Each level influences and is influenced by those around it." (Costa, Kahaneo, Lipton, et al., 2001, p. 2).
Once the teacher understands how their performance and their teaching ability relate to the outcomes of the school as a whole, they will be able to understand the need for peer observation and coaching. They desire better outcomes for the school, but they are not accustomed to the openness of the peer coaching model, as we will see.
Barriers to Success
Through the course of this literature review, several key barriers to the success of peer coaching programs were discovered, Many of the problems related to logistical problems that could be easily solved through time management or creative scheduling. However, some of barriers to success related to the attitudes of the teachers themselves. This barriers will prove much more difficult to resolve.
One of the key barriers to professional development programs is finding time to conduct the program. Several Solutions are being proposed such as altered school calendars, using permanent substitutes, and scheduling common planning time (Prixotto & Fager, 1998). Several common factors are responsible for the failure of professional development programs. They are: using programs that offer quick-fix solutions to complex problems, using fad programs, overload and competing demands, lack of attention to site-specific conditions, teacher turnover, failure to plan for and learn new strategies, and attempts to manage by central office staff instead of developing leadership skills throughout the staff (Prixotto & Fager, 1998).
Another barrier to success relates to the willingness of the teacher to undergo the scrutiny of another.
A although classroom observation is seen as an indispensable component in both staff development and appraisal, it is not well received by teachers in general," (Lam, 2001, p. 162).
This is a natural reaction, but it will be necessary for the teacher to overcome, if a peer coaching program is to be successful. In order for successful coaching to occur, teachers must feel comfortable reflecting negative as well as positive outcomes in the program (King, 2001). To develop this level of intimacy requires a feeling of collaboration and a sense of one's individuality within the larger organizational structure. It also requires a feeling of confidence in one's ability to disclose such information without risk.
Collective inquiry by teachers is a necessary element of organizational growth. Teachers must be willing to seek out new information and the desire to find ways to improve their own teaching strategies. However, in order to do so, teachers must be willing to make themselves vulnerable to criticism of their job performance. This is difficult to do, but it is necessary in order to improve student outcomes. Convincing teachers of the necessity of the observation and critique process poses a major barrier to the establishment of a peer coaching program.
Three major difficulties undermine classroom observation were: pressure felt by teachers, lack of time, and lack of understanding and experience in classroom observation. (Lam, 2001). All of these barriers can be overcome by presenting research-based evidence that supports the necessity of the peer coaching program. Lack of time can be resolved through administrative actions.
In addition to these barriers, teachers often experience a gap between scientifically based and theoretical educational approaches. In order to be successful, school must be able to bridge this gap and bring students research-based methods that employ the latest in theoretical approach (Little & Houston, 2003).
Understanding about teacher use and acquisition of knowledge and skills is fundamental to our understanding about how and in what circumstances teachers use research and evidence to develop their practice." (Joyce & Showers, 2002, p. 1).
The goal of peer coaching is to increase the usage of knowledge gained through shared ideas. Acquisition of the knowledge is not enough. Teachers must be willing to implement the knowledge into their daily classroom teaching. Leadership can set the tone for the willingness and acceptance of peer coaching to be utilized. Without leadership support, peer coaching will not be likely to be effective. Leadership must be supportive of the concept in order for it to be effective.
Cohesiveness and strong school leadership are also essential to training effectiveness," (Joyce & Showers, 2002, p. 3).
Standards-based reform has caused a serious disconnect between institutional structure, the curriculum, and teaching methods (Elmore, 1999/2000). The key weakness of standards-based education is that it cannot account for the fact that not all students achieve the same level of mastery, and why some do not get that material at all (Elmore, 1999/2000). It can quantify the results of the educational system and can help to define the problems, but it cannot offer any solutions to the problems that it uncovers.
Schools can actively support "the norms of experimentation, collaborative planning and development, and implementation of content aimed at collective goals." (Joyce & Showers, 2002, p. 4).
In order to resolve the key barriers to implementation of peer coaching, the school must develop an attitude that permeates through every level of the organization. This attitude of support must be consistent from the principal to the teachers. If one element of support is missing, it will infiltrate the rest of the layers and the program will be unlikely to gain the support that it needs.
Types of Peer Coaching
Teaching used to be an isolated profession (Goldstein, 2007), where the walls defined teacher territory. One teacher remarks, taught for seven years next to this nice person, just an awful teacher, and I could hear her through the wall, hear the kids and stuff and I would go over and have to quiet them down, just to kind of bring some sanity to it. But it was like the elephant in the living room. Nobody would talk about how awful she was." (in Goldstein, 2007, p. 490).
Peer coaching breaks this isolation. Rather than continuing to be a bad teacher, peer coaching resolves many situations, such as the one mentioned above. There are several types of peer coaching used in schools today.
Team-based schooling was first introduced in the Cincinnati Public School system in 1996/1997 (Supovitz, 2002). This model shifted decision making about curriculum and instruction from administration to communities of teaching staff. It was expected that this increased responsibility would result in high quality educational standards, as teachers would have greater accountability for their results (Supovitz, 2002).
This approach differed from the traditional hierarchical, authoritarian structure that existed in the past. These changes represented a shift towards a more democratic approach to education. It also represented a power shift from administration to the teachers themselves. One of the key problems found with the program was that teachers spent too much time on administrative tasks that took away from their teaching time (Supovitz, 2002).
Coaching differs from training in many ways. Coaching is based on the ideal that both player can make a contribution. This is unlike the expert/novice relationship in training where one has more to offer than the other (Browne, 2006). Coaching relies on collaboration and cooperation rather than criticism and authority of one person over another. The coach and learner form a symbiotic relationship that is absent in many other forms of training. Now let us see some of the results that have been obtained through peer coaching, as opposed to older training methods.
Peer coaching had an impact on learners in the United Kingdom.
There has been an improvement in attendance and punctuality which has been attributed to improved and fun learning methods. Classes are less disruptive, learners are talking in class but about the subject they are studying. The learners are more engaged in the learning process and as a result, pass rates have improved." (Brown, 2006, p. 38).
These outcomes support the superiority of coaching over training methods.
One approach to coaching is to hire outside coaches to evaluate and help teachers achieve their goals. Under this strategy, teachers learn through one-on-one coaching, as well as collaborative coaching and learning (Neufield & Roper, 2003). This type of coaching strategy often focuses on the needs of the entire school system, rather than the needs of the individual. This type of coaching are focused on helping individuals participate in such as way as to enhance group goals. The popularity of this coaching style is largely a trend that is sweeping many professions. It may represent a fad, rather than a method that will stay in the teaching profession.
These types of coaches are typically only in the school for a limited number of hours and make their assessments based on an occasional observation. It has been argued that this type of coaching is ineffective, as the coach only has a limited perspective on the individual teacher's style. In addition, these coaches are often thinly spread across a district's multiple sites. They often do not have sufficient time to provide an accurate and complete assessment. The insider teacher will have a better grasp on the daily operations of…