Module 2 Exploration: How can I successfully build peer to peer learning experiences with faculty, including peer coaching opportunities, in a higher education setting?
ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership
d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms
ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences
This scene from The Big Bang Theory (with bonus subtitles) accurately depicts a conversation where both participants aren’t feeling listened to; in fact, they are speaking about completely different topics within a the same conversation and both want empathy and understanding from one another, though they aren’t willing to give empathy and understanding themselves. Although Leonard tried to establish a norm of listening and responding, the lack of empathy, inquiry, and equal contribution to the conversation made it impossible for the conversation to go anywhere and ultimately left both Sheldon and Leonard frustrated.
Like many relationships and partnerships, successful communication between a group is not possible without established trust and respect. In fact, I was recently reminded by the article “Ahhhh! Emotions in My Classroom” that practicing communication and collaboration skills is not merely for adult peer relationships, but is something we can consistently practice and model for our students. Like building trust and respect among students in a classroom, a rapport needs to be built between members of a Professional Learning Network before successful communication and collaboration can happen. This rapport can come from an intentional commitment to norms that are created prior to working together (Foltos, 2011). Some commonly established norms that help increase trust and respect are:
- Avoid side conversations
- Say on agenda
- Listen respectfully
- Discuss issues, not people,
- Assume positive intentions (Meyer et al., 2011r)
While establishing a set of norms prior to working together can establish trust and respect for a group, rapport can also be built more informally and often leads to further opportunities for professional growth. In Everyday Conversations as a Context for Professional Learning and Development, Niel Haigh highlights how conversations between colleagues, where a rapport has already been established often lead to the kind of relationship and professional development peer coaches desire. A balance of inquiry and advocacy makes a conversation successful, “where people expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others” (Senge, 1990, p. 9). Haigh focuses on the prerequisite of “conversation” before “discussion,” which I felt echoed the communication skills highlighted in chapter 5 of Peer Coaching, where trust and respect, as well as communication and collaboration norms preceded any discussion or plan to move forward with an idea.
There are four key communications skills that are norms of collaboration, as introduced by Les Foltos in Peer Coaching:
- Active Listening: body language, block out competitive thoughts, let the speaker fully finish
- Paraphrasing: designed to focus on the speaker, don’t include the pronoun I
- Clarifying Questions: simple and factual, designed to get full picture
- Probing Questions: start with a paraphrase, encourage learner to dig deeper, increase ownership
The main takeaway is that even if the responder/peer coach has the answer, the coach is asked to erase that answer from his or her mind and focus on helping the learner “…formulate their strategies. It is ultimately their answer” (Grace Dublin, p. 85). Ann Hayes-Bell shared some excellent resources for peer coaches from the School Reform Initiative of probing question sentence starters that put the learner’s need at the center. ISTE-C Standard 2 outlines a coach’s responsibility to “coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences.” This is wholly impossible without creating a learning environment of trust, collaboration, and respect. Ultimately, it’s impossible to implement technology innovations within schools and classrooms if a relationship of trust, respect, and collaboration is not created between a peer coach and a learning partner.
(2012, November 16). Bad Listeners. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TeOGJP5vGA
Eynon-Lynch, M., & Gehlsen, M. (2016, October 12). Ahhhh! Emotions in My Classroom. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from https://medium.com/pear-deck/ahhhh-emotions-in-my-classroom-8c70487b5b3e#.4gnr63aag
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Neil Haigh (2005): Everyday conversation as a context for professional learning and development, International Journal for Academic Development, 10:1, 3-16
Senge, P. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: strategies and tools for building a learning organization. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing