Developing Peer Coaching Skills


Setting Collaborative Norms for Peer Coaching

As an educator and a peer coach-in-training, I am investigating the world of peer coaching and its positive effect on improving teaching and learning in our schools.

In last week’s post, I explored the roles and responsibilities of peer coaching by examining one key aspect of coaching: successful coaching is built around the trusting relationship between a coach and the collaborative teacher. Glancing at this week’s ISTE standards in coaching and teaching, Coaching Standard 1D and Teaching Standard 2, the focus centers on visionary leadership and developing collaborative and communication skills between coaches and teachers.

In education, it is known that “Schools must create opportunities for leaders, leadership teams, and teachers to engage in learning through collaborative opportunities. These collaborative opportunities enhance practice, teacher satisfaction, and student learning” (as cited in Carr, Herman, & Harris, 2005, p. 81). Knowing these statements play a significant part in peer coaching, the next link in the coaching chain is to consider the roles that communication and collaboration skills play when coaching. This prompt lead me to inquire,

Why is it important for coaches and their collaborative partners to apply norms or protocols in order to improve collaborative skills?

In a recent face-to-face meeting with professors and the cohort, our discussion focused on the first planning meeting between the coach and collaborative teacher. In addition, the group was introduced to Foltos’ (2015) Norms for Collaboration. This document provided a definition and discussion on the establishment of norms and protocols for collaboration. As I listened to the conversations, I began to reflect deeply on the benefits of norms and how they relate to the improvement of collaboration and better communication skills.

In Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, there is a section on norms ( pp.79-83) that emphasizes the need to establish ground rules when creating a collaborative relationship with teachers or with a group. These norms are designed to keep the meeting focused and to keep participants accountable for their actions (p.80).

Being familiar with “ground rules” from our problem solving meetings at school, I noticed before each meeting, the facilitator would place a table tent of norms and faithfully ask members to abide by them during the session. By establishing these norms, the meetings were more focused and participants were given adequate time to share their points of view. Furthermore, Foltos (2013) goes on to explain that there are other norms which need to be included, collaborative norms which were developed by Garmston and Wellman (cited by Foltos, p. 81). These particular norms encourage the discussion of ideas, show respect for the ideas of others, and build positive relationships (p.81).

Collaborative Norms

The next task was to examine collaborative norms when working with a learning partner or a small group. While exploring this week’s assignment, I discovered that even the U.S. Department of State recognizes the importance of norms. They suggest the seven norms for collaborative work and identify several other skills to use when collaborating with groups of people. These norms are as follows:

  • Pausing
  • Paraphrasing
  • Probing
  • Putting forth ideas
  • Paying attention to self and others
  • Presuming positive presuppositions
  • Pursuing a balance between advocacy and inquiry (U.S. Department of State, n.d.)

The article continues to emphasize that applying norms is essential for collaboration.

The groups that are most in need of the skills of collaboration are often those most resistant to them. Groups functioning most effectively are the same ones which recognize the need for regular collaboration training; those in trouble are very often the ones which are too busy to examine how they are working together or how they are failing to work together (n.d. par. 9).

If developing norms for small group accountability is crucial when collaborating, then this could also be applicable to peer coaching. To reiterate what Foltos (2014) said, “Collaborative norms shape coaching conversations in ways that build trust and respect; they define accountability and build capacity. Collaborative norms are essential for effective coaching” (p.30). They define accountability and build capacity. This statement takes norms or protocols to a different level of collaboration. The intent of having norms is to develop the conversations between coaches and teachers, it guides them towards better communication. Norms also define “who owns the responsibility for learning” (Foltos, 2013, p. 65). In addition, Foltos (2014) noted that,

When teachers come to a coach to discuss an issue they are grappling with, the coach helps them puzzle it out. There is both individual and collective accountability. Jim Knight’s research (2011) on instructional coaching led him to conclude that joint accountability is an essential element of successful partnerships. While joint accountability is important, ultimately the collaborating teacher develops the answer that he or she brings back to the classroom to implement. The teacher has drawn on what he or she learned with and from the coach and taken that learning to shape a solution (p. 30).

