Both of these ideas may have caused some type of argument and disagreement had the teacher been permitted to engage in that manner at the time of that review. However, because the process was established whereby she could not debate them, the teacher seemed to really consider what the others had to say about her ideas. Unfortunately, the video did not show the classroom outcomes of the discussions (See generally, A community of learners, 1998).
While students and teachers at Souhegan High School all seemed enthusiastic about its approach to professional development, the video failed to provide any statistics that would empirically support that the program is beneficial. Therefore, any thoughts on why the program is beneficial must be based on conjecture and what the other research reveals about the mentoring process. The program appeared to have several benefits. First, the peer review of a teacher allowed the teacher to understand where she might need to focus additional study for further professional development. For example, the teacher had identified an area in her students where she felt they needed improvement, but had failed to connect the fact that her students needed improvement in that area to the fact that she needed further development in that area. Moreover, it was an area outside of the realm of traditional teacher development, and, therefore, not an area where she was likely to receive help unless a specific need was identified (See generally, A community of learners, 1998).
Second, the peer review of the teacher permitted the teacher to flesh out her ideas. She began speaking about the concept of the students using an essay to explain math answers and the other teachers' questions helped her develop that idea. One of the teachers basically pointed out that a system to do that already exists, when students are required to write proofs to explain her answers. That made the teacher need to consider whether or not she wanted students to write an actual essay, or if, instead, what she was looking for was students having the ability to verbally explain their actions or write a proof (See generally, A community of learners, 1998). .
Third, the peer review allowed the teacher to get input from her colleagues about new teaching strategies. The teacher paired up her chemistry class into lab partners who would work together throughout the year, a tried-and-true method for establishing lab partners in chemistry. The teacher may never have considered the idea that the kids might benefit from switching partners throughout the year (See generally, A community of learners, 1998). In fact, while she was lamenting the students' lack of creativity, she was also stuck in a stodgy approach to the chemistry classroom, where her own creativity was limited (See generally, A community of learners, 1998).
Many aspects of Souhegan's group approach mirror elements of traditional mentoring programs, but some elements appear different. Again, the video was of relatively short duration, requiring the viewer to make some assumptions about the program. However, the facets that seemed unique were pretty clear. For example, almost all traditional mentoring or coaching programs use one-on-one relationships, while Souhegan employed a group approach. Given that mentors receive as many benefits from the mentoring relationship as mentees, this approach is almost certain to provide benefits to more teachers in the school. Next, the entire atmosphere in the school seemed to be geared towards a cooperative model, with students viewing teachers as peers rather than authority figures. While that same approach may not work in a different school environment, it did seem to enhance the learning by the teachers. Because teachers did not elevate themselves, in status, over the students, there was no stigma attached to learning from the students.
In fact, students played a critical role in the success of the Souhegan program. First, students reported feeling different about school because of the program, so that they may not have had some of the traditional student-teacher conflicts one expects in a high-school environment. Again, without empirical evidence to support that fact, that is merely a supposition, but the statements by the students and the teachers seem to support that idea. Moreover, students seemed to feel that they had some input and ownership in their learning process. In fact, student feedback played an important role in the group program. The teacher is shown seeking reviews from the students and stressing that the need to be, not just honest, but forthcoming about any potential issues, in order to improve their classroom experience. Whether or not they felt comfortable enough to do so is a question that the video left unanswered. However, the mere fact that a high-school level teacher took the initiative to seek student feedback about her performance already differentiates her from most high-school teachers and demonstrates the critical role that students play in a program like the one at Souhegan High School (See generally, A community of learners, 1998).
Annenberg Media. (1998). A community of learners. Retrieved August 5, 2010, from Learner.org website: http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=1284
Holloway, J. (2001, May). The benefits of mentoring. Educational Leadership, 58(8).
Retrieved from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.