Category Archives: peer coach

A More Effective Online Peer Coach

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at SPU, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a teacher.  I took into consideration that I now work at a startup, and the professional learning I would be working with her on would be all online and for a particular product. I gradually transitioned from the point of power and requests to a more to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to rebuild our ECT program at Edmodo. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

Beyond what we already learned and addressed how can I create a broader and more personal relationship when conducting online peer coaching?

As part of my reflection, I am considering how I can engage in peer coaching practices without ever having a traditional classroom to step into.  All the coaching is done online through Edmodo classroom and groups. On top of that, how do I evaluate and create metrics of success on the online coaching model? As I work in a business where I must demonstrate all efforts as value to the company.  So I must put forth a plan to revitalize the ECT program.

What is essential to the program to create trainers who we can trust? What support does my facilitator need from me to be more successful in the next cohort? 

Research by Shauna and Baker (2005) explains that One of the challenges resulting from the growing popularity of online education is how to efficiently evaluate online instruction.  Within their paper “Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development” where the central question isn’t whether this new approach to education is effective — the plethora of “no significant difference” studies mainly render that question moot — but what steps can be taken to not only ensure that individual courses are useful but provide the necessary guidance to promote faculty growth and development as they teach online.

Ensuring Quality of Online Instruction – Peer Coaching Cycle – “A team of experienced online instructors is currently adapting this peer coaching model for the online environment and has performed preliminary online peer coaching during this past academic year.”

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Within the protocol, the coach logs into Blackboard course site multiple times during a week. “We encourage the online peer coach to take particular notice of the virtual classroom environment and interpersonal communication dynamics.  Such facets include the design and layout of the blackboard web pages, the tone of the announcements and course materials, the level of learner-instructor engagement and learner-learner engagement in class discussions, the types of media used for presenting materials, the ease of navigation, the clarity of course instructions, and the instructor’s mastery of the course content and effectiveness at presenting it to the class.” As I look towards the future of our program, at Edmodo I see how important it is to figure out a way to evaluate the course as it is happening.  The program facilitator is an experienced teacher but teaching online with a cohort from 19 different countries is a whole different beast.  The kids that come to school every day are pushed from so many different sides to attend her class while these grown adults must see value and excitement every single time they log into the system.  It was tough to witness the attrition (the loss of customers or clients over time) because the end results are ECTs and these advocates are so valuable to the company.  As it sits thought it is just too long to keep hard-working teachers engaged, six weeks is a long time to stay concentrated on anything in this day and age especially when there isn’t any promise of compensation at the end.

How do I want to proceed with rebuilding the program?

Recently, I attended Advocamp an Advocate Marketing Strategy conference in San Francisco because that is a significant aspect of my job.  It was put on by a company called Influitive which is in the business of creating online hubs for other businesses to host advocate marketing campaigns and challenges.  It really allows you to gamify the system and reward your advocates with rewards and points.  The most valuable session I attended was by Deena Zenyk, from Influitive her session was titledUncover the hidden value of your advocacy program by learning to use the power of campaign-based planning.” She recently wrote a book about the Six Habits of Highly Effective Advocate Marketers and “Consider your last big purchase: What influenced your decision? A paid advertisement? A polished press release? A celebrity Twitter endorsement? A marketing email? A product webpage? Probably not. More than likely, you listened to someone you know and trust. An authentic voice with relevant experience is the most convincing proponent when we’re considering a new product or company. That is the power of an advocate.”  I think that this message although hard for some teachers to believe but sometimes we are a hard audience to sell to and we really only like to listen to people who have gone through what we have.  Sometimes I talk about my first couple years of teaching at an alternative high school like some people talk about serving in the military.  Now I know it is not comparable to what our military does for our country, but I genuinely do not feel like people at my work know what it is like for a teacher unless they have themselves have taught a couple of years.  That is just one reason why our ECT program brings so much value to our company because teachers only like to hear from other teachers when talking about a product.  But how do we create a course that is the right balance between getting enough experience with the product and short enough to keep everyone’s excitement and engagement?    So Deena Zenyk mentioned a system that CISCO put together years ago called VSEM, Vision, Strategy, Execution and Metric.  Moreover, I am going to put my program through this organization and see what comes out.  Here is what it looks like when diagramed.