Therefore, “without agreement on roles and responsibilities, coaches and their peers may find that coaching can founder [sic] or fail”(Foltos 2014).

Final Thoughts

As I reflect over the readings for the week and begin to formulate a coaching plan with my collaborative teacher, norms will need to be established during our first meeting.  My understanding is that by defining the roles and responsibilities between the coach and teacher, we are working towards establishing accountability for our own learning. This may also be the key to becoming a successful coach.


Carr, J. F., Herman, N., & Harris, D. E. (2005). Creating Dynamic Schools Through Mentoring, Coaching, and Collaboration. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from

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

Foltos, L. (2014). The secret to great coaching, Learning Forward, 35(3). Retrieved from

Foltos, L. (2015). Norms for collaboration. Peer-Ed. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of State. (n.d.) Seven norms of collaborative work. Retrieved from


Thought process on Module 3:











Exploring What it Means to be a Peer Coach


Created using Tagul by Annie Tremonte

This quarter in my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am studying the practice of peer coaching. I have arrived to the table unsure of this role and ready to explore the model alongside my cohort of peers who come from rich and diverse educational environments. So, I am starting with the basics.

What is peer coaching?

While I have not worked in a school with peer coaches before, I have heard the term used in the past. Unfortunately, I have been disinterested because of my perception that it was a form evaluation. In an age when teachers are often blamed for educational malpractice, it is easy to be defensive. Additionally, while the practice of observation is often highlighted as a helpful component of coaching, it is closely tied with evaluation. Since I might not be alone in this perception, perhaps perception is an important consideration when implementing a peer coaching model. In order to address perception, it is best to start with the what before the how. According to Foltos (2013),  “A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st century learning activities” (p. 3). Integral to this process is a coach’s ability to guide a peer towards autonomy (Foltos, 2013). It is also a collaborative process between two peers, not a hierarchy of superiority. Transparency in these goals can also perhaps go a long way in establishing an effective practice.

What is essential for successful coaching?

Based upon the work of Foltos (2013) and my own experiences, the following themes have become apparent.


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


It is important 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).


Establishing modes of respect is a separate consideration from participation. It is important to address time as a factor in a coaching relationship, and recognizing certification hours and/or compensation for work being done outside of the school day can properly value the process.

How do you create a peer coaching model that doesn’t suggest or feel like an evaluation system?

Coaching a New Teacher

As I consider my peer coaching plan for this year, one challenge I am facing is where to focus my energies. This year I am both a mentor to a new teacher, and an Educational Technology Lead running professional development with teachers interested in working on student-centered technology integration. I hope to reflect upon engagement in coaching practices in both of these arenas. Engaging in a coaching relationship with a new teacher might pose some unique challenges. First, the title of mentor unfortunately connotes a superior, rather than a peer. Additionally, new teachers often have many more daily goals associated with learning important instructional knowledge that can make falling into the role of advisor all too easy.

My own peer, Becky Todd, suggested a resource that immediately addressed the topic of working with beginning teachers. Biza, Joel, and Nardi (2015) wrote that new teachers bring an energy to the classroom, but that they also have an endless barrage of new information to sort through, as well as problems to solve. Biza et. al (2015) suggested that reflection is the most important skill for a new teacher. While this resource was focused on mathematics instruction, it showcased how reflection can be used specifically with the interplay of classroom management and content. Additionally, one of my colleagues, Becky Todd, reminded me that sometimes new teachers are so overwhelmed that anything beyond support can be challenging. 

