If you were to ask a teacher what he or she might fear the most, guaranteed one of the first things that come to mind is evaluations. Teachers love what they do. They love being able to plan a lesson that sparks interest in a student’s mind. They love being able to be that support system for students who need a little extra help. Teachers love being rewarded every day by impacting their students in and out of the classroom.
There is one thing that gives a teacher a little bit of anxiety though. That small, yet big thing is teacher evaluations. Suddenly, teachers feel like they have to put on a dog and pony show when an administrator walks in. They are now required to meet domains as part of their evaluation to place them on a general professional scale. More frustration builds up as teachers feel like they cannot simply show off their true craft when an administrator comes in for a mere 10 minutes. How could someone possibly see the overall effect of a lesson by being there for only 10 of a 90-minute lesson?
Fast forward to the post-observation meeting and the administrator is talking about things that didn’t even happen in the classroom while the teacher hopes for any type of constructive feedback, yet receives none. Teachers feel overwhelmed, unsupported and many times, defeated.
You see, the evaluation system was meant to help teachers grow professionally and be guided by their administrators. However, with all the pressures and constant mandates, time becomes the worst enemy and just like that, the process isn’t implemented with fidelity.
Enter Peer-to-Peer Coaching. This type of coaching works in a way that helps the teacher improve in the craft of teaching. There are still observations and meetings but the implementation makes all the difference. A common peer-to-peer coaching structure would look something similar to the following.
Teachers select their own coach depending on their needs.
In any profession, it can be said that people will be drawn to people they admire and have similar interests too. With selecting a coach, a teacher can look to someone who has a good amount of experience and possesses the capacity to provide objective and constructive feedback. Some may choose to select someone from their same department or take on a challenge of asking an interdisciplinary colleague. Being able to choose your own coach means that you value this individual enough to help you grow in your professional development. Thus, the process will be much more effective as you will be more invested in the process.
Both parties agree to observe each other and provide constructive feedback.
The coach and coachee have the ability to both serve as a mentor role. In an initial meeting, both teachers can identify objectives for the lesson and observe one another, providing feedback afterward. This process promotes a higher-level of co-planning, co-teaching and real feedback for growth. Some people might find it helpful to develop a template of things to look for during observations. This helps both parties maintain a focus and work towards a common goal.
Expectations and trust are built in the very beginning.
Although both teachers may agree to participate in Peer-to-Peer Coaching, expectations should be established from the very beginning. Even with choosing their own coach and trusting this person to help in professional growth, the process of entering a classroom for observation and providing feedback can be invasive. It would be best to have the conversation of trust initially and then deciding what works best for both teachers.
Guiding questions help facilitate the conversation.
Throughout the coaching process, it is essential to have a guiding question to facilitate conversation and planning. The guiding question serves as the focal goal that both the teacher and the coach are working towards. For instance, the coach can always help the teacher plan by asking, “What should students know and be able to do after the lesson?” This question helps the teacher understand that the lesson should present some type of objective for students. Plus. the objective in this particular question helps the teacher plan something that is applicable to extended student learning.
Reflection occurs as a result of peer-to-peer coaching.
One of the key aspects of continuing to work on a teaching craft is the ability to implement and reflect on that process. A reflective teacher takes the time to really assess the entire lesson. Whether the lesson went extremely well or derailed at some point, reflection and assessment are what can help make a teacher better and stronger. Also, having a colleague help bring the teacher to figuring out the assessment of their own lesson is just icing on the cake. Collaboration for true professional development is more than any teacher could ever ask for.
Peer-to-Peer coaching does not have to be daunting. In fact, it can be the very thing that would help drive your teaching from good to great. Using peer-to-peer coaching can transform the way you look at how you design, plan and implement lessons in the classroom. Moreover, it can also be something to help you really grow professionally and personally. Ditching the ego and the door and seeing coaching as a pathway for growth is one of the best decisions that you can ever make. The best thing about it is that you do not have to wait for a grant from your school or district to proceed. This process can simply be an agreement and commitment between you and another colleague, willing to participate in a wonderful learning experience. You might even suggest to your school leadership team that you’d like to try this method with other teachers as a way to mentor new educators as well. There is a great deal of opportunity that comes with peer-to-peer coaching and you can begin working on improving and sustaining your craft now. There’s no time like the present.
For more detailed scenarios and information about peer-to-peer coaching, check out our book Teach to Empower Your Students.