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Is collaboration worth the investment? As you plot the next steps in your collaboration journey, it helps to understand the returns that are possible

The improved collaboration represents the best opportunity for business leaders to tap the full range of talents of their people, move with higher speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade. But building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, processes, and technology – along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. Leaders who encourage change on all three fronts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

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Cisco Inc (Ed.). (2012). The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential – CISCO. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

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

Foltos, L. (2015). Principals boost coaching’s impact: school leaders’ support is critical to collaboration. Journal Of Staff Development36(1), 48-51,.

Shauna, T., Ph.D., & Baker, J. D., Ph.D. (2005). Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from Http://,

Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2000). Quality on the line: Benchmarks for success in Internet-based distance education. Retrieved from


Supporting Online Learning Environments to Optimize Collaboration

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As part of my recent exploration of peer coaching, I have recently examined what it means to peer coach reluctant learners and what the 21st-century feedback loop looks like when peer coaching.  Now we are turning our attention to something more specific and how we can use what we learned thus far to improve lessons.  And as the program and activities I am working with are all online and being taught to educated professional adults I am going to research and examine; How can an instructor or coach design an online learning environment to support group collaboration?  I am interested in looking at how to create the most creative and engaging learning environment online. Basically, if the most convenient PD will happen online and we don’t want to distribute training but coach teachers to keep learning how can we do that online without losing engagement and excitement.  

Andrew Marcinek, Director of Technology and Co-founder, states in a recent Edutopia blog post “if your edtech professional development resembles a TED talk, you might want to reconsider the method of delivery. This is not to say that lecture is an ineffective means of delivering content, but edtech professional development (PD) should include time to explore. It should be hands-on, and groups or teams should have time to share their learning.” Furthermore, as I stated to my cohort members recently it was always difficult for me to mentally reconcile the contrasting approach to collaboration and delivery when it came to PD for teachers. I have countless memories of PD being delivered to my colleagues and me about something they wanted us to implement (i.e., blended learning, flipped classrooms, or PBL) but the PD itself was delivered in a traditional sit and get style lecture. This system felt like the Admins wanted the teachers to continually be creative and think on their feet when teaching students but when it came to the PD given to the teachers, they could not think of a better way of giving us the information.  When teachers have a chance to collaborate and tinker they can “walk away from this kind of PD ready to integrate what they’ve learned in the classroom. Also, administrators should model personal learning networks and leverage a wide range of social media for on-demand learning opportunities” (Edutopia, 2014).  I also think there is a certain protocol of PD that I will outline for optimization.  I took a deeper look at the way Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of Singapore explains meaningful learning design in five different dimensions.  These dimensions represent the ways I also believe that instructional technologist can up the ante when it comes to professional development for teachers in their districts or companies.  Keep in mind the following when creating and implementing PD. 

Learning by Doing

Doing and knowing are reciprocal and participation inevitably involves doing. In well-designed lessons, learning by doing should lead to knowledge creation in which students uncover the subject matter through their performances.

Engage Students’ Prior Knowledge

The more prior knowledge the students have on one topic, the easier it would be for students to relate the new knowledge of theory to their own experiences and learn better. There is a positive prior correlation between prior knowledge comprehensive ability. Students find it easier to retain knowledge when prior knowledge is built upon; building on their prior makes learning personal for the students.

Self-Directed Learning

Learning through participation drawing on acquired knowledge and creating new understanding happens all the time when one is involved in learning guided by self-direction.  I personally believe that self-directed learning like through MOOCs or course by correspondence is difficult.  The program that I am auditing through Edmodo is guided in parts but also self-directed as the professionals taking the course must delegate their time between their full-time jobs and their PD course we created for them.

Real World Connections

In order for learning to be meaningful learners need to be provided with opportunities to call upon what they know as a point of reference, use it as a basis for new knowledge to grow.  This will help students to see the relevance of learning. Real-world connections provide these opportunities.