Types of Coaching

In “How Administrators Support Peer Coaching,” Garmeston (1987) promoted three different types of coaching: technical, collegial and challenge coaching. Technical coaching consists of taking a training received in professional development and using coaching to implement it into the classroom (Garmeston, 1987). With technical coaching, there is a tendency to become evaluative in practice (Garmeston, 1987). The second type of coaching is collegial coaching, which seeks to hone teaching abilities, while build a working relationship between a coach and the teacher being coached. This type of coaching reiterates the need for reflective practices addressed by Biza, Joel and Nardi (2015). In this model, the priorities established by the teacher being coached are paramount. As such, a collegial coach might guide the teacher to reflect on and analyze how choices in the classroom have an effect on student learning and achievement. (Garmeston, 1987). The third type of coaching, challenge coaching, is used to address a problem faced by one or more teachers (Garmeston, 1987). While all, slightly different, they all rely on administrative support according to Garmston (1987). Reviewing these leads me to believe that collegial coaching might be the most appropriate type of coaching for work with a new teacher.

Coaching vs. Evaluating

One additional resource, which was recommended by my peer Marsha Scott, discussed the difference between a coach and an evaluator. Tschannen-Moran and Tschannen-Moran (2011) stated that bureaucratic systems drive evaluation and rely on a hierarchy of superiority. Alternatively, professional systems drive development and rely on collaboration and reflection (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011). Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran (2011) stated that often professional systems do not get the same attention that bureaucratic systems do. Perhaps this is due to pressures and directives from district and state levels to produce quantifiable data of achievement and performance. The consequence is that “Rules replace trust, communications become constrained, people hide problems, management becomes intrusive, and cooperation is withheld” (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011, p. 12).

One of the other main points from this resource was that coaching is all too often an effect or consequence of evaluation (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011). Teachers who earn a poor evaluation are placed into coaching relationships; as a result, the loss of a job can then be a consequence or effect of poor coaching (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011). 

So, knowing that these two systems have to function in harmony with one another, how is this possible?

Evaluation guarantees that all teachers and school employees meet agreed-on minimum standards of competent performance. Coaching invites all school employees to grow beyond those agreed-on minimums to more fully realize their potential and better serve their clients (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011, p.13).


Just like a classroom should aspire to create a student-centered learning environment, so too should a coaching relationship focus on the needs and drives of the teacher before the coach. Tschannen-Moran and Tschannen-Moran (2011) shared that “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed” to suggest that change has to come from within (p.15). A coach needs to only support this process.


Tschannen-Moran and Tschannen-Moran (2011) also stated that a coach should shift the focus away from taking personal responsibility for failures. This seems counterintuitive. The rationale is that when something doesn’t work in the classroom, coaching isn’t the place for blame. Rather, it is a place for seeking feedback. When blame is removed from the scenario, instructional improvement is less about passing or failing an expectation and more about continuous learning and growth. As a result, this might in reduce the propensity to be on the defensive when asked about teaching practices (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2011). Doing so separates the practice of coaching from the anxiety experienced with evaluation.


Finally, it is important to focus as much on achievements and abilities as opportunities for improvement. According to Tschannen-Moran and Tschannen-Moran (2011), functioning under the assumption that a teacher’s practice is already based in capability, sets a tone for a peer learner who is self-driven to innovate and meet goals.

My understanding of a peer coach’s role remains tentative at best. However, I am gaining insight into how my perceptions of a coach were limited. The following image represents my thought process as I navigated this initial exploration, and I am looking forward to sorting through my continuously emerging questions.



Biza, I., Joel, G., & Nardi, E. (2015). Transforming trainees’ aspirational thinking into solid practice. Mathematics Teaching, (246), 36-40.

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

Garmston, R. (1987). How administrators support peer coaching. Educational Leadership, 44(5), 18. Retrieved from

Tschannen-Moran, B., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2011). The Coach and the Evaluator. Educational Leadership, 69(2), 10-16. Retrieved from


ISTE Coaching Standard 1

A Key Ingredient for Peer Coaching- Building Trust


Peer Coaching

A new quarter has begun in the second year of the graduate course, Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. Throughout the course, our cohort will focus on the ISTE Coaching Standards . The ultimate goal for this course is to create a coaching plan with a collaborative partner or teacher.

This first module delves into standard 1, which addresses the vision of developing and implementing technology plans within a school. This post will attempt to address the importance of building a relationship between the coach and teacher as they plan, develop, and implement technology in the classrooms.

