Imagine peering into the engine of a running vehicle. It is likely that you visualize several parts, working together harmoniously so the car runs smoothly. It is less likely that you think about how many trials and errors, restarts and near quits it took for the vehicle to get to the point where it ran at all, let alone well. Observing extremely effective peer coaching may look the same–it just seems to work. However, unless I’m missing the secret key to coaching, this is very far from true. In fact, the one “key” idea I have learned is that becoming a great peer coach and implementing a peer coaching plan is extremely difficult.
In building anything great, the process needs to be altered, refined, expanded, and sometimes thrown out. In prior blog posts for the quarter I have shared some peer coaching strategies I’ve found effective as well as reflected on my successes and areas of improvement. For my final reflection, I wanted to look at how to continue to grow a powerful peer coaching system, specifically by looking at when feedback is and is not appropriate, how and when to solicit feedback, and what to do with it once gathered. I chose to include my final reflection on my recent “real world” peer coaching experiences along with this post to provide a reference point and to keep me thinking about how to continue growing as a peer coach.
Feedback vs. Evaluation
The infographic below represents the difference between feedback and evaluations, which I created by synthesizing some of the most relevant information from various resources, listed in my “references” section. I thought that it was important to distinguish between these two terms before looking further at the place for feedback and evaluation in peer coaching opportunities. I am glad I did so as it actually appears that feedback is much more effective at encouraging growth, and is therefore more appropriate in peer coaching. Evaluations, while useful in determining areas of growth, are best suited for conversations between administrators and individual teachers. Examples of how feedback can be used in peer coaching, with resources, are included further on.
Feedback in Peer Coaching
In our cohorts Google Hangout several weeks ago, one of my professors, David Wicks, made a quick side comment about how a coach must be careful with how feedback and evaluation are used in peer coaching. This was a sticky comment, it got my brain spinning, and it gave me a good framework for my research. I chose to spend the remainder of my peer coaching course exploring the question, “How can a peer coach effectively self-assess and gather feedback from others in order to grow as a coach and ensure that the feedback is accurate?” While I never directly asked David why he said this, my initial inquiries helped lead me to two possible reasons:
- Evaluations have no place in peer coaching. From here on, I will only talk about feedback.
- One must be very intentional in seeking feedback and consider how feedback is solicited, how the questions are worded, what is done with the feedback once received, and who gets to review it.
To help further focus my exploration, I appreciated that my classmate, Liz Ebersole, asked me the following question: “Would you use this type of evaluation/feedback to plan PD for coaches or to collect data to advocate for adopting a peer coaching practice at the school/district level? What do you hope to learn from the feedback and how will you share it and who with?”
Using David’s comment and Liz’s question, I created the following infographic to display a rough idea of how feedback can be used in peer coaching and included a few resources that might help start the process.
Reflection on My Peer Coaching Experiences
This quarter I had the opportunity to practice peer coaching by working with a teacher at my school. While there were a few hiccups in the process, this experience was so valuable for me because I was able to debrief and share ideas with my master’s program cohort. An overview of what I learned during this process, along with the work that my colleague and I produced, is included in the document below.
- In my peer coaching experience, I worked with a colleague who is also a close personal friend. This presented unique challenges and made parts of the process easier. What additional tools and strategies might a coach want to use when working with someone they are less familiar with?
- One topic that myself and others in my cohort explored this quarter was that other professional fields, outside of education, offer great insights into how to be an effective coach. I would like to explore this further in the future.
- In this blog post I touched on providing feedback in peer coaching. I would like to look at this deeper too and gain some “field experience” to help explore this further.
Baehr, M. (n.d.). 4.1.2 Distinctions Between Assessment and Evaluation. Retrieved December 08, 2016, from http://www.pcrest3.com/fgb/efgb4/4/4_1_2.htm
Rehman, S. (n.d.). Effective Feedback. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://phoenixmed.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/content/facdev/rehman-512014.pdf