecting on their own practices on a regular basis (Gottesman, 2000) (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Additionally, peer coaching facilitates the adjustment of beginning teachers, the improvement of underdeveloped teaching skills, and the transfer of newly acquired skills to classroom practice. However, the effectiveness of the peer coach interaction depends on a number of factors. These include how aware of their actions teachers can become, how clearly they can describe those actions, and how willing they are to discuss them. Above all, if the peer coaching model is to be effective, special attention should be given to the practice of providing feedback.

Teachers who give feedback without prior training run the risk of giving offence, instead of providing support and useful guidance to their peers. Also it is important that peer observation should not be used as a tool for judging others on the basis of one’s personal beliefs. Rather, effective observation should stimulate a reflective review of one’s own beliefs on the basis of others’ practice (Cosh, 1999).

Selection of peer is a significant process. In a paper “Peer coaching: An untapped resource for development” (2014) by Polly Parker, Kathy E. Kram, Douglas T. (Tim), Hal presented the idea of applying a model with three steps to successfully implement peer coaching. They formed discussion on three important aspects in selecting peers. The three steps of the model that begins with first step that sheds focus on building the relationship. This includes providing the primary structure for peer coaching, initial processes for engagement and establishing a respectful environment that builds a holding environment for peer coaching. In the second step they lay stress on creating success and producing momentum by recognizing the essential conditions for success which includes developing relational skills and capability with high quality connections, visioning for more possibilities, introducing narrative and storytelling to deepen and strengthen the trust. The third step revolves around helping peers internalize the skills so that they can engage in autonomous, self-regulating peer coaching that is constant and sustainable. This process concludes by repeating and reiterating the importance and value of peer coaching. It also draws attention to range of situations in which these steps are applicable. We also remind practitioners that the process is more complicated than we (and perhaps they) originally thought. However, its risks can be lessen and mitigated by appropriate preparation, planning and practice. They stated that a prerequisite for effective peer coaching is first establishing an enabling context in which peer coaching is recognized, valued and nurtured. While an organizational context may be characterized by power relations and hierarchy, pockets in which relational learning and support are valued can accelerate the acceptance of and magnify the outcomes of peer coaching. Individuals are shaped by contexts in which they are embedded as they individually and collectively enact their careers and in turn shape. (Parker, Kram, & Hill, 2014)

Peer coaching represents one of many potential configurations to support developmental growth and learning, either in dyads or in small groups. This paper also focuses on the importance of trust and care among peers. A climate of trust and support is critical. While trust deepens throughout the process of peer-coaching, it must be established in the earliest phases of the peers’ work together. The first structural element of effective peer coaching is to ‘‘check-in’’ with each other. The check-in is a round in which each participant shares with peer(s) that has a two-fold purpose.

This paper has elaborated three-step model of peer coaching to demonstrate the structure and processes necessary to effectively use this under-utilized developmental tool. By establishing the relationship between peers is a necessary pre-requisite so that an adequate holding environment always remains in the place for meaningful learning to occur and prevail. (Parker et al., 2014)

The importance of taking adequate time to create the necessary conditions cannot be over-estimated. Once a peer coaching relationship is established, individuals are able to develop the relational skills which are integral aspects of effective dialog that leads to deep learning for self and others. The greater knowledge and awareness of the process of peer coaching needs the ability to metaphorically step outside of the relationship which entails getting ‘‘up on the balcony’’ to observe oneself and one’s peer partner in the process of working together. David Brody and Linor Hadar wrote a paper titled, “I speak prose and I now know it.” Personal development trajectories among teacher educators in a professional development community”, which explores trajectories of professional growth by teacher educators participating in a professional development community on teaching thinking. Qualitative measures presented a model of personal professional trajectories which has four stages. Those stages are anticipation/curiosity, withdrawal, awareness and change. The model numerates information used by teacher educators dealing with hurdles, complexities and challenges of an engaging professional development experience in a communal context. (Brody & Hadar, 2011)

The four staged trajectory was followed by all the participants though individuals were located at different points on the path. Findings lend support to the nonlinear view of professional development, illustrating Kinchin and Cabot’s (2010) paradigm of backwards and forwards movements along career paths. The first step in integrating the thinking dimension into curriculum involves professional development in thinking education for teacher educators (Martin & Michelli, 2001).