To better understand the concept of the coaching role, this week’s trigger event question asks, “What is essential for successful coaching?” While reading the assignments for this week, I reflected on the significance of coaches building trust with their collaborative partners. As a result, I developed this question for the exploration of standard 1:

How does building a trusting relationship between the coach and the collaborative partner relate to the improvement of teaching practices and student learning?

Defining Peer Coaching

According to authors, Carr, Herman, and Harris, peer coaching  “is a partnership that can assist teachers in the improvement of instruction by engaging in the study of the teaching craft and builds collegiality among pairs of teachers” (Carr, Herman, and Harris, 2005, p. 91). A peer coach works alongside the collaborative partner. As there are many key elements essential for becoming a successful peer coach, one vital component is building a trusting relationship with the teacher. In the book, Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning, author Pam Robbins recognizes that a prerequisite to successful coaching is the ability to build trust with the teacher.

Trust must be present in order to have meaningful conversations about practice. Trusting relationships among professional colleagues are often the missing ingredient needed to sustain Peer Coaching success. For instance, in the United States and abroad, many literacy and math coaches are failing in their efforts to change instructional practice and promote learning because, although they have exceptional content-area knowledge, they are not taking the time to focus on the meaningful underpinnings (relationship building and trust) that are a requisite part of results-oriented coaching (Robbins, 2015, chapter 1).

Robbins further shared that principals who participated in peer coaching noted that with increasing trust, professional development activities increased. Teachers took the initiative to address teaching practices and to build on improving student learning with coaches and colleagues (Robbins, 2015). As superintendent Renee Schuster reflected with Robbins about peer coaching in her school district, “Finally, kindness, encouragement, and respect go a long way in fostering a culture of coaching” (cited from Robbins, 2015). Building the trust between coaches and teachers sets the stage for improving professional learning and student learning.

Building Trust with Collaborative Partners


After reading this week’s chapter 1 in Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, it appears that one essential piece in developing trust is learning to actively listen and then carefully choosing when to advocate ideas (Foltos, 2013). Furthermore, it was noted that coaches learn to “emphasize inquiry over advocacy” as a step towards building relationships with teachers ( p. 21). By asking probing questions, coaches are building capacity within teachers to improve instructional practices in the classroom. Inquiry leads to effective communication skills and towards building trust and respect with the collaborative partner. Adding to this idea of communication, colleague Ryan Ingersoll  noted,

As they [coaches and partner] build relationships with each other and trust, they (including me) were able to be more honest and vulnerable to share their inefficiencies and ask more personal questions. I think this was so helpful for improving student learning and teaching practices because many of them realized they weren’t alone. It was a domino effect when more people shared honestly others were more likely to. Then they were able to bounce ideas off of each other and try new things that tackle the real issues (deep down issue) not just a surface-level issue (R. Ingersoll, personal communication, October 5, 2015).

Communication Skills

Establishing a relationship with the collaborative teacher involves not only trust but interpersonal skills such as the ability to effectively communicate with others. Linda King  a peer coach from Yakima, Washington shares the value of creating a trusting relationship between a coach and colleague. A coach is a “trusted, skilled colleague who is down the hall when needed-provides teachers with the kind of safety net that encourages them to take risks to improve learning” (Peer-ed, 2010). When teachers are allowed to be open and candid, they are free to express their “enthusiasms and concerns” (Knight, 20). Building trust through dialogue provides partners to express their opinions and ask questions without the fear of feeling incompetent as a coach or teacher. The fact is that coaches and teachers are learning from each other by listening and they value the opinions of each other. My professor, Dr. David Wicks noted,  

On one hand we (the coaches) may be worried about being found out to be a fraud because we lack experience and knowledge. On the other hand the person we coach may worry that we will find out that they lack pedagogical, content, and/or technological knowledge. How do we assure the collaborating teacher that our motives are pure and that we are here to help them improve their instruction? (D. Wicks, personal communication, October 6, 2015).


