After thinking hard about what peer coaching is and isn’t, I decided that it was time to go back to the ISTE Coaching Standards (CS). I had a few things on my mind, but overall, I was wondering:
How can I incorporate the ISTE-CS into my new understanding of peer coaching? Is the kind of coach described in the ISTE-CS compatible with peer coaching?
Incompatibility Between the ISTE-CS and Peer Coaching
My first impression of the compatibility between the ISTE-CS and a peer coach is that they are not necessarily compatible, but I should definitely elaborate on what I mean. What I mean is, if I imagine a person embodying all the things stated in the ISTE-CS, I imagine a person who is leading by example and actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education; neither of these characteristics are in line with the goal of peer coaching. They are by no means negative characteristics, they are just not characteristics of peer coaching.
I say this because I think “leading by example” is fairly synonymous with “leading as expert.” The idea of “leading by example” is to say “this example is one to follow and emulate,” and following in someone’s footsteps is a completely different picture than working as peers to discover the coachee’s path. When leading by example, the answers reside within the person leading, not within the person emulating; this is the opposite of peer coaching, where the answers reside within the coachee.
Additionally, ideally, a peer coach shouldn’t be pushing any sort of agenda, and I think “actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education” is starting to cross that line. I want to reiterate that this advocacy is not bad, it’s just not the goal of peer coaching. Of course, as humans, we can’t eliminate all biases from our work as a peer coach, but we should be careful when actively advocating for something.
Making the ISTE-CS Compatible with Peer Coaching
All that said, I do think that the ISTE-CS can inform peer coaching. Since “asking questions” is a hallmark of peer coaching, I decided that I wanted to try and use the ISTE-CS to come up with questions that I could ask, as a peer coach. I tried to keep the technology focus a separate part of the questions, when I could, to reduce the advocacy angle. My goal was to look at the indicator and come up with one or more questions that could get at what the indicator was talking about.
After doing that, I decided I wanted to pull out as few words as possible from the indicator to summarize what the indicator was talking about; this is what is bolded at the start of every number. It was something I personally needed to do, for myself, to “see the landscape” of everything in the standards – or to see the document as a whole. There are a lot of similar words in the ISTE-CS, and I felt like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. (Doing this actually gave me insight I didn’t have before. I half thought that some indicators repeated themselves in terms of the ideas being focused on, but really they don’t overlap all that much!)
Peer Coaching Questions Based on the ISTE-CS
- Visionary Leadership
- Vision: What is your vision of how technology could be incorporated into the instructional environment?
- Planning: What is your plan to reach your vision? How will you evaluate the success of implementation? Do you need to communicate with anyone about your plan?
- Support: What policies, programs, and funding exist to help you implement your plan? What procedures must you go through to implement? Does your plan align with the school’s or district’s technology plan and guidelines?
- Sustaining: What challenges might stop you from implementing or sustaining your plan?
- Teaching, learning, and assessments
- Standards: How does this technology-enhanced learning experience address content and technology standards?
- Diverse needs and interests: What research-based instructional strategies and assessment tools can address the diverse needs and interests of all of your students? What are the diverse needs of your students for assessment? For instruction? Are there technologies that can help you meet their diverse needs?
- Real-world problems: Are there local or global communities that your students could interact with during the learning experience? Is there a way they could assume a professional role and research real-world problems? Could they collaborate with anyone outside the classroom? Could they produce a meaningful and useful product?
- Creativity, higher-order thinking skills: How does the learning experience allow for creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes, and developing mental habits of mind? Are there technologies that could help your students engage in these things during the learning experience?
- Differentiation: How can the learning experience be differentiated for students? Can technology be used to aid in differentiation?
- Research-based best practices: What does research say about best practices for ____?
- Formative and summative assessments: What kinds of formative and summative assessments do you use? Are there other kinds of assessments you could use that might help students convey their ideas in new ways? How can technology help create a rich variety of formative and summative assessments?
- Student achievement data: What kinds of student achievement data could be collected during the learning experience? Who will use it? How will it be interpreted? Who will it be communicated to, and how?
- Digital age learning environments
- Classroom management and collaborative learning: Does the learning activity create any challenges with classroom management? Is technology creating classroom management challenges? Does the learning activity incorporate collaborative learning? Is there a technology that could help with classroom management or collaborative learning?
- Maintain and manage tools: How do you manage digital tools for yourself? For your students? How can students manage their own digital tools?
- Online and blended learning: Is there