Collaborative Learning

As Wang stated in ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning 2010, “Technology is not a panacea. However, it has great potential to address some of the above challenges” (784).

Within ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning, “Some design strategies must be applied to promote collaboration. A number of strategies work well in face-to-face classroom settings such as think-pair-share, jigsaw, or ro

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 6.18.02 PM.pngle play. But they do not work at all in an online learning environment as they often need people to meet physically. Also, collaborative learning has a number of challenges,” (783) So we know some strategies that work for in-person dynamic group collaboration but when it comes to online grouping there are different strategies to get the members engaged and active.  I know that because our SPU Digital Educational Leadership cohort meets every week and we have assignments we are expected to have ready it makes me more professional accountable.  If our cohort did not meet in a routine calendared manner I am not sure I would get my work down and continue to push myself independently of the program.

The overall general design principle summarized from this study is: If teachers want to design online learning environments for the purpose of coordinating and monitoring the collaborative learning process they are advised to implement the dimensions of meaningful learning and collaboration.


Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017, January 05). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

Marcinek, A. (2014, May 20). Tech Integration and School Culture. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from

Tan, A. (2010). Wikis. In Chai, C.S., & Wang, Q. (Eds.), ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning (pp. 783 – 795). Singapore: Pearson.


Peer vs. Peer Coach vs. Coach (Module 2, ISTE-CS)

I have a million and one questions this quarter as we continue to think about peer coaching and the ISTE Coaching Standards. Most of them seem to center on two main questions:

  1. What is it that we do? What does this master’s program qualify someone to do?
  2. What is peer coaching?

As a start to an answer for 1, I think one of the things a digital education leader can do is peer coach, and of course one of the lenses a DEL peer coach will bring to the table is that of integrating education and technology. But in order to understand what that means, I need a clearer understanding of peer coaching. In my last blog post I wrote about the difference between a coach and an expert, and for this post I’m focusing on the differences between a peer, peer coach, and coach. My guiding question has been:

As a peer coach, am I primarily a peer, or primarily a coach? How are these three roles the same or different?

In peer coaching there is an emphasis on the “peer” part, but the way I’ve been thinking about coaching seems fundamentally un-peer-like. I feel like I can easily see a difference between a peer and a coach (though I’m not sure I have the words yet to describe that difference). So is a peer coach more like a peer, or more like a coach? Are there ways in which a peer relationship is very different from a peer coaching relationship? Are we orienting towards each other in fundamentally different ways in the peer and peer coaching relationships?

Peer First

I’ll start off by saying I do feel like I have an answer to my guiding question: As a peer coach, I am primarily a peer.

I was super excited to find a resource that touched on the exact thing that was troubling me – that the word coach implies some sort of difference in status – and it was validating to find out that I’m not the only one who feels this way. What I found was an excerpt (the first chapter) to Pam Robbins’ (1991) book How to Plan and Implement a Peer Coaching Program. Reading these few sentences, in particular, really helped me bring my understanding of peer coaching into focus:

“Peer coaching is a confidential process through which two or more professional colleagues work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another; conduct classroom research; or solve problems in the workplace. Although peer coaching seems to be the most prominent label for this type of activity, a variety of other names are used in schools: peer support, consulting colleagues, peer sharing, and caring. These other names seem to have evolved, in some cases, out of teacher discomfort with the term coaching. Some claim the word coaching implies that one person in the collaborative relationship has a different status.”

My new understanding is that peer coaching is an activity that peers engage in together. Defining my primary role as a peer and our activity as peer coaching helps me understand the intention behind how people in a peer coaching relationship position each other. I see it as taking friends or peers who can care about each other, and putting them in a context where they are collaboratively engaged in the activity of improving and growing in some regard; for teachers, it would be the improvement and growth of teaching in order to better facilitate student learning.

To me, the general description above gets at the heart of peer coaching. Beyond that, there seem to be specific ways to implement peer coaching that would more or less count as having “high fidelity,” which I say based on reading Robbins’ (1991) book, Les Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, and Queensland Government’s (n.d.) PDF Peer Coaching Models Information. I trust that there is value in structuring the activity of peer coaching in the ways that they outline, but learning those ways takes time, as does developing those practices between people.

