Reflections on Peer Coaching

I embarked on a project where I undertook the role of peer coach. Using the communication skills and logistical training from class, I enhanced my coaching skills over a ten week period. I’m not a stranger to coaching, in a former career I counseled patients on therapeutic diets, diet change, and overcoming barriers to change, using very similar principles.  In fact, I became quite nostalgic all throughout this process. The strange and unfamiliar term of “peer coaching”became comfortable and familiar once concepts like “probing questions”, and “building rapport” came to light. With no billing hours and diagnosis to defend (mainly to insurance) peer coaching felt quite light and freeing in comparison to coaching in a medical application.

The project itself consisted of enlisting the help of a peer who would be willing to undergo a collaborative revision of an existing lesson plan. The idea was to spend time building rapport and establishing set roles for each peer prior to the collaborative process.  The collaboration would then focus on one major area of concern to be improved in the lesson plan.  Following this revision, both parties would reflect on the process to provide feedback.

The Coaching Process

To start the project, I partnered with a former supervisor, SK, who is very open-minded to incorporating technology in the classroom. She had been wanting to explore new ways to use technology in online and blended courses beyond simple course management.  She felt that online classes tended to be boring or isolating because most are designed to be “work at your own pace” and independent. Faced with planning a new blended course set to go live during the next academic year, SK sought me out for suggestions.  Throughout the peer coaching process, we had four face-to-face meetings (where the majority of the collaboration was performed) while also communicating follow-up items via email.  A summary of these encounters are provided below:

First Meeting. In our first meeting, SK shared more information about her new course intended to be a blended classroom with community engagement components.  Beyond the course description, the only other information established were the course objectives she had developed after reviewing textbooks with similar themes. 

After understanding more about the scope of the work, we established our roles, expectations for our time together, and ended our session by creating a SMART goal that would guide our future work. The expectations for me in the coaching role were clear, I was to facilitate the assessment- and course calendar- development process, keeptrack of our progress towards achieving our goal, and provide key resources needed to complete the work.  My peer would then complete all other work necessary to continue to the next phase.

infographic of SMART Goal for the peer coaching project.
Figure 1.1 SMART Goal for Peer Coaching Project

As part of this first phase of coaching, I also met with my direct supervisor to share the above information and ensure that our work aligns with departmental goals.  Interestingly, this discussion coincided with a revamp of the departmental goals unrelated to this project. Later in the quarter, technology incorporation and digital citizenship were included as new goals. With this new vision, our coaching work aligned with our departmental values.Our supervisor was very encouraging, supportive, and wanted feedback regarding the results of our collaboration at the end of the process.

Second Meeting. Prior to our second meeting, I began reflecting on SK’s goals and our previous conversations. Given that the course objectives were already established, I wondered if the “Backward Design” model would be a good starting point for our work.  I verbalized this intention to my peer via email which also included resources on “Backward Design”.  During our second meeting, we took a closer look at the established course objectives and began identifying thinking skills that would satisfy each objective.  We soon discovered that one objective in particular required both low order- and higher order- thinking skills to successfully complete.  SK expressed a desire use this objective as our starting point since it was the largest and most complicated.  We agreed that we would develop a unit around this objective that would then serve as a model for the subsequent objectives/units.

Third Meeting. At the end of our second meeting, SK expressed a concern about her choice of text, wondering if it was the best option available. I had suggested using multiple sources that would be updated more frequently including websites,journal articles, and open source textbooks. I promised to provide a few databases on open source materials so SKcould review prior to our third meeting.

SK made good use of the databases and had established a rough draft of the course calendar.  In the calendar she separated big topics into one-week units along with associated learning outcomes for each unit.  For the big unit we had decided to focus on,SK developed a three-week timeline with associated reading assignments and engagement activities.  For the reminder of our meeting, we discussed the engagement activities at length focusing on any potential technology integration that would allow for collaboration.

Fourth Meeting.  By this time, we had already met our SMART goal.  Prior to meeting, I used our loosely-defined definition of engagement (including active learning,collaboration, and participation) and made notes on the unit’s learning activities for future consideration. These suggestions were mainly to address prior concerns of isolation in traditional blended classrooms. We went through these suggestions.  My peer expressed a desire to stop our work for the time being as she was happy with our progress and wanted time to reflect upon the ideas explored in this last meeting.

Infographic on summary of engagement tasks of the big unit.
Figure 1.2 Summary of Engagement Tasks in Big Unit

Feedback and Reflections

At the end of our peer coaching relationship, SK provided positive feedback on our progress.  She was happy that we were able to remain on task to meet our SMART within our allotted time despite very busy schedules.She appreciated the ability to ask for suggestions and bounce ideas off of eachother.  Talking through ideas was helpful for understanding how each component could be more engaging in an onlinesetting.  Despite our momentum in organizing the blended classroom, SK noted that she will be taking sabbatical making our last meeting an excellent stopping point. 

Taking from an outside perspective, one of my colleagues, LB, reviewed the progress outlined above and agreed to provide feedback.  LB’s comments and reactions to the project were positive and focused on three aspects:

1) Coaching relationship; she noted that the relationship my peer and I had worked well to help us achieve our goals. Having established clear expectations early on ensured the accountability my peer wanted to gain a head start in course development. 

 2) Unit organization; though my peer and I didn’t plan and evaluate a lesson plan,which was the original scope of this project, LB commented on the process of developing the unit.  She noted that the assessment components of our chosen unit appeared fun, engaging, and meaningful for students.

3) Coaching skills; LB and I shared experiences during this project.LB commented on the fact that I performed my coaching skills well.  While I think my past experiences partially reflect this, I do also think that my success is rooted in the fact that my peer is also an experienced collaborator and understood what a collaborative partnership should look like.

Personal Reflections.