Highlights from the YouTube video, “Coaching Conversations” provide insight from several educators who shared their perspectives as a peer coach. Peer coaching is often seen as a professional development model to improve on teaching practices, such as:

  • learning alongside the teacher
  • creating a comfortable environment
  • teachers trying something new and receiving support; taking risks
  • listening and bouncing off ideas; positive experience
  • be knowledgeable in the area, not necessarily an “expert”
  • combining experiences/ learning from the collaborative teacher (2011).

Another colleague, Annie Tremonte commented on the importance of developing a trusting relationship.

I immediately thought about the willingness of collaborative teachers to be willing to open their doors, take risks and admit both frustration and failure on the journey to improving instructional practice. This seems to only be possible with a trusting a relationship at the core” (A. Tremonte, personal communication, October 4, 2015).

Final thoughts…

As I reflect back on the beginning of this post, I am beginning to better understand that  it takes time to build a trusting relationship with a collaborative teacher. Although time consuming, it is a crucial step that must not be ignored.  In order to begin improving teaching practices and student learning, the first steps necessary for a successful relationship between a coach and collaborative teachers are for coaches to listen, to inquire, to communicate effectively, and to collaborate all the while “we are learning with and from our peers” (L. Foltos, personal communication, October 7, 2015).

As I move towards the next step of this assignment, I will begin to consider planning and developing a coaching plan. Several factors to consider are that 1) it needs to align with the school’s improvement plans or SIP and 2) it should reflect the needs of the collaborative teacher and on student achievement.

Outline for Module 1: My thought process on the essentials for successful coaching

Introduction: Explanation for building trusting relationships

What does it look like? Building trust by…

  1. Listening/being a partner,not a supervisor
  2. Communication skills by asking questions p. 20 Peer Coach bk.
  3. Collaborating with the teacher; feedback


  1. develop a shared vision of instruction; set goals
  2. maintaining a level of consistency; alignment of standards


  • What are the next steps? Developing a plan between the peer coach and collaborative teacher.
  • Involve the building administrator


  1. 2010 (n.d.). Peer Coaching Overview, Peer-ed, LLC. Retrieved from
  2. Carr, Judy F., Herman, Nancy, and Harris, Douglas E.. Creating Dynamic Schools Through Mentoring, Coaching, and Collaboration. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 16 October 2015.
  3. Coaching Conversations [Video File]. Retrieved from
  4.   Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration (pp. 16-22). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
  5. Knight, J. (2011). What Good Coaches Do. Educational Leadership, 69 (2). Retrieved from
  6. Peer Ed. July 11, 2011. Coaching Conversations. [Interview audio file].
  7. Robbins, Pam. (May 2015.) Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning (Chapter 1). Retrieved from:


Reflections on EDTC 6104

Reflection for EDTC 6104 (1)

During the summer quarter, the EDTC 6104 course for the Digital Education Leadership program focused on the ISTE Coaching standards, but specifically on standard 3: how technology coaches “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.”

To begin the four week course, Professors @RMoeJo and @ellenjdorr assigned readings and discussions based on the following ideas:

  • technology as a why and a when rather than a what and a how
  • the fluidity of environments and how technologies can augment, supplement, support or even harm spaces
  • the role of technology as a tool to promote learning as well as teaching
  • how to support faculty in the development of an ease and economy in their use of digital technologies and environments in the classroom (Moe & Dorr, 2015).

The first bullet listed above reshaped my thinking as a teacher. When I introduce a technology tool to a colleague it’s usually, “This is ‘what’ you can use…” Followed by, “This is ‘how’ you use it.” I was not providing colleagues with the ‘why’  it should be used. It was through the course project, that I had to push myself to think about technology as ‘why and when’. Colleagues in the cohort helped me ruminate through this by providing feedback on my blogs. I realized how important it is to have the research support your practice, so it can provide credibility to any plan.

What are you biggest take-aways? What has stuck with you the most? (Steighner & Henrikson, 2015)

The biggest take aways this quarter were creating the ideal digital learning environment, learning to utilize the Blog hub for postings and the benefits of utilizing the Tuning Protocol as a collaborative reflection tool.