Moving Forward

I am now wondering about how to create the conditions that allow peer coaching to be implemented with fidelity, or to otherwise reach its full potential. Given my current work/school surroundings, I would like to consider what pieces of those conditions are already in place and what would be reasonable next steps to take in order to work towards peer coaching.

I would also like to look closely at the ISTE Coaching Standards again, now that I have a better understanding of peer coaching, in order to think about how those two things fit together.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE standards for coaches (2011). Retrieved from

Queensland Government. (n.d.). Peer coaching models information. Retrieved from

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

Coaching Reluctant Educators and Learning Generational Expectations

This week in the Digital Educational Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I am exploring the roles of communication and collaboration in peer coaching as they align with ISTE Coaching Standards 1 & 2. Foltos asserted that “A skillful coach uses communication skills to encourage a collaborating teacher to think more deeply about a topic or to help the teacher reflect” (2013).  It is important to create that balance between inquiry and advocacy due to the fact that our coaching plans do have a point and ensuring that we are communicating effectively will help us achieve our end goal. 

Of course, there are basic meeting guidelines like setting norms, building trust, and respecting time and space of the collaborating teacher.  Those elements do seem pretty basic at this point and although I am not going to fixate on them wholly I hope to examine the generational differences and expectations for peer coaching or meetings.  For example, in the past, I may have done something as simple as bringing my phone to a meeting and that could have set off a peer I was speaking to without me realizing it.  Therefore, I don’t necessarily believe in the necessity of these norms every single time you bring a peer relationship.

What communication techniques assist in persuading a reluctant learner to believe in a technology-enhanced learning experience for students?

While listening to the ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Social Media as an Educator: Modeling Digital Citizenship Daily Professionally and Personally,” presented by ISTE Digital Citizenship Network. The facilitators Nancy Stone Penchev a coding/I-lab teacher and Lauren Villaluz a Technology Integration Specialist in Oakland Schools in Michigan.  The webinar opened with a quote that I think we should keep in the back of our minds “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  I want to keep that quote in mind because right now the word “reluctant learners” as it pertains to teachers is depressing.  I loved how in education I felt like a forever learner and that requires change and evolution.

A couple of other ideas that came up near the end of the webinar should also be established as a point of reference.  If teachers do not start believing in a tech-enhanced learning experience for students they will not be able to help a student talk about “who’s writing their story online. Teachers will not be able to demonstrate how to become “proactive about your own digital footprint and to think carefully about how you represent yourself” online.  If reluctant learners do not start admitting that they too can fail and make mistake they will not have authentic conversations with students about their online life.  Education is shifting and as material goes online it is all about how the teachers handle mistakes made online and how important it is to “be the first to respond to your own mistakes, be upfront about the mistake and model how to handle it”.  This is how we move from just digital citizens to digital leaders in the classroom.  

But as all new things are scary we have to keep in mind some of the concerns that these reluctant learners have about online services and social media. “According to a 2009 report published by The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Microsoft titled, “Boomers and Technology: An Extended Conversation”, “Boomers” have a few 


minimum criteria when it comes to technology: They want technology to:”  

  • be safe and easy to use;
  • adapt to their specific needs;
  • connect each other;
  • act as a tool, not a tyrant;
  • be a force for good.

Other issues the reluctant learner has is that the service is too complicated, no training is available, and safety/security concerns.  Now for some of these people, it will be hard to convince them that even if they cover their camera on their laptop and turn off their Bluetooth on their cell phones that their data is still being collected. The idea that free is never free can’t be stressed enough and the only way the students are going to learn smart appropriate behavior is often from the teachers they interact with on a daily basis.

