Q&A with Steve Barkley: Your Peer Coaching Questions Answered | Steve Barkley

My Responses to Coaching Questions

Today, I’d like to address several questions that I’ve received surrounding the topic of peer coaching.

Question #1: An administrator who implemented a peer coaching initiative in his school last year asked, “How can we as a school, measure the successes of peer coaching in our school from teachers’ perspective? Can we measure results from students’ perspective?

My suggestion was that he look for evidence using the backwards planning process.

School Change Model by Steve Barkley

The first indicators of change from peer coaching should be evident in teacher behaviors. Can you identify an increase in teacher coachability?  Are there more open classroom doors? Are teachers asking colleagues for more input? Are requests for observation being made as a way to explore solutions to problems or opportunities to increase teacher and student learning?

The second area of evidence to look for is change in teacher instructional behaviors. Are teachers implementing changes as outcomes of professional learning that is being supported by peer coaching?

Joyce/Showers Research Table

Are teachers using strategies that they observed when coaching in a colleague’s classroom? Are changes that teachers are making showing up in changes in student learning behaviors? Can you identify students collaborating, persevering, questioning, reading, writing, etc. more from teacher changes?

The last and most important evidence to seek of course is increases in student learning. It’s important that leaders follow the changes from culture to teaching to learning and to provide the supports along the way.

Question #2: What incentives can be implemented to further embed the “Culture of Coaching” in our school?

An incentive at the beginning is making it as easy as possible for teachers to have the time to observe. Administrators can step in and offer the time: cover classes or bring two subs to the building for a day, releasing teachers to observe and conference. If teachers don’t take advantage of the offer, the resistance isn’t time. This article, Peer Coaching Payoffs, gives some peer coaching pay-off discussion points.  If a few teachers are pioneers with peer coaching, have them share the rewards they are finding.

Question #3: How would you implement peer coaching as part of the Appraisal System? Is there a way of ensuring that staff have peer coaching goals and are committed to the peer coaching process but not as a form of evaluation?

I suggested changing the wording. It’s not that teachers have peer coaching goals, but rather that they have growth goals for their practice and peer coaching is a tool they use to gain the increase in instructional effectiveness. The Joyce/Showers research shown above illustrates the critical role of coaching in increasing teacher skills. This blog, Value from Coaching and Collaboration,  highlights coaching in professional development.

This podcast, Evaluation or Coaching, shares one school’s connection of a teacher appraisal system creating growth goals that are then supported by peer coaching.

coaching puzzle piece

An instructional coach sent me the following request:

I am interested in starting out the new school year in way that encourages teachers in engaging with me in the coaching cycle. Last year was my first year coaching at my current school. Teachers did not seek me out to start a coaching cycle and I am not sure what their views of coaching are. I think in the past most coaches at my school have conducted walk- throughs and given written emailed feedback. I want to engage in a cycle where teachers choose the focus, but I am worried they will not seek me out because they don’t want to invest the time.

The first step I suggested for this coach was conversation with the building administration regarding his/her interest in a coaching culture in the school. What expectation does the principal communicate? For example, if a teacher shares with the principal that she is struggling with a student’s behavior or learning, is the principal likely to ask, ”What did you find when you met with the instructional coach”?  While that behavior isn’t required, expectation is communicated.

I encouraged the coach to invite some of the strongest teachers in the school to engage in some coaching cycles. Having these teachers share the value they are finding from engaging with the instructional coach will encourage other teachers to join in and communicate that coaching isn’t a deficit program.

I find providing written feedback seldom communicates coaching. Done by administrators or instructional coaches these notes are read more through a view of supervision. For such observations and feedback to be coaching, the teacher needs to be involved in establishing the focus and the desired feedback. Conversation with the teacher increases the likelihood of producing reflection and insights.

This podcast, Pre-Conferencing: A Critical Element to Effective Coaching, has a model of a teacher focusing on a coach’s observation.

Do you have any questions?

Comment below and I will address your questions in a future blog post!

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