This professional development model in thinking education is based on a socio-cultural learning perspective focused on becoming a community member. This socio-cultural perspective suggests that teacher educators can learn as well as teach in college setting (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Hargreaves, 1994; Smylie, 1995). Theories of college improvement link learning with participation in institutional activities. Both domains stress integration of work and learning as a necessary condition for individual and organizational development (Hargreaves & Evans, 1997)

Amanda Pill article “Models of professional development in the education and practice of new teachers in higher education” (2001) is a report of a research study that planned to explore and evaluate models of professional development used in the practice and education of new teachers in higher education. The development of reflective practice is frequently an underlying principle in courses for new teachers who are teaching in higher education. Many courses are designed that provide initial professional development for new teachers in higher education and help in providing experience of the theory and practice of reflection within a framework of experiential learning. Where a course has a stated aim to develop participants as reflective practitioners the course structure and the teaching and learning strategy are likely to reflect this. (Pill, 2005)

However, while there is evidence that tutors may wish to develop the use of reflection and reflective practice within the course experience they provide, in practice this may not happen. In 1998 Boud and Walker describe a wide range of difficulties, ‘from inexperience to basic misunderstandings of the nature of learning and reflection’ that prevent rather than facilitate the development of reflective practice. The sample included colleges of higher education, post-1992 universities and pre-1992 universities. The course leaders completed repertory grids and semi-structured interviews that elicited responses about their personal models of professional development and models in use on the courses. Four methodological models, Reflective practitioner, Action research, Novice to expert and Meta-cognitive approaches were identified. A critique of each of the four models is presented and the relationship between the models is represented as a matrix. Course tutors on courses for new teachers within higher education require an explicit knowledge and understanding of models of professional development. Further information is needed about the models in use, their effectiveness and the links between preferred models, disciplines and/or learning styles. The outcomes of research in these areas need to be disseminated to course leaders and other role holders with responsibility for the initial and continuing professional development of teachers in higher education. The language of professional development needs to become a natural part of the professional discourse of teachers in higher education. The mechanisms for achieving this are already in place: money for small-scale research studies has regularly been provided by both the ILTHE and the Learning and Teaching Subject Networks (LTSNs), including the Generic Centre.

There is a huge effect of professional development on teaching practices “Professional Development of Continuing Higher Education Unit Leaders: A Need for a Competency-Based Approach” by Margaret Bacheler examines the effect of professional development experiences on the career competencies of continuing higher education unit leaders (CHEULs). In the American system of higher education, a CHEUL manages an administrative unit that provides educational programs to adult learners (Cranton, 1996) .To face the challenges brought forth by disruptive innovation (Christensen, 1997), CHEULs should improve their career competencies in order to perform successfully in their professional role. To participate in professional development experiences is an easy way to increase the career competencies. This qualitative study researched the professional development experiences of 10 CHEULs to analyze their role of effectiveness in building and establishing the career competencies. By using the portraiture method (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997), six themes were drawn from the study and those are: Diversity of Career Journeys,

Val Roche conducted a research paper “Professional development models and transformative change: A case study of indicators of effective practice in higher education” (2001) to seek answer the question ‘What are the attributes of an effective professional developer role in transformative change?’ The study shows focus on effectiveness’s indicators and individual attributes in a role of a staff developer. Their work deals with the greater question of the importance of prevalence of academic staff development units in universities, whereas the current study is at the level of the individual developer. (Roche, 2001)

Gholam-Reza Abbasian and Matin Karbalaee Esmailee wrote a research paper named, “Peer-Coaching, EFL Teacher’s Professional Identity Development and Students’ Academic Achievements” that asserts the purpose of this study was two layered which will examine the effect of peer coaching on EFL teachers’ professional identity and learners’ academic achievement. This very mixed-methods research was established to notice the limits the least investigated variable in the Iranian EFL setting. In this process five high school RFL teachers were triangularly coached and achievements of their classes including those of 307 EFL students were investigated. The teachers received questionnaire both before and after a 12-session coaching process while being under observation and also they attended a think-aloud protocol reporting. The standardized Classroom Observation Sheet was employed during the coaching process. The students’ entry and exit academic behaviours in terms of achievements were kept in control before and after the treatment. The examination of each set of data collected from each group showed that peer coaching enlisted statistically significant developments in many categories of teachers’ professional identity and also in the students’ academic achievements. Pedagogically, the results of the findings suggest easiness and effectiveness of conducting peer-coaching and internalizing it in our EFL educational system. (Abbasian & Esmailee, 2018)

Rebecca Eliahoo conducted a research paper, “Teacher educators: proposing new professional development models within an English further education context” that claims a very little is known about the professional development needs of those who teach teachers in further education (FE) at a time of increasing public and government focus on the quality of teacher education,yet they are crucially important players. The efforts made have intensified across a significant amount of countries to publicise and support the promotion of professional development of teacher educators. But still the level of support is very little and low with no substantive professional standards for new or experienced practitioners regarding this role in English FE. This has a very strong impact on the professional practice and career trajectories of teacher educators themselves. A mix-methods study utilizes a sequential exploratory design that is based on a series of semi-structured interviews and online survey and focus groups. This study captivates the voices of English FE teacher educators who identified mentoring, induction and a choice of continuous professional development sessions as important strategies to improve the effectiveness of their role over time. (Eliahoo, 2017)

This article proposes easy and moveable models of professional development that follows the deep observation and analysis of the needs of new and experienced teacher educators in FE in England. The article suggests that new professional standards for teacher educators could be written collaboratively by practitioners, within a policy and institutional framework which supports the scholarship and research requirements of teacher educators.

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