This quarter, students in the DEL program designed their own ideal digital learning environment for their current practice. My action plan focused on gradually improving the ELL learning environment at my school by implementing staff development for paraeducators and a rotation model for students. Phase 1 of the plan will begin in September.

At the beginning of the quarter, I was curious to know how the hub would house our blogs and its overall purpose. But by the end of the course, I found it quite useful to have the syllabus, course readings, and blogs in one place.

The Tuning Protocol tool was a very effective resource to use with our action plans. As I mentioned in my post, “Fine-Tuning My Digital Learning Environment,” going through the process helped me think deeper about my project. Since I was the first presenter, I was a little disoriented when the next presenter began because I was now a participant  and unsure of my new role. To benefit from the Tuning Protocol step 4: “Examination of student work samples”, next time I should focus on the presenter’s plan or implementation section, instead of trying to read from the  beginning. For me, reading 15-20 pages was too much information to absorb and comment on in 15 minutes. @MrsBTodd ‘s infographic on the Tuning Protocol is a wonderful visual that succinctly displays the whole process.

How do you foresee yourself using this knowledge in the future? (Steighner & Henrikson, 2015)

The ISTE coaching standard 3 taught this quarter led me to proceed to the next step in my journey: leadership roles. For the next school year, I am working with the school’s technology team and the technology coach. My goal is to continue using the technology tools learned in my DEL course when presenting to colleagues. Thinking about the future, I foresee myself continuing to learn about coaching and inspiring educators to deepen their knowledge in the use of technology in order to enhance student learning experiences.


Moe, R. & Dorr, E. (2015). Digital learning environments [Class syllabus]. Digital Education Leadership, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.

Steighner, C. & Henrikson, R. (2015). Teaching, Learning, and Assessment II. Digital Education Leadership, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.




Fine-Tuning My Digital Learning Environment



For this quarter, focus is on digital learning environments and incorporating the ISTE Coaching standard 3, which addresses how technology coaches “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.” Students in the Digital Education Leadership program are in the process of creating their own ideal learning environment as a project for the course.

To provide constructive feedback on the progress of our action plans, the cohort recently participated in utilizing the Tuning Protocol tool. The Tuning Protocol is designed to support educators in “sharing their students’ work and, with colleagues, reflecting upon the lessons that are embedded there” (1999). The tool’s purpose is to collaborate with other educators to “refine their assessment systems, as well as to support higher quality student performance” (1999, para. 1). As we proceeded through the steps of the protocol, I pondered over the feedback from my peers. I then chose two areas to focus on as I work towards making my project a reality.

How did the Tuning Protocol move my action plan forward?

My ambitious action plan is to gradually change the English language learning environment from a traditional setting to a technology enriched setting. Why? Students are expected not only to comprehend and compose printed text, but as William Teale explains, students “require the skills to understand multimedia text”(cited by Nelson, 2015). For ELL students this is especially challenging since they are also acquiring a new language. By gradually changing the learning environment for ELL students and integrating lessons with technology, students will be better prepared when faced with taking online state assessments.

Originally, I wanted to redesign my own learning environment to integrate the new technology for students to use in the ELL class. Thinking about the entire ELL program and that it is comprised of two other staff members, I decided to include both staff members in redesigning the ELL environment. The action plan begins with staff training in the technology. Below is the first draft for  implementing the training:

Tech Training

  • Train the para-educators with using the new Chromebooks and how it will be used with students in grades 3-6. Model for para-educators using Google Apps for Education- docs and slides.
  • Train para-educators on how to use the interactive board and integrate the technology into lessons.
  • Introduce Common Sense Media to para-educators- students will need to have knowledge about internet safety and expectations before using the Chromebooks.
  • Provide updates for Imagine Learning program/ Scholastic News Magazine

During the Tuning Protocol activity, colleagues provided feedback that helped me reexamine my action plan. Two important points were clearly made about the technology aspect of my action plan. First, training the para-educators on how to use the technology is very important, but also to emphasize “why” the technology will be used to support the learning of students. Secondly, it was suggested that I select areas of the plan that are manageable to begin the school year. Such as gradually introducing training sessions to the para-educators instead of presenting all of the information at once. Also, before introducing the next phase of the plan, para-educators must have a clear understanding of the integration of the new technology .