I suppose my thought process is two-fold on one side is how do we convince the reluctant learners that teaching technology and specifically safe actions on social media are essential but also the fact that they are not participating is a detriment to their students.  The first thing I want to establish is that when I interact with any reluctant educator I start by listening to all their concerns.  I want to start with an element of trust to demonstrate that I am on their side and by the end, I hope to show them how tools online can be used for good and are not always so evil.  Beginning with a demonstration and admission about how I have failed in my online life and how I have gotten tangled up in immature conversations on Facebook and Twitter and no matter what those posts stick around and follow me throughout my life.  Careers and education can slip through your fingers if when you Google yourself negative images or material pops up instead of positive actions and resumes. 



Dale, N. (2016, July 21). Why Instructional Design Must Focus on Learning Outcomes, Not Learning Activities – EdSurge News. Retrieved October 26, 2017, from

ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Social Media as an Educator: Modeling Digital Citizenship Daily Professionally and Personally. (2017, October 11). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from

Education Peer Coaching in the Digital Age – EDTC 6105

This quarter in my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am studying the practice of peer coaching. Throughout this quarter we will explore the ISTE coaching standards and specifically standard 1: Visionary Leadership.
Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 11.42.09 AMWhile I received peer coaching as a new educator and continually distribute peer coaching as I continue in my career, it is interesting to see how experts define the process.

What is peer coaching?

In the Digital Promise piece created by the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford, it states three of the most widely held definitions of peer coaching. “Some define coaching as a tool to develop teachers’ ability to identify how helpful an instructional strategy is in supporting student learning (Russo, 2004). Others describe teacher coaching as a mechanism to achieve fidelity of implementation of novel teaching practices (Devine, Meyers, & Houssemand, 2013). Salavert (2015) describes coaching as an “apprentice-based approach to support professional and personal development towards achieving set goals” (p. 2). Sutton et al. (2011) add that a coach “works collaboratively with a teacher” (p. 15).” But as we attempt to drill down a definition I appreciate something simple like “Coaching can… give educators the knowledge and skills they need to grow professionally and, in turn, serve the diverse needs of their students” (Digital Promise, 2017).  We as educators and professionals need to always keep the student in mind.  I intend to focus heavily on this element in my explanation of what is essential to peer coaching especially as it connects with edtech development.

What is essential in a peer coaching relationship?

Coaches can take several different approaches to the relationship they create when they enter into a peer coaching arrangement.  As we can see in the image there are four “common forms of coaching” and although I believe that the coactive approach is what I want to focus in on for my purposes this quarter.  It “entails the coach taking more a holistic approach by striving to help the client feel fulfilled and balanced” (Digital Promise, 2017, pg 6).  If the teacher who has entered into this relationship does not feel like their life is balanced and their schedule can handle a peer coaching relationship – how will they be able to learn anything from the situation?  Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 11.56.29 AM

Of course, there is also more to the arrangement but I want to keep those elements at the forefront to the rest of the setup of peer coaching.  As Les Foltos establishes in Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration that there are the four C’s to keep in mind when it comes to student success; Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.  As a peer coach to a professional educator though I will need to keep in mind other themes.


A coaching relationship needs to consist of willing participants, who are open to building trust with one another (Foltos, 2013).  This trust is the root of a working relationship that encourages boldness and growth.


It is essential to set goals and norms collaboratively. While it can begin with a school or district goal, it can also stem from goals set by the coaching partnership (Foltos, 2013).

Respect & Kindness

Setting a practice of respect and kindness is a separate consideration from participation. It is crucial to address time as a factor and be sensitive to both sides in a coaching relationship, and recognizing certification hours and/or compensation for work being done outside of the school day can adequately value the process.

What does it mean for a “coach” to implement a comprehensive use of technology to support a digital-age education for all students?

This year I have a new role outside of public education, and I am working with teachers in different states, different countries, and with decades of more experience than I have. But as I have read more and more research there is a clear divide between how teachers feel about using technology in their daily lives and how students think. In a recent presentation, I heard a stat that blew my mind “92% of teenagers are online every single day, and 24% are constantly and continually connected to the internet (Pew Research 2017).  With that being the case some of our educators are not only out of touch but with the continued exponential growth of data the divide is growing larger each day instead of each year or decade.  I know that each generation has felt this divide due to age and what is now as the “digital native” but I think something different is happening as I watch education professionals almost ward against technology instead of embracing it.

