It was great to moderate the Twitter #addcym chat tonight as the topic that was picked was one I am really passionate about, i.e. Peer Coaching! We also had the privilege to have Les Foltos (@lfoltos), a World leader in Peer Coaching, joining the chat for a while and Stuart Ball (@innovativeteach) who gave some real experiential insights on the process of Peer Coaching as well as offering to run the course for teachers, and we hope to be able to take him up on that one
Another late contributor was Gavin Smart (@gavinsmart) who promised a link to his school’s video on the Peer Coaching GROW model.
There were so many contributions tonight that I am bound to omit something, so I will just give a list of the main points (according to my understanding of the chat) as bullet points!
- Some asked if the Peer Coaching process should be formal, or informal and there seemed to be a general consensus that Peer Coaching should encourage relationships of trust and non-judgemental support
- Some felt strongly that Peer Coaching shouldn’t be tied to Performance Management in order to remove the “fear” of failure and judgement. The main reasons behind this view seem to spring from the need to let the individual teacher identify targets according to their needs and interests. A set of targets prescribed from the top differs from coaching because it does not encourage reflective practice some felt!
- This led to the view that Peer Coaching should be a bottom up process, initiated by the Coachee and facilitated by the Coach. Some also identified the need to have the full commitment of SLT in terms of time and funds allocation in order to make Peer Coaching genuinely effective. Some believed that without SLT full commitment to Peer Coaching only the enthusiasts will take the lead and this would not bring whole school improvement, but only pockets of good practice!
- A good model was given by Gavin Smart’s School (Priory Community School) where “Half of all staff attend the GROW program during twilight inset at PCSA focusing on using coaching with students and staff” suggesting that a large percentage of CPD dedicated time is committed to Peer Coaching!
- Another interesting thought that was raised was whether the Coaches should be the “Experts” or ordinary teachers. This divided the discussion a bit into those who see the need to have technology savvy Coaches that are always ready to offer support and solve problems and those who believed that an “Expert” could be too threatening for some Coachee and inhibit their process. In particular, some were concerned about the potential danger that “it’s too easy to get the coachee to do what you do, rather that letting them identify their own needs”. I believe behind these reflections there is the fundamental question to be asked: “What is the role of a Peer Coach?” Les offered some truly refreshing and useful insight on this point by saying about Coaches: “Not expert with answers. Raise questions, provide support encourage teachers to solve issues. ” I am inclined to agree with this view, because if the Coach plays just the part of the expert and if they have a solution to the problems the Coachee is facing always ready, who are they encouraging the Coachee to engage in reflective practice? And without reflective practice how can the Coachee make real progress and learn to walk on their own?
- Latching on to the last point someone suggested that it is important that the Coach becomes the Coachee at some point in the Peer Coaching process. In this way the circle is closed and the “Expert” complex can be avoided.
- Some other really valuable contributions included the idea of Coaching Learners and having Learners Peer Coaching each other and/or Peer Coaching teachers. I see that idea similar to the many examples of Digital Leaders that are beginning to surface in many schools these days. Some felt that some teachers would resist the idea very strongly and feel quite uneasy about it!
I hope I have given a good account of the discussion, but feel free to correct me and add things I have missed out. Please continue the discussion in this Forum Thread on TES.