Guidelines for Peer Coaching

I recently worked with a group of teachers who had completed an earlier introduction to peer coaching with me and was now examining and experiencing coaching observations and post conferencing. Two teachers produced video clips of their work with students so that the entire staff could observe my modeling of a post conference. Three teachers volunteered to have me observe in their classrooms and participate in post conferences. All staff opened their classrooms for my observations of teaching and learning.

As a follow up, I was asked to provide a format for “what to ask” in pre-conferences, a list of “what a teacher might want as a focus for an observation”, and some guidelines for post conferencing. Here is what I provided:

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 In pre-conferences….

#1 What is the learning outcome you are seeking with students?….. note that many outcomes don’t come from a single lesson so understand that the lesson you’ll see may be designed to get certain student behaviors or experiences that will lead to an outcome later in the teaching/learning design….

#2 What student behaviors are you needing to get during the class to get your desired result? …..  Caution: when I ask this teachers often describe the behavior that is exhibited as the outcome. “The students should be able to…..”. So ask again…..“What will the students do during the lesson that will produce the understanding or the ability to ……?”

#3 What will the teacher do?…. What teacher behaviors are employed to get the desired student behaviors? “I want students to practice changing words from feminine to masculine and masculine to feminine …so I will create and fast pace .. five different activities to maximize the amount of practice in 20 minutes. I should sound like a coach or trainer keeping the pace and giving encouragement and corrective feedback”

#4. Where do you want my coaching focus to be?  On student behaviors, all students…or particular students? On teacher behaviors? On the interaction of teacher and student?

Here is an overall consideration that can help generate “coachable” data requests and questions to explore:

Our goal during an instructional period is to have the largest number of students engaged for the maximum amount of time in the behaviors/actions that will generate the desired learning outcomes.

Here are some possible coaching requests I generated while observing in classrooms:

During whole class discussions, who is participating and at what level of engagement? Is my attention as a teacher being distributed across all the students or am I being drawn in and focused on the most engaged students? How do you see me change my teacher behavior when I recognize less engaged students?

When checking for understanding by asking “Does everyone understand?” or “Are there any questions” or providing a question or problem, what percentage of the class am I assessing? Do two students answering the question correctly cause me to move on, overlooking the students who could not answer?

During practice activities…. how many repetitions of practice did most students complete?

How clearly do students understand and deliver the desired/requested/expected behavior during an activity? Examples: during a group activity with five students in a group….what are the requested behaviors? In a paired activity what are the behaviors? As an audience for a presentation by another student what are the behaviors?

What are my feedback/assistance responses to students, overall— to individual students? Is there a particular student you would like the coach to track your responses to? Am I helping too much? Too little?

Pages 106-117 in the book, Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching,  highlight a menu of observable possibilities that a teacher can request from a coach.

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Post Conference; Reflection and feedback.

 The post conference creates an opportunity for the teacher to reflect on what he/she imagined happening when planning the learning opportunity with what he/she experienced happening during the delivery? The coach’s feedback on what was observed can reinforce the teacher’s observations or uncover things the teacher missed.

Together, understanding and drawing meaning can occur. (This is often learning for the coach and the teacher.)

These reflective conversations may lead to a new question that the teacher would like the coach to focus on in a future observation. An idea for change may arise from the conversation that leads to experimentation on the teacher’s part to gain more of the desired student behaviors.

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