In a recent survey we did internally at Edmodo, we asked teachers who were active users last year to tell us why they did not come back.  We had about 11% of those who answered the survey (~400) tell us they went back to paper and pencil or paper and email instead of using an LMS.  When asked why they made this decision they said it is just “easier for them” and when I read that I can see those teachers who back away from technology.  Those teachers though are doing a disservice to our students and not meeting them where they are.  They can even create a sense of anxiety when they do not use technology because they are less accessible for the student.

Coactive Learner-Centered Peer Coaching

At first, when I started listening to the recorded panel discussion it was just for work, but then I realized that what they were talking about correlates with our peer coaching discussion.  As I look to the future and see the creation of plans which are really for the benefit for the administration and policymakers I want to address meeting the students where they are and what it means for a “comprehensive digital-age education for students.”

I believe that the peer coaches need to meet the peer or student where they are in their learning, time of day, and the mode of communication that works best for them.  The coach is a guide and cannot do the work for the person but must have a light nurturing touch when it comes to coaching.  Experienced peer coaches understand that one way to show respect to their peers is to learn with and from them.  It is very similar to teaching “the coach needs to show respect to get respect” (Foltos, 2013, chapter 1). I had used this phrase in teaching on several occasions when students were out of line or acting out, and they did not like my response.  “Well you have to show respect to get respect, ” and they would roll their eyes because they were teenagers but it works the same with peer professionals. 

As in the panel discussion put on by Higher EdSurge, it demonstrates that coaching on a one-on-one basis is vital at all levels of education and professional development.  If we can suspend the idea that we are teachers and not students I think that several of these ideas correlate with our reading.

Regarding student success especially a digital-age student what does that mean? Success is hard to measure – and even more so because it depends on who you are asking and they will give you different metrics to measure that success against. But for the panel discussion, it was college completion and how colleges are trying to help with success. Less than ½ of college students today finish their bachelor’s degree in four years. Minority and low-income students are graduated at the campus average.  

An example of how one company is trying to improve student success through coaching  Dwight Smith (Assistant Director of Programs at Beyond12).  He explains the experiences Beyond 12 provides and the intentional use of the word “Coaches.”  These people wear so many hats and interact with students in unique ways.  The word coach is a catch-all for all that they do for the students.  Beyond 12 does not see their work as a replacement to traditional advising in college but more of a compliment.  Encourage students to take advantage of that is available at the colleges they attend.  Coaches are recent college graduates, and the majority of them are first in the family to attend college.  Coaching comes from a place of understanding where the students are coming from and what they are going through. Near-peer model or virtual coaching – texting. Facebook, Snapchat, online and not necessarily in person. Beyond 12 believes in the “Co-active coaching model, students are creative and resourceful on the whole.” Guide them in curriculum, activities, and support in social-emotional issues, and the coaches try to balance. Continually communicate the college completion is one step in the process and is not the finish line. It is an important step in the process, but it is not the end of the line for their life.

Then Charles Thornburgh (CEO at Civitas) a big data analytics company, we are an outcomes company that secondary success for the economy by 2025.  Right now in the U.S., just 60% of students complete their bachelor’s degree and take on average six years to get there. For two-year college programs, only about a third of students achieve their certificate or associate degree within three years. The numbers are even more troubling when placed alongside rising tuition costs, which prevent many students from adding extra semesters to finish their program.

Some institutions are thinking about how to change that through tech-augmented academic advising. That can take some forms: from early-alert systems that flag students in need of extra support, to predictive analytics, to online (and increasingly self-service) degree-planning services.  But technology alone doesn’t help students get through the hardest parts of college: people do. In this meetup, EdSurge will ask experts about the shifting role of advisors, as well as how, when or even if technology should be used to intervene with students.

Finally, something in the K-12 arena needs to change, and I think that starts with providing this same type of human-to-human and tech-augmented peer coaching.  We do not want to lose any more teachers due to burn out.  We need to show them how technology can not only help their lives become more comfortable but will inevitably create produce students who will be much more successful in their future endeavors outside of college and university.