As I deliberate over my action plan, I need to

  • Differentiate the short-term from the long-term goals of the project
  • Divide the plan into phases for the whole year
  • Consider how to sustain those goals and determine its success.


Nelson, J. (2015). Teaching in the #ageofliteracy. Literacy Today.33(1),pp. 18-21.

Blythe, T., Allen, D.,& Powell, B. (1999).Tuning protocol: overview.  Looking Together at Student Work. New York: Teachers College Press.

Revising a BYOD Action Plan: Creating an Online PD Space

Action Plan Feedback

This quarter, I have been working to develop an action plan centered around how the policy of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) fits into my ideal learning environment. Recently, my class came together for a face-to-face session to review emerging plans. We engaged in a practice known as a Tuning Protocol to receive feedback. Just as student learning isn’t as powerful in a vacuum, neither is the ongoing learning and development of educators. Dearman and Alber (2005) address using collaborative practices to analyze and reflect on student work, and claimed that the involvement of educators in reflection and decision making not only creates commitment, but propels and sustains instructional shifts. After my participation in this process, I can see how this would work.

I was astounded by the high level of my peers’ action plans. Their thoughtful reflections on their school learning environments seamlessly merged into their envisioned growth opportunities. The feedback I received on my own plan left me poised to dig deeper, clarify confusions, and make decisions about how it will all come together. For example, @EllenJDorr prompted me to remember that I have to address the connection between BYOD and student-centered learning. Student independence requires teachers to loosen some control over the use of technology in the classroom. Additionally, @Ingersoll_Ryan reminded me that it is not just about rationalizing the positive impacts of BYOD, but owning the distractions personal devices do cause. Yes, students will be distracted at times, and this will be challenging. However, we can own our role to instruct students how to manage this distraction.

Professional development has continued to be the focus of my plan. While I have continued to focus on the unconference model, I have struggled to articulate the research-based evidence of this choice. Additional research has highlighted the power of working in cohorts, who focus on content and engage in active learning (Desimone et al., 2002). The professional development cycle I graphically outlined above centers on these fundamentals. The first step of my plan involves introducing this professional development plan to staff. Many in my cohort suggested that I showcase what successful BYOD in the classroom looks like, share school demographics about student online and device use, and present the rationale for why BYOD benefits student learning, all in the pursuit of inviting staff to participate in the larger conversation (@MrsBTodd gave me a great suggestion to develop a simple infographic to distribute).

Finally, the feedback I received also pushed me to realize that I need jump in and start designing this professional development process. My biggest struggle has been how to blend the unconference model, which fosters interest and participant-driven conversations, with the inquiry model, which supports instructional growth via experimentation and collegial feedback. Participating in both of these practices led to my own instructional shifts this past year, so their value is fresh in my mind. So how do these two ideas come together? I thought the only way to figure this out was to start to build it…

Online Space

@RMoeJo asked me during the Tuning Protocol was how I envisioned an online space supporting these monthly sessions. I wasn’t sure. I decided that a website encompassing all of the moving parts might work. So, I started building one. Using Weebly, I concluded the elements below were crucial to this online professional development space.

  • No Log-Ins: With no passwords to remember or forget, both current and potential participants don’t have barriers to engaging online or just investigating
  • Everything in One Place: Once bookmarked, participants don’t need to check email separately for updates, remember a separate collaboration sites, or find files saved. It is all managed here.
  • Simplicity: Not too much to read or discern. Click and go.
  • Democracy: Three out of the five site pages are devoted to input by participants.

How This Works

The home page explains the process.


Session Schedule

A monthly calendar keeps the cycle aligned with real dates.