Things that went well. Taking LB’s comments into consideration and reflecting back on my performance, I had an overall positive experience. Mypeer and I were very appreciative of one another’s efforts towards the progression of our project. We stood by our established expectations and fulfilled our roles accordingly.  One aspect that was a little surprising for me was the fact that my peer saw me as a subject matter expert and expected this type of coaching style.  Interestingly, I did not see myself as the“expert”, opting instead for a more collaborative coaching style. In the end,my role/style morphed into a little of both. One delightful discovery my peer and I made through our brainstorming and collaborative efforts, we used our strengths to explore a creative way to use Pinterest as a visual timeline for a major project.  By using what knowledge I had about existing technologies, and collaborating by offering lots of options and suggestions for their use, my peer could choose the option that was right for the course or the one she felt most comfortable exploring.

In addition to responding to my peer’s expectations well, another strength of this project was our communication style. Because SK and I worked together previously, we had already established rapport and understood our working styles. SK knew that her preferences would be honored throughout this process and her decisions would be supported because she was encouraged to express herself open and honestly. Most of our communication was through face-to-face interaction with only supported our good communication. Email communication was limited to follow up emails.  These follow-ups were helpful to ensure accountability by both parties. Each email would review past conversations, action items to be completed prior to the next meeting, and any resolutions to concerns, such as the opensource databases. 

On a curious note, SK felt very motivated to complete her part in a timely manner because she was very respectful of the fact that this was an assignment for me and she didn’t want to “mess up” my project.

Things that could have been improved. LB mentioned several times that she enjoyed the layout and the organization of the assignments prepared for the big unit as a strong feature to the project.  However, I cannot take credit for the organization as my peer completed this work.  SK knew what she wanted and I served as resource to help her reach that goal. Because of this, I feel that I didn’t really do anything aside from give options and opinions of the information my peer brought forth.  I must recognize however that this is what my peer wanted and in this particular coaching scenario, it worked well. In the future, I would also like to improve my communication skills to be more in line with the prescribed communication methods learnt in this course.  Should I collaborate with a peer that isn’t as clear with what they want, the probing and clarifying questioning skills are going to prove crucial to success.

While the topics of our meetings were loosely set previously, I never created agendas or had any particular topics to review aside from the backwards design model. Keeping the meetings loose did allow for more open-ended exploration of our goals but I wonder what the outcome could have been if I had better defined our meetings? Again,this style worked well for this particular coaching scenario, but I’d like to keep this idea in mind for a future coaching partner who perhaps needs more structure or guidance.

Thoughts on coaching for the future. I would love to incorporate a coaching culture in my department. Working with SK was not only an opportunity to help her gain ideas and resources for her new class, but it was also an opportunity to get to know one another in a different environment. Our collaboration was meaningful and fruitful.  

Though we currently do not have a one-on-one coaching program in my department, we have classroom observations as one of our required professional development strategies.Therefore the basic idea and structure is already in place.  I’d like to expand upon that work to create a more constructive professional development environment where professors move away from work in isolation to work in collaboration. I’ve already begun exploring coaching culture in a previous blog post available here. Moving forward, I would need department input and an assessment of current thoughts and attitudes towards peer coaching. Should the department approve, more meaningful and fruitful interactions would allow 21st Century skills to thrive in our courses.

Effective Peer Coaching

To use the word ‘coach’ to describe an educational coach almost seems like a misnomer. The term ‘coach’ implies one person has skills and insight that the other does not. Terms like ‘supporter’ or ‘collaborator’ seem much more fitting. Modern coaches and their peers “are learning with and from each other, as they co-plan learning activities, model, team-teach, observe, and reflect. This is a collaborative relationship that requires meaningful discussions about ways to improve teaching and learning [that] are likely to challenge current practices.” (Foltos, 2013) In other words, coaching is not a one-way street where one party is being spoon-fed tips and tricks!

The balance between coaching and collaborating is one that needs to be set early in the relationship. As part of collaborative norms for coaching, Foltos suggests using the concept of ‘joint accountability.’ Joint accountability can only occur after coaching pairs have both explicitly committed to norms for both their individual and collective responsibilities. The scope of this accountability may change depending on the task at hand. Is the coaching relationship a year-long one? Or is the focus narrow to a specific unit or new technology implementation? The scope and purpose of the collaboration should guide the norms being established.

Having norms in place can prevent the type of spoon-feeding or learned helplessness that can arise when teachers misunderstand the purpose of an educational coach. What this looks like on a practical level is the use of probing questions to guide the teacher through inquiry. The role of the coach in solving a problem is to help the teacher think critically and perhaps consider the issue through a new lens. Ultimately, “the collaborating teacher develops the answer that he or she brings back to the classroom to implement… [drawing] on what he or she learned with and from the coach.” (Foltos, 2013)

Another element critical to the success of a peer coaching relationship is the willingness and commitment of the participating teacher. A successful coaching relationship can only exist when the participating teacher is “open to collaboration and want[s] to improve teaching and learning. The willingness to collaborate and improve is essential.” (Foltos, 2013) Just as it is with young students, buy-in is critical. A teacher must be in a position of wanting to learn and willing to try new things. Likewise, the coach should not enter the relationship with preconceived notions and solutions. 

Giving teachers voice and choice in the coaching process is essential. While many districts assign coaches to teachers, this is not the best practice. Teachers should never feel they are “being punished and forced to change.” (Foltos, 2013). Instead, teachers can be given opportunities to partner with coaches who are interested in collaboration. This is where the term ‘coach’ can hinder the success of educational coaching. Shifting away from the model of having a handful of “expert coaches” working with a large population of teachers, peer coaching can be much more accessible and amenable to teachers. For example, an English teacher can coach a Social Studies teacher who is interested in implementing Close Reading in his/her classroom. Or a teacher who is passionate about assistive technology can work with the resource specialist in exploring new tools for students. 