Reading and Resources

Ehsanipour, T., & Gomez Zaccarelli, F. (2017, July). Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education (Center to Support Excellence in Teaching – Stanford University, Ed.). Retrieved October, 13, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Higher EdSurge: Panel Discussion Coaches, Computers & College Completion: Can Tech Get More Students to a Degree? (2017, September 27). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from

Peer Coaching: Stronger Together

Tis the season…along every arterial median these days are multitudes of political signs with every catchy campaign slogan imaginable. There is one slogan during this campaign season I find relatable to this quarter’s class as we delve in to unpacking the ISTE Coaching Standards, specifically Standard 1: Visionary Leadership: Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and […]

The Makings of a Successful Professional Development Program

This quarter in the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University I am focused on the fourth standard of the ISTE Coaching Standards, Professional Development and Program Evaluation:

Technology coaches conduct needs assessments, develop technology-related professional learning programs, and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning.

Over the last several weeks, my classmates and I have learned how to implement a successful professional development program and I have identified the following elements as being most useful when evaluating a professional development program:

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Sadly, professional development is generally “something that is ‘done’ to teachers” (Pilar, 2014). Teachers need opportunities to explore their own interests and venture into those topics at a personalized level that works for their individual learning styles. In a study conducted by the Center for Professional Education, it was found that “90% of teachers reported participating in some form of professional development, and they also reported that it was not helpful in their practice. Thus, professional development is happening, but it is not effective” (Blattner, 2015). Imagine a place where teachers drive their learning by expressing their interests, learning at their own pace, implementing their discoveries and reflecting on their current and future practices. … Read More

Individualized Professional Development through Mentorship

Last semester I began my exploration of the ISTE Coaching Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. This semester I continue that inquiry, while paying particular attention to the fourth standard, Professional Development and Program Evaluation. This standard, more so than any other, delves deep into the topic and addresses several areas of importance:

Technology coaches conduct needs assessments, develop technology-related professional learning programs, and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning:

a. Conduct needs assessments to inform the content and delivery of technology-related professional learning programs that result in a positive impact on student learning
b. Design, develop, and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment learning experiences using a variety of research-based, learner-centered instructional strategies and assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students
c. Coach teachers in and model engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles, research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience
d. Coach teachers in and model design
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Reflections on Peer Coaching: Experiences and Essentials

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a new teacher. I considered the additional challenges that face new teachers in the first few months of school and transitioned from an advocate to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to build lessons together. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

How can a school without a peer coaching program still benefit from the peer coaching method?

As part of my reflection, I am considering how I can continue to engage in peer coaching practices without a defined structure already at my school. While an official program would be beneficial, I have come to see that it is not critical. Perhaps the label of peer coach is not the most meaningful piece. Rather, the tools I’ve learned from studying peer coaching can really be transferred to any collaborative practice.

What is essential to support and sustain your success as a coach? What support do you need from your school to support success in your coaching work?

Research by Jewett and MacPhee (2012) suggested that collaboration and peer coaching is most successful when communities are focused on similar goals and are willing to share experiences. My colleague Marsha Scott was insightful to wonder why this is often such a difficult task. This would certainly be a place to focus my energies in future practice.

Foltos (2015) wrote that schools who only dip their toes into the peer coaching world don’t often see lasting impact. In order for coaching to be most successful, coaches and principals have to engage in an ongoing relationship, establishing plans that consider school or district initiatives and engage the willing (Foltos, 2015). How does this process begin? Often teachers don’t know how to approach colleagues about peer coaching, fearing that colleagues might find it “at best uncomfortable and at worse presumptuous”  (Jewett & MacPhee, 2012, p. 106). While I have noticed that via my work, a few teachers have brought along inquiries or an interest in feedback, administrative support to identify interested parties for might be useful. Sharing out our experience to others could also open the door to others. Even without widespread implementation, the success of one partnership shared with the larger school community can engage both interested and disinterested parties (Foltos, 2015).