Suggestion Space

The embedded Padlet allows participants to suggest topics throughout the month and in real time. Ideas not chosen one month are kept here as potential topics for future sessions.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.28.08 PM



If participants need to ask for guidance as they experiment with a new ideas or tools, inquire about something said at the last session, or just solicit help…this is the forum for it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.32.35 PM


Resource Sharing

A term taken from my graduate coursework, the embedded Google Doc on this page is designed for collaboratively logging, storing, and referencing ideas and tools discussed.

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Created using Weebly, the site is also formatted for iOS and Android mobile devices…staying true to BYOD of course.

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What is my end goal?

I was asked during the Tuning Protocol about my end goal. This is an ambitious undertaking and I cannot begin to assume that my colleagues will be as excited about it as I am. That is okay. If I can start a conversation within my school and influence participants to engage in the conversation at all, I will count it as a success.


Dearman, C. C., & Alber, S. A. (2005). The changing face of education: teachers cope with challenges through collaboration and reflective study. The Reading Teacher, 58(7), 634-640.

Desimone, L., Porter, A., Garet, M., Yoon, K., & Birman, B. (2002) Effects of professional development on teachers’ instruction: results from a three-year longitudinal study. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Summer, 2002), pp. 81-112.


How BYOD Fits Into An Ideal Learning Environment

This week I am continuing to work on my Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) action plan as part of my Digital Learning Environments course at Seattle Pacific University. I am working to get to the heart of why utilizing personal devices in the classroom is part of an ideal digital learning environment. If I remove the word digital, I see that my ideal learning environment encourages students whose learning is a result of their personal curiosity. It challenges students to persist in their learning despite ongoing challenges. And, it develops a student that is able to adapt to shifting situations.

What does a learning space that supports the development of a curious, persistent and adaptable student look like? It is clear that challenging assignments and remediation do not make a student persistent in their achievement. Similarly, asking higher level thinking questions does not make a student curious. And, assigning students to different projects or partners does not make a student adaptable. These skills are learned through the fine craft of a teacher who focuses on each student as part of a larger puzzle. Students have individual needs: they learn at different paces, have different interests, and need support in different areas. Our classroom environment has to be one that challenges students when they are ready for it, encourages students when they need it and teaches lessons that require thinking alongside all types of people. It pushes students to ask questions stemming from their own inquiries and personal interests. It also creates a student who can reflect not only on what they have been learned, but how they have learned.

"High Ropes Course Climbing Forest" CSU under CC BY 2.0 Retrieved from

“High Ropes Course Climbing Forest” CSU under CC BY 2.0 Retrieved from

Engaging students in this type of environment requires an awareness of current cultural norms with emerging technology. Awareness of how today’s youth are using technology on their own time provides a window into possible approaches (Morris and Stommel , 2013). A lack of awareness can potentially short change our students and push them away from genuine learning experiences that they already understand, enjoy and want to expand upon (Morris & Stommel, 2013). Recently, my district conducted a survey of 8th graders, which included questions about technology. The survey results showed that 91% of 8th grade students had their own cell phone last year. Bringing personal devices means that students are arriving to school with some of the most modern applications available, and my ideal learning environment does not prevent students from accessing the most current tools used by society on a daily basis.

The use of personal devices in the classroom creates opportunities for students to not only access digital tools, but to own their learning literally and figuratively. They have a comfort level with their personal device. They care about their personal devices. Part of being curious and adaptable is being able to resolve individual challenges in real time. The challenges that come with BYOD are also some of the learning benefits. Troubleshooting setbacks on devices, as well communicating with peers to do so is not only real world, but builds a persistent and adaptable person. Personal devices in the hands of every student can also actively engage everyone in the room, motivating students to make choices about how to independently implement technology to meet the demands of a task. The technologies on personal devices are moving targets, putting students in charge, as they need to adapt and learn to dodge obstacles. An ideal learning environment involves students in this process. It includes teachers who are willing to work alongside students to navigate the confusions and shifts of emerging technology to support the development of these skills. This may create anxiety in education, but many effective shifts in educational practice have done just this (Morris & Stommel, 2013).

Morris, S. & Stommel, J. (2013) Why online programs fail, and 5 things we can do about it. [Web Post]. Retrieved from