Ultimately, a great deal of time and energy must be exhibited by both the coach and participating teacher in order to make the coaching relationship successful and beneficial for all parties. Though this can seem like a lot of work, the effort pays off when “…you can take risks and try out new ideas, instructional strategies, or different approaches to the curriculum and discuss the results with a trusted colleague.” (Robbins, 1991)


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Robbins, P. (1991). How to plan and implement a peer coaching program. Washington: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Staying Informed as a Coach

This weeks module was centered around the question of “What additional professional learning do you need to become a more effective coach?” With this in mind and focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice and 6c. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences, I wanted to find resources for coaches to continue to learn.

I found two resources that I believe will help coaches continue their learning. The first resource is an article from McGraw-Hill Education titled “Resources for EdTech Coaches. McGraw-Hill stated “The role for a coach is always evolving and will continue to evolve as various digital learning environments take shape. They fill a vital space that has emerged in the era of personalized and digital learning” To help with the constant change they developed a list of five resources for tech coaches.

#1. ISTE Connect EdTech Coaches Network: The Edtech Coaches Network promotes the development and collaboration of educational technology coaches who support the professional growth of teachers as they use technology to enhance learning. This online resource offers an extensive discussion board where its nearly five thousand members can engage in meaningful conversation surround EdTech topics. There is also a library full of additional resources that members can use and where they can upload their own materials. Finally, another neat feature of this network that they list events around the United States to attend. The only downside to this network is that it isn’t free and the yearly membership could be a little on the higher side for some coaches.

#2 Understanding District Digital Transformations: Each district/community have different digital learning plans and technology integration from a district-wide perspective. Think about how you can gather a better understanding of your district’s digital transformation plan if you don’t already know, and in what areas your experience and expertise might help district leaders to develop an even stronger plan because a good district digital transformation plan is always evolving

#3 Future Ready Schools Groups and Events: A planning and resource hub for personalized, digital learning, Future Ready Schools hosts events across the country for district leaders and EdTech stakeholders to spend time collaborating and planning a digital learning strategy. Lauren Borrero from my cohort wrote a wonderful blog about future ready schools where she goes into detail about future ready schools and how they provide collaborative leadership. Check out her blog here.

#4 Approaches to Personalized Learning: The learner and the teacher collaborate to drive learning and determine needs, plan, and learning design. With personalized learning it can be helpful to take a step back and seek out a refresher, McGraw-Hill has a great article that outlines personalized learning.

#5 EdTech Podcasts: Podcasts are a great way for teachers to learn information that is created by Educators for Educators. Bam Radio Network has podcasts about instructional technology, teacher innovation, and creating a meaningful classroom environment.  TED Talks Education is, of course, another great audio resource.

Conclusion: With the constant change happening with educational technology resources for EdTech coaches are valuable. These resources are available for indivdial learning such as podcasts and for community learning like the ISTE Connect. Using these such tools can help coaches keep up in their ever evolving field.

Creating a Peer Coaching Culture

Coaching culture is prevalent in the business world. Simple internet searches on the topic offer many articles and resources providing suggestions to build a stronger culture on the corporate scale. In these articles, managers are called to encourage coaching through shared experiences and incentivize employees to successfully participate.  In education, peer coaching has established itself as a useful and resourceful form of professional development in K-12 schools. Peer coaching is so highly esteemed that the Department for K-12 Public Schools in Washington State offers educational grants to support peer coaching.  Yet in the higher education world, peer coaching is still in nascent stages. University professors Victoria Scott, and Craig Miner explore peer coaching use in higher education and claim that only 25% of institutions use it as a way to stimulate innovation and improvement, (Scott and Miner, 2008). Even among institutions that employ peer coaching, peer observation was among the most widely used method.  This is true for my higher education institution. Every year faculty complete a Professional Development Plan (PDP) in which the faculty member addresses needs for improvement, innovation, and training.  One of the required components for completing the PDP process is to participate in a classroom observation by a peer and receive feedback.  While observation can be a form of peer coaching, the observers oftentimes are not trained as coaches and these conversations tend to explore course content and audience engagement only.  Learning outcomes, active learning, and 21st century skills are largely ignored. Scott and Miner acknowledge that this form of peer evaluation isn’t new in higher education but can be limited because it is one-sided and short-term, (Scott and Miner, 2008).

As I reflect back upon my experience in peer coach training, I realize that there currently isn’t a system in place for me to continue my work as a peer coach outside of isolated events. Outside of my personal desire to continue using my peer coaching skills, ISTE also encourages this through its sixth coaching standard highlighting the importance of continuous learning to improve professional practice.  The standard states that coaches “engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice,” (ISTE, 2017).  Reflecting on this call to action, I began wondering how to embark of organizational change to develop a peer coaching culture in higher education.

Barriers to establishing peer coaching culture.

Coaching creates an innovation culture where the team is responsible for solving complex problems and supports accountability, (Brooks, n.d.). In higher education, it allows a department to improve collegiality and provide moments of reflection necessary for critical discourse to occur, (Scott & Miner, 2008). Despite the benefits of promoting a peer coaching culture, no sooner did I start investigating culture implementation did I run into potential barriers to culture change. Of the various reasons why an institution may not be receptive to peer coaching, lack of vision, isolation, and lack of confidence in collaboration efforts, were among the top barriers, (Slater & Simmons, 2001).

Lack of vision.  Current institutional culture dictates success of peer coaching initiatives.  Institutions with short-term goals and/or top-down management styles do not provoke qualities necessary for good peer coaching culture as it requires support from administrators, (Brook, n.d.). Administrators not only give approval for peer coaching to take place, but are also vocal in its promotion, participation, and long term viability, (Brook, n.d.).  Misconceptions and lack of understanding in the value of peer coaching lead to poor administer buy-in. When administrators view coaching as “time-wasting” or valued as a remedial action, its potential is diminished.  This ignores large benefits such as attracting and maintaining top talent, promoting constant innovation, maintaining intrinsic motivation and workplace satisfaction for all, (Brook, n.d.). The lack of vision may not spark from misconception but rather lack of awareness or a knowledge deficit about peer coaching.  Administrators without previous exposure to coaching may have trouble envisioning the process, may have logistical questions, or worry about potential negative outcomes of peers observing one another for the purpose of growth and development, (Barnett, 1990).

