The Gift of Peer Coaching

Everyone should have the opportunity to collaborate with co-workers in meaningful ways.

I am fortunate to have two important colleagues I have ‘grown up with’ in a professional sense. Wauneta and Sandra are remarkable educators and astounding leaders I have worked with and for since student teaching so many years ago. What makes our relationship unique is that we are constantly lifting the other up through suggestions, questions, and understanding. The trust we have built over the years is based on intentional commitments to equitable education opportunities for all students and compassion for our profession; you could say that we share a set of core values.

asian female black and white black women collaboration
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I recently had the opportunity to connect the experiences and feelings of support I have with Sandra and Wauneta through a peer coaching project for the ED 6105 class within the Seattle Pacific University Digital Education and Leadership MEd program.Throughout this program I learned through application by partaking in a peer coaching relationship with my colleague Rachel within the San Diego State University Pre-College Institute. Rachel and I work within the same grant. Our day to day roles may be different, but our impact and mission is calibrated; Rachel and I are committed to supporting students as they turn college and career dreams into fruition after successfully graduating from high school.

Rachel was recently promoted within our organization and needed a thought partner to collaborate around the creation of a rubric and observation plan for her fellow Talent Search advisors. Rachel has a dynamic skillset she wanted to share with her peers; she just needed someone to help her categorize and prioritize the skills that would have the greatest impact. Through Phase 1 & Phase 2 of the EDTC 6105 Community Engagement Project Rachel and I identified the high impact criteria that would later become the knowledge set all Talent Search Advisors should have after the first year as a Pathways Team member.

The gift of coaching was not only in the product of these important characteristics of a highly impactful Talent Search Advisor, but in the modeling of peer coaching best practices that Rachel and I practiced throughout our sessions. Rachel and I are different in many ways. Rachel is a quiet; pensive processor who quickly advocated for her needs – through this we focused on our communication standards and norms. “Effective coaches use these sets of skills and trust as a springboard to encourage their learning partners to take risks and adopt innovative teaching and learning practices” (Foltos, 2013, pp.99).

Technology integration requires a great deal of trust, especially when the digital tool has not been used on prior projects. When Rachel felt her voice mattered, she opened up to the opportunities of co-creation. Rachel is leaning towards using a digital form to collect observable data and reflection to efficiently track the collaboration with her Talent Search advisors. The creation of this tool is anchored in the intentional use of ISTE Coaching standard 1.a, 1.b, and 1.c. We have yet to implement the tool, (ISTE Coaching Standard 1.d), however, I know that as we approach this next step the use of a simple digital tool will support Rachel in her thoughtful processing and effective coaching of Talent Search Advisors.

Within all coaching relationships one must be flexible and responsive to the needs of the coachee. Phase 4 of the Community Engagement Project required us to evaluate a lesson that was planned by the person being coached. I was not going to ask Rachel to create a lesson plan while she was getting comfortable with the behaviors she wanted to identify as highly impactful skills for advisors. Instead of breaking down some of the trust we have built together I responded to a member of my DEL cohort when she requested to break away from the current relationships for Phase 4.

Bridget and I were able to practice our lesson design and coaching skills by evaluating each other’s’ lessons, providing feedback using the Lesson Design Matrix, re-design the lesson, and finally reflecting on our learning and the coaching process.

During this course I reaffirmed the importance of building within a working relationship.

Bridget and I were comfortable asking specific questions of each other during the Phase 5 debrief because we knew about each other. I asked Bridget if she felt like her important 21st-century learning lesson was opening a pathway to level the playing field between the students who had opportunities to code outside of school and those who are growing up in households that cannot afford such luxuries. Throughout the past year I have grown to appreciate Bridget’s deep commitment to the empathy our learners need to thrive in the world that is being created for them. Bridget wanted to create a lesson that allowed for her learners to ‘code’ a game beyond themselves. This wonderful opportunity to model and empower mindfulness in 4th graders coupled with attention to the soft skills needed in 21st-century learning is an exemplar in blended learning.

Rachel and I grew into more than just a working relationship. Through our trust building and mindful communication, we are going to co-create a rubric that has the potential to be used beyond the initial focus group. Together we are modeling how cross program collaboration promotes growth in the profession and the organization. We have similar core values and want to see as many students obtain admission and succeed in post-secondary pathways, by encouraging knowledge sharing we are modeling what a dynamic and well managed Talent Search program can look like; the gift of peer coaching really can keep giving!

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Both of my peer coaching relationships were supported by my awareness around professional reflexivity. Whether I am talking with the instructional soul sisters I have in Wauneta and Sandra, or working towards a common goal with newer colleagues, I will always practice the coaching behaviors I have learned and practiced during this project. The gift of this course is too big for a package; I am able to use my newly refined peer coaching skills to impact the future through awareness of the ‘present’.

References: 

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

International Society for Technology in Education . (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. Retrieved December 16, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

SDSU Pre-College Institute. (n.d.). Pre-College Institute. Retrieved December 16, 2019, from https://education.sdsu.edu/pci

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