Another idea to establish a culture of peer coaching practices came from The Harvard Business Review. Ferazzi (2015) highlights that staff meetings can be used to practice collaborative strategies. Such a practice would shift the intention of meetings from information dissemination to a forum for collective problem solving (Ferazzi, 2015). This leaves everyone in the room positioned as a resource of expertise (Ferazzi, 2015).

Once a coaching relationship is established, establishing equal partnerships is critical (Jewett & MacPhee, 2012). It is important that the needs and interests of the collaborating partner are at the forefront of the work. Otherwise, the practice can become inauthentic (Jewett & MacPhee, 2012). My current peer coaching relationship developed out of a mentorship with a new teacher. While our initial work primarily focused on daily needs, it has purposefully transitioned into a collaborative partnership centered on my collaborating partner’s needs and interests.

What worked well? What needs to change?

Together, my collaborating partner and I designed lessons that addressed differentiation within our secondary social studies curriculum, a topic of interest for her. We utilized online differentiation tools, like NewsELA, to teach current events driven by student interest and choice. We crafted lessons that utilized homogenous and heterogeneous groupings to jigsaw textbook content into mini-projects, designed for students to analyze and synthesize information into creative content.  21st century skills were addressed, essential questions were defined …and redefined, a focus on differentiation was maintained, and technology was organically implemented. We set SMART goals to address students’ ability to analyze evidence in support of claim and scaffolded lessons towards this goal. Of particular note was also our ability to move beyond “just in time” meetings. Finally, the collaboration left both of us with useful ideas for the future. If we were to follow-up on this lesson design, the goal would be to get even further along in the lesson design process, and to incorporate problem-based tasks, discuss assessment practices tied to standards, and craft student directions.

What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

"Communication is the key" by Sebastien Wiertz is licensed under CC 2.0.

“Communication is the key” by Sebastien Wiertz is licensed under CC 2.0.

One of my most significant personal goals was to develop communication skills, to include active listening, paraphrasing, clarifying questions, and probing questions (Foltos, 2013). I believe my participation in peer coaching was a successful exercise in raising my comfort level with these skills. I did a lot more active listening, restraining myself from advocacy in sharing past experiences and suggesting tools. My active listening and paraphrasing also created opportunities for recognition of my partner’s successes in the classroom. In the future, I would seek regular feedback from my collaborating partner as well by asking questions like, “Is this approach to collaboration working for you?”

What additional professional learning do you need to become a more effective coach?

While I feel that I have a baseline understanding of what being a peer coach looks like, seeking out additional online or face-to-face training could be beneficial. Engaging in professional learning communities, like those on Twitter can be a useful starting place. One example is the ISTE EdTechCoachesNetwork, or the hashtag #etcoaches to find engage in useful professional conversations.


Ferazzi, Keith (2015). Use your staff meeting for peer-to-peer coaching. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

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

Foltos, L. (2015). Principals boost coaching’s impact: school leaders’ support is critical to collaboration. Journal Of Staff Development, 36(1), 48-51,.

Jewett, P., & MacPhee, D. (2012). Adding collaborative peer coaching to our teaching identities. The Reading Teacher, 66(2), 105-110.

Reflections of a Peer Coach

Peer Coach Straightening

While the entire Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University is designed to be a hands-on experience which embeds learning opportunities into students’ current workplace, this course, in particular, provided students with a meaningful opportunity to practice our newfound skills in a professional environment. Under the tutelage of Dr. David Wicks, Associate Professor and Chair of the Digital Education Leadership program and Dr. Les Foltos, Director of Educational Innovation at Peer-Ed and author of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, students were trained as peer coaches and we worked with a collaborating teacher from our respective schools. I chronicled that learned and the skills I obtained in posts throughout the quarter and now, as this course comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the work that was done and thinking about how to sustain my skills as a peer coach in the future.

The importance of peer coaching practice in schools became evident to me very quickly into the quarter. Teachers that are supported create students that are successful. Well-renowned researchers of teaching methods and staff development, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, have found that teachers that have been coached generally demonstrate the following:

  • Practiced
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