Professors tend to work in isolation. Professors Victoria Scott and Craig Miner recognize that peer coaching has not been more readily implemented in higher education because professors work autonomously, independently trying to achieve improvement and innovation through the scholarship of teaching, (Scott & Miner, 2008). There is fear that collaboration may remove the academic freedom that professors are rewarded, leading to strict and rigid changes in teaching, (Scott and Miner, 2008). Another significant barrier for professors is the perceived lack of time. In order for peer coaching to be successful, the assumption is that peer coaching efforts are long-term and on-going.  Given other commitments and required scholarly activities, even if a professor has the intention to participate, actual follow-through is lacking (Scott and Miner, 2008). Professors also fear that their peer coaching efforts will not be rewarded or recognized by their institution, particularly if current policies on promotion do not support such efforts. Scott and Miner argue, however, that peer coaching has been linked to improved course evaluations which are used for tenure and other promotion efforts, (Scott and Miner, 2008).

Lack of confidence in collaboration. Confidence needs to be instilled through better understanding of the peer coaching process.  Scott and Miner define peer coaching as a “confidential” process in which both parties hold no judgement but rather build a relationship on collaborative and reflective dialogue, (Scott & Miner, 2008). “No one grows as a leader without the support of others,” (Friedman, 2015).  Peer coaching works because building trust and rapport is an essential component to the process. Innovation and change happen quickly because peer coaching makes partners honest about goals, hold each other accountable, and creates actionable tasks leading to better and more effective outcomes, (Friedman, 2015).

The lack of confidence can also stem from inadequate peer coaching training. This can result largely from institution resource allocation.  However, continued peer coaching training does not have to rely on monetary resource only but also recognize that outside sources can be used to support additional training such as social networks and the establishment of Professional Learning Cohorts (PLCs), (Brook, n.d.)

Institutional implementation of peer coaching culture.

“When good coaching is practiced, the whole organization will learn new things more quickly and…adapt to changes more effectively,” (Mansor et. al., 2012).  Coaching can serve as a catalyst for change on multiple levels of an institution.  Department chair, professor, and educational leader, Barbara Gottesman, has been working to establish peer coaching in university settings since the nineties.  Her book, “Peer Coaching in Higher Education,” highlights numerous case studies in which peer coaching cultures have not only helped enrich the learning environment but also helped address several of the barriers listed above. Dr. Gottesman argues that successful coaching culture only functions when specific rules and concepts are in place and all stakeholders adhere to the process, (Gottesman, 2009).  Figure 1.1 provides a summary of Dr. Gotteman’s peer coaching process.

Infographic summarizing the peer coaching process by Dr. Gotteman
Figure 1.1 Summary of Dr. Gotteman’s Peer Coaching Process

Drawing from the recommendations from Dr. Gotteman, and additional business and coaching leaders, the following are summarized determinants of a successful peer coaching culture:

  1. A strong link between organizational strategy and developmental focus. The alignment of professional development with tangible organizational goals is the strongest indicator of peer coaching culture adoption.  For an organization, one supports a means for achieving the other, (Mansor,, 2012). In order to do this, coaching leaders recommend performing a culture assessment which addresses this link.  The assessment should focus on attitudes and understanding of peer coaching, along with the institution’s mission, value statements, vision, and a review of the current policies in place that may support or inhibit peer coaching practice, (Leadership That Works, n.d).
  2. Administrative commitment. Strong administrative commitment supports proper implementation and addresses resistance to change. In order to overcome barriers, administrators hold the responsibility for culture promotion and encouragement. Resistance to change should be managed in a manner that normalizes the emotional impact, meaning that employees’ concerns and voices are heard, (Leadership That Works, n.d.).  In addition to normalizing the fear, coaching consulting firm “Leadership that Works”, recommends identifying early adopters who would slowly begin incorporating others in peer coaching projects.  Successes of early peer coaching helps build excitement and alleviates the fear of the unknown, (Leadership That Works, n.d.).
  3. Sufficient and appropriate peer coaching training. All experts agree that successful peer coaching culture takes time to establish because good peer coaches need to build skills. The initial need of skilled peer coaches can be met through the use of external coaches that can provide an outside perspective, training, and build innovation, (Leadership That Works, n.d.).  Once successful initiation has taken hold, internal coaches can be deployed to further the work.  In fact, internal coaches are often more impactful because of their intimate knowledge of the systems and procedures that are being improved upon, (Leadership That Works). When training internal coaches, Dr. Gotteman and coaching leader John Brooks, argue that complicated peer coaching theories should be reserved for more advanced and skilled coaches.  Even basic coaching models can be successful, (Gotteman, 2009; Brooks, n.d.).
  4. Develop culture of recognition and rewards. Professors Scott and Miner recognize that some reward and recognition should be given to professors that embark on peer coaching projects. However, the rewards must go beyond promotion and tenure.  The reasoning behind this, Scott and Miner warn, is that there would be little motivation for senior faculty to participate in project without recognition.  Since senior faculty can provide a wealth of experience, faculty buy-in is imperative for peer coaching success, (Scott and Miner, 2008).
  5. Continual learning and development opportunities. The primary purpose of peer coaching is to serve as professional development with the assumption that is the process is on-going. To support continual learning and development opportunities, constant program evaluation will be important, (Leadership That Works, n.d.).

While full-scale institutional change may take time and effort to employ, small changes at the program or department level may help pave the way for larger changes and benefits.  Conversations around culture should involve all key stakeholders to gain perspectives and eliminate resistance to change and the barriers that it creates.  Promoting coaching culture works for business, it works for K-12 education, and it can certainly also work for higher education.


Abu Mansor, N.N., Syafiquah, A.R., Mohamed, A., Idris, N. (2012). Determines of coaching culture development: A case study. Procedia. 40, 485-489. Retrieved from

Barnett, B. (1990). Overcoming obstacles to peer coaching for principals. Educational Leadership [pdf]. Available from:

Brook, J. (n.d.) Common barriers to a coaching culture and how to overcome them. StrengthScope website.  Available from:

Gotteman, B.L. (2009). Peer Coaching in Higher Education. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Friedman, S.D. (2015). How to get your team to coach each other. Harvard Business Review website. Available from:

ISTE. (2017) ISTE standards for coaches. Available from:

Leadership that works, (n.d.) 7 Steps for developing a coaching culture. Available from:

Scott, V., Miner, C. (2008). Peer coaching: Implication for teaching and program improvement [pdf.] Available from:  

Slater, C., & Simmons, D. (2001). The Design and Implementation of a Peer Coaching Program. American Secondary Education, 29(3), 67-76. Retrieved from


PD for EdTech Coaches

In my current coursework for my Digital Education Leadership program we are exploring what additional professional learning we might need to become an effective Educational Technology coach. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at these standards (ISTE, 2017):


ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

f.Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences


ISTE-C Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice

c. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences


During this two year program we have looked at student standards for technology, best practices for teachers of technology, and are now looking at the role of a peer coach in the area of technology.  Through this work, specifically the work this quarter, I am learning the differences between teaching and coaching and the differences between working with students and peers. I have spent 11 of my 14 years as an elementary teacher in the general education classroom.  One of the greatest benefits of being a general education teacher is having a “team”. There are others (both in your school and in your district) that have the same position as you, the same expectations for their job, and the same opportunities to professional development. For three of my years teaching, I held a teaching position that only I had at my school and there were few others (if any) in the district that had the identical position and job description.  For me, the most difficult part of these positions was not having a “team” in my building and not having clear standards, job expectations, and opportunities for professional development. These (standards, expectations, and PD opportunities) were present, but it was most difficult to navigate my position when I didn’t have a clearly-defined and easily accessible team. Being a technology coach puts someone in a similar position I believe. Depending on the size of the district there often are only a couple/few coaches (if that many). When I reflect on the opportunities and potential challenges that come with being a coach, the one thing that I feel that is critical to the position is opportunity for professional development.  A educational technology coach is leading a field that is ever-changing and emerging and it is critical that they are up-to-date on resources and best practices if they are to be an effective coach for their peers. The challenge is that a district might not be able to provide professional development opportunities that would be serve technology coaches. So coaches would need to seek out these resources in a larger community. When researching what options are out there for PD for EdTech coaches, I came across an article, Resources for EdTech Coaches, in Medium.


This article listed several different resources that might provide professional learning opportunities and the ability to connect with other EdTech coaches. I liked how the resources provided were varied in both format and accessibility. Below I have listed some of these resources and a brief summary:


ISTE Connect EdTech Coaches Network-a place to connect with other Edtech coaches (Medium, 2018)


Future Ready Schools (Groups and Events)– “a planning and resources hub for personalized, digital learning” (Medium, 2018)


EdTech Podcasts Bam Radio Network, TedTalks Education,  and House of #EdTech– three different places to search for podcast by educators for educators (Medium, 2018)


The article also mentioned that a focus on personalized learning for both students and teachers when in a coaching role is important and how seeking how professional development on this style of teaching and learning might be helpful.  It is also mentioned the importance of a technology coach being aware of the process for district digital transformations (Medium, 2018).


Professional Development opportunities and the ability to connect with other coaches might not be as accessible and structured as they are for teachers in other roles.  However, being a coach in a field that is constantly evolving and shaping our students’ learning environments, it is key that educational technology coaches seek out resources that will allow them to stay current on digital learning and use online collaboration to connect with other coaches.  There seems to be some great resources out there and I’m sure this list is ever growing and expanding.




Bam Radio Network. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from:


Future Reading Schools. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 30) from: ISTE Connect. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from: Resources for EdTech Coaches.  (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from: The 6 Hallmarks of Personalized Learning.  (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from:


Bam Radio Network. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from:


Ted Talks Education. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from:


The House of #EdTech Podcast. (Retrieved on 2018, December 2) from:


Dynamic Resources for Ed Tech Coaches

Educational technology coaches are tasked with finding new solutions to meet the needs of teachers and students alike. Because educational technology is still a relatively new field which is constantly shifting as new programs emerge, coaches need dynamic resources. This week I am exploring (free) resources that coaches can utilize in their pursuit of ISTE Coaching standard 6.a. – “Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement [student and teacher standards]” (, 2017)

Resource 1: Tech & Learning Magazine

Tech & Learning Magazine is a monthly magazine available in both print and digital editions. It is free to educators who indicate they have an influence over their school’s technology choices (which ideally includes ALL teachers and coaches!). The timely articles offer a wide range of topics and support. In a given issue you may find advice on implementing ed tech in the classroom, reviews of new software, and a theoretical approach to issues like digital citizenship. In addition to the magazine, the Tech & Learning website offers a plethora of great (and free) resources for ed tech coaches: Site of the weekOn-demand webinarsApp-of-the-day, and a Blog with frequent guest contributors. The depth of information and the breadth of topics is impressive.

Resource 2: ISTE Blog

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) literally wrote the standards that ed tech coaches use when assessing their own effectiveness and that of teachers and students. A list of resources would not be complete without a mention of their expertly curated blog. The blog’s careful use of categories and tags makes it easy to navigate to the resources most applicable to a particular need. The quality of articles posted is exemplary. For instance, this post on media literacy includes practical takeaways for classroom teachers, an infographic guide for student use, and a clear correlation to ISTE student standards.

Resource 3: Twitter

I’ve previously sung Twitter’s praises for personalized professional development and I’m sure this won’t be the last time! Twitter provides a platform for ed tech coaches and technology-minded teachers and administrators to come together to share ideas and resources. The following hashtags can be saved as a quick search for instant access to a large variety of ideas, resources, tools, and opinions related to educational technology: #edtech, #edtechchat. For teachers and coaches who use Google, #gafe is a treasure trove of ideas. Looking for accounts to follow? This post has a list of top contributors in the ed tech Twitter community.

Resource #4: EdSurge

EdSurge is another website that publishes timely, relevant articles regarding technology in education. A unique feature of EdSurge is its dedicated section to HigherEd. Posts include current ed tech news, research findings, implementation guides, and content-area technology uses. Many resources treat content areas and technology separately, but I have found that EdSurge meshes them in extremely creative ways such as this recent post on Hamlet, Harry Potter, and ‘computational literary analysis.’ 


In considering a ‘dynamic’ resource for ed tech coaches, I based my search criteria on the following:

  • Does this resource allow for choice in learning?
  • How frequently is the resource updated?
  • Are a variety of diverse voices amplified within this resource?
  • Is this resource user-friendly?
  • Does this resource go beyond mere reporting and aggregation to deliver content that teachers and coaches can (and want to) implement?

The four resources highlighted here earn a yes vote for each criteria element. I find myself returning to them again and again when I am in need of inspiration. Do you have a suggestion for an educational technology coaching resource? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Helping Teachers Feel Comfortable with Coaching

As a teacher working with a coach might be nerve-racking and something you might not feel comfortable participating in, however as a coach there are ways to help teachers feel comfortable. With this Modules triggering the question of “What skills, resources, and processes will you use to help peers co-plan learning activities they want to improve?” I reflected back on when I had a coach in my first year at my current school district and how it can be hard to open up to someone regarding the work you are doing in the classroom. A lot of times teachers (including myself) want to appear that we have it all together. Or we want people to think our lessons are awesome 100% of the time. While a lot of the time we do have it together and our lessons are great there is always room for improvement and letting someone in on the imperfections can be scary. Since we are taking a look at how our peers are teaching an activity and helping them improve it I wanted to focus my post on how coaches can help teachers feel more comfortable with the coaching process.

Pennsylvania Institue for Instructional Coaching put out an article for coaches with 5 tips to working with reluctant teachers. As a coach, I think it good to have these 5 tips when working with any teacher regardless if they are hesitant or not.

Start with a Relationship
The coach-teacher relationship is one of the most important aspects of gaining and keeping the trust of reluctant teachers. Start small, sell yourself, and be authentic. Ask for permission to see a lesson or collect some data for one of the teachers in your building. Talk to your peer about how you can help them gain insights into student achievement in their classes. Most importantly, be yourself. Remember, instructional coaching is all about helping teachers to improve practice.

Get Support from Other Teachers
Successful instructional coaching programs must be cultivated. Be sure to develop positive associations around teacher participation in instructional coaching. It is very common for instructional coaching to be associated with struggling teachers. You must be sure to counter any negative preconceived notions associated with receiving, needing, and/or accepting instructional coaching. One way to counter negative perceptions of instructional coaching is to ask the teachers that you work with to share success stories. This is one instance where you would ask a teacher that you are working with to share some of what you are doing in your one-on-one work together

Make the Conversation Confidential
Reluctant teachers often have an array of fears and anxieties towards coaching. These fears and anxieties may stem from a lack of trust toward leadership. Therefore, it is crucial to have the support of your organization’s administration. Make the conversation confidential by gaining the support of the administrators in your school/district. The support provided by the administrative leadership must be public and supported by your procedures and policies as an instructional coach. For example, it is good practice to acquire permission from your teachers before you collect data. Asking for permission and reassuring teachers of the confidential nature of the teacher-coach relationship affirms that instructional coaching is about teacher support.

Make the Conversation Student Centered
Teachers may feel that a coach is there to judge their teaching capability and that may be nerve-racking for a teacher.  Coaches are there to be a support system to the teacher, but teachers may not view coaches in that manner. Begin your before the session by making your conversations with reluctant teachers student-centered.  For example, how do you think the students will react to this new teaching method?  Have your students used this method before?  What skills will your students need in order to accomplish this task?  By making the conversation about the students, the teacher may feel less pressure on them and their practice.

Use Data to Drive the Conversation
Some teachers may not believe they can benefit from working with a coach.  They may believe their classroom runs efficiently and there is not room for growth within their practice. However, you may want to ask those teachers if they use data to drive their instruction. By looking at data, coaches can help teachers that feel they will not benefit from working with a coach see areas where they can grow.


My Take Away

Based on my personal experience and information from the article from Pennslyvania Insitute for Instructional Coaching I believe that to have successful coaching experiences we should always keep in mind how a teacher might be feeling. Building relationships and making the coaching experience centered around students stuck out as the most important part of the 5 tips. With this information, I am going to make sure my peer coaching project really centers on students rather than critiquing my peers teaching style. With this as my focus, I still can’t forget about relationships for this project. I am lucky to have a great relationship with peers before starting this work, but practicing these skills will make sure these relationships are tarnished and continue to grow.

Building Checklists for Effective Engagement Resources

Good peer coaching ensures successful lesson plan outcomes. In my last blog post, I explored the value of teacher vs. student focus during peer coaching sessions and concluded that when the teacher is focused on improved learning, both the students and the teacher benefit greatly, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018).  In peer coaching, the main tasks involve co-planning a lesson, and improving upon that lesson to ensure that the activities described facilitate learning in a purposeful manner. For improvement to occur, according to coaching leader Les Foltos, there must be an explicit agreement between the peer and the coach on the definition of “improvement,” (Foltos, 2013).  This dialogue between the coach and the peer should be specific as it will drive the focus of the work. Foltos suggests using an effective learning checklist to guide this work and offers a framework of four main improvement focus areas: standard-based, engagement-based, problem-based, and technology enhanced learning, (Foltos, 2013).  Once the definition and checklist has been created, then the improvement process can begin. Figure 1.1 below summarizes the evidence-based design process described by Foltos.

infographic on the lesson plan improvement process.
Figure 1.1 Foltos’ Lesson Plan Improvement Process

The coach’s responsibility is to stimulate innovation by taking an outside perspective and offering suggestions and resources.  Without this distinct perspective, teachers can’t innovate, (Foltos, 2013). By participating in the innovation process, the coach meets the ISTE standard in “contribut[ing] to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels,” (ISTE, 2017).

In my peer coaching relationship, my peer and I have stepped into the process of improvement after designing a unit for a blended course.  My peer developed several learning activities along with associated deliverables that achieved the desired learning outcomes. However, my peer was concerned that the unit is too dry and may be isolating as students work independently on many activities. Because of these concerns, my peer would like to focus our improvement efforts on engagement.  In addition, my peer would like me to offer some good technology options that would help enhance engagement.  My peer’s request requires an actionable and tangible outcome from me. This got me thinking, how would a peer coach begin exploring technology resources for increasing classroom engagement with their peer?

Creating a criteria checklist.   “Even highly effective collaboration isn’t enough to improve learning,” (Foltos, 2013).  Effective resources that stimulate engagement must contribute to the learning outcome in some way. Gathering technology resources for collaboration then must involve some discernment process that narrows down options to the best fit with a learning outcome.  One way to start building a resource list for my peer could be to create a criteria checklist.  I originally got this idea by watching a YouTube video created by Dr. Dykema-Vanderark who is an English professor at Grand Rapids Community College. In his video, Dr. Dkykema-Vanderark explores various technology tools that increase classroom engagement. He starts off the session by communicating his criteria for a “good” engagement tool that helps meets his needs, which include: free (or low cost), easy to use, well-designed, and were flexible multi-use tools. He subsequently presents nine tools, he felt best met these pre-established criteria highlighting the main features and offers suggestions on how to use them. Though the video itself does not address my main question, the main ideas behind Dr. Dykema’s processes clarifies how to begin this process and how my peer and I could use the criteria to explore various tools together. The idea of a checklist is not a new idea, nor is it limited to process improvement. Education consultant, Patricia Vitale-Rilley, suggests using checklists as a way to manage active learning by students, suggesting that checklists are a good tool for facilitating student engagement, (Vitale-Rilley, 2015).

Criteria Considerations that Include Engagement Characteristics. Edutopia describes engagement as activities that allow students to do something with the material that they are taught. Students are talking, practicing, and moving on the content rather than passively absorbing the content through lecture, (Johnson, 2012). Given the participatory nature of the above definition, criteria characteristics for the resource checklist should include technology that allows for sharing, commenting, and other collaboration features while excluding any technology resource that simply curates information without a basis for interaction among the students. Adding to this, Foltos describes characteristics of engagement-based tasks in his own checklist on effective learning.  Some of those characteristics include: tasks that are challenging (in a good way),  hold intrinsic interest, offer choices, allow students to draw upon existing knowledge and skills, facilitates creation of a product/artifact, and allow students to apply their skills to new situations, (Foltos, 2013). While these criteria focus more on classroom activities, they may be used to evaluate technology resources particularly technology that can offer students choices or multi-functionality, and allow them to create a tangible product.  Resources that allow students to use their skills to new technology could also be a consideration.

Next Steps.

Building a resource checklist will help narrow down the list of potential technology tools used in the classroom and aid in the selection of the tools that best fits with the intended outcome of each learning activity. In moving forward with lesson plan improvement with my peer, we would need to complete the following steps to build a successful lesson:

  • Identify which learning activities would benefit from revision to improve engagement.
  • Identify characteristics of engagement for those selected activities.
  • Establish a tech resource checklist highlighting key features needed to fulfil learning outcomes.
  • Curate technology resources.
  • Compare and contrast technology resources against the checklist.

“Many educators need a research-based process for lesson design…to help them create…learning activities,” (Foltos, 2013). Using the above process ensures that my peer and I follow an evidence-based practice, keeping our focus on the student learning outcomes while increasing active-learning for more impactful lesson plans.


Dykema-Vanderark,T. (2017). Beyond the discussion board: Using online tools to increase student engagement [YouTube video]. Available from:

Foltos, L., 2013. Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Chapter 7: Lesson improvement process. Corwin Publishing. Thousand Oaks, CA

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from:

Johnson, B. (2012, March 02). How do we know when students are engaged? Available from:

Vitale-Rilley, P. (2015). Your classroom environment checklist for student engagement [blog]. Available from:

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Peer coaching focus- For teacher or student outcomes? [blog]. Available from:

Preparing our Students to Work Collaboratively

In my course, Educational Technology Leadership, we are currently exploring what 21st century learning looks like and how coaches can use this understanding to guide their work. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at 3 standards:

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

ISTE-C-Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  1. Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the ISTE Student and Educator standards

When I think back on my own education and my current work as a teacher as well as what I am learning in my own program as a student, one of the most significant shifts I see in 21st century learning is a focus on collaboration.  With the technological advances and increased access to both devices and information, it is often viewed that technology has isolated people and taken away face-to-face interactions. While this is true in some ways, I believe that technology has and should be a catalyst to increase, encourage, and make available opportunities for beneficial and meaningful collaboration in the lives of 21st century learners.  However, as educators, we are tasked with helping our students make productive and positive use of these opportunities.

The goal of collaboration is that more brains together increase the quality of the end product as well as the experience of the process. This happens because tasks can be shared, members can “specialize” in areas, and each collaborator brings a unique background and set of experiences.  Previously, most collaboration happened in person during real-time. Phone and email increased the options for collaboration but today’s technology allows for collaboration to occur on a much larger scale and can connect people who will likely never be able to meet in person.

Most teachers (and people) recognize that collaboration is an important life skill and something we should be doing in our classrooms, but often we forget that knowing how to collaborate is a skill-set in and of itself.  Just like social skills that we teach (and should continue to teach) in early education, our students need us to teach and model and scaffold collaboration skills. They need to understand the goal of collaboration and how to engage in the process successfully. In an Edutopia article, Mary Burns writes,  “Promoting real collaboration is hard to do well—and it doesn’t just happen on its own. If we want real collaboration, we need to intentionally design it as part of our learning activity (Burns, 2016).”

In Burn’s article, “5 Strategies to Deepen Student Collaboration” (Burns, 2016) she describes some very helpful strategies for teachers when they are using collaboration in their classroom. Below is her list (Burns, 2016) and my summary of her description:

1. Create Learning Activities that are Complex

When activities truly challenge our students, they are motivated to get help from others and need more than one idea or strategy.

2. Prepare Students to be Part of a Team

Students need to understand the goal of their group work. There needs to be some work done as far as expectations and building relationships before the “real” collaboration can begin.

3. Minimize Opportunities For Free-Riding

One of the biggest issues with group work comes when a member isn’t doing his/her share of the work.  By giving meaningful team roles and having students evaluate themselves and their peers (Burns, 2016) the likelihood that a team member will not contribute their share is decreased.

4. Build in Many Opportunities for Discussion and Consensus

As I mentioned earlier, the process is just as (if not more) important than the product in collaborative student projects.  Emphasizing this to the students and providing them time to learn from the experience is key.

5. Focus on Strengthening and Stretching Expertise

Not all students in a group will have the same level of knowledge. The goal really needs to be on what each member can bring to the group and how all members can learn something from each other. Like in all areas of our classroom, the focus should be on growth not solely achievement.


Mary Burns summarizes this all very well when she writes, ““As teachers, we can promote real collaboration by shifting our role from instructor to coach—promoting team autonomy, checking in on students and providing instant feedback, and helping them increasingly learn to work together productively to attain a common goal (Burns, 2016).”

One of my favorite places to go when I am looking for digital tools is Common Sense Media’s Top Lists.  They have list of Student Collaboration Tools which includes 28 resources, K-12.  While I don’t have experience with many of these, I have had good experiences with Google Hangouts, Google Drive, and Padlet both as a student and a teacher.  Since I teach Kindergarten currently there aren’t many on this list that would apply to my classroom, but I am interested in trying out Popplet and PenPal Schools, both of which are free or have a free version.



Burns, M. (2016). 5 Strategies to Deepen Students Collaboration.  (Retrieved on 2018, Oct. 30) from:

Common Sense Media website. Top Picks: Student Collaboration Tools. (Retrieved on 2018, Oct. 30) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 5) from:

Embracing Imperfection in Our Classrooms

In this week’s module for my Educational Technology Leadership course, we are looking at resources, skills, and processes that might help us as we co-plan learning activities with our peers. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at these 2 standards:

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences


For my work this week I want to look out how best to help teachers embrace “mess” in their classrooms. We want to encourage our students to take risks, try the hard stuff, and focus on growth, yet sometimes we don’t model that in our classrooms. I can’t speak for secondary teachers, but as a primary-grade elementary school teacher I know that there are a lot of teachers who want things to look “perfect”…myself included. And we feel pressure (either real or imagined) from families, peers, and ourselves to have our classrooms, bulletin boards, and newsletters looking “good”.  But it goes much further than this. We also want our learning activities to go according to plan and we don’t want things to get “messy”.

I found an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Pedagogy of Imperfection” by Maha Bali that really dove into this issue that I have been considering.  My favorite quote of the article is, “The problem with this is that we are often presented with polished projects and we start to associate imperfection with unpreparedness. (Bali, 2017)”  This is often how I feel when things don’t go “right” in my class. I fear I was unprepared, but often I don’t think that was the reason. While this article is short, nearly every sentence resonated with me and helped me to better understand how important it is for teachers to embrace and celebrate “imperfection” and the process rather than the product. Our students learn just as much from our behavior and responses to what is happening in the classroom than from our carefully constructed learning experiences. If we want our students to take risks, be ok with “imperfection”, and value the process of getting to the final product then we must model this in our teaching and behavior in the classroom.

In this article Bali talks about how perfection is a self-defined construct and that learning is an imperfect process (Bali, 2017).  Bali has listed 3 areas in which we, as educators, might start when it comes to embracing imperfection in our classrooms.


  1. Keep your pedagogy open.
  2. Take more risks.
  3. Encourage imperfection in student work (Bali, 2017).


I can relate to all three of these.  I’m a planner, so it makes me feel like I have things under control when my plan book (at least the basic structure of my lessons) is filled out weeks in advance and things are going according to schedule.  Doing this, however, can make me feel like I “messed up” if I need to adjust things or if I don’t end up doing thing according to plan. Being prepared and organized are key to being a successful teacher, but not to the point where you fear adjusting your plans and learning experiences when it feels like that it what is best for your students.  Taking risks is one of those things that is important to model for students. When we say one thing, “try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, take risks”, and then model that in our classrooms, it has a much greater impact on our students. They need to see how we react when the technology doesn’t work or the art lesson is a disaster. Because it’s not really about the failure, it’s about how we react to it and how/if we persevere afterwards. Encouraging imperfection in student work is a way we let students know that the process of learning is just as valuable (if not more) as the end result.  In my Kindergarten class, my students are just beginning to write. They know a few sight words and might be able to sound out a few short words. But they have so much they want to say in their writing. I encourage them to try those words that they probably can’t spell. If they want to write about the “gigantic cat”, I want them to try and spell “gigantic” rather than change their story to the “big cat” just because they know how to spell the word “big”.

We want our students to participate, share their thoughts and ideas exactly as they are, and try new things. We want to cultivate classrooms that encourage this and one of the first steps to doing this is to look at our teaching practice.  Are we modeling what we are encouraging our students to do?

“Seeing other people make mistakes, laugh it off, and keep going helps to open doors for others to join in the experimentation. If there is no expectation of perfection, this gives a sense of permission to participate (Bali, 2017).”


Bali, M. (2017). Chronicle for Higher Education: Pedagogy of Imperfection. (Retrieved on 2018, November 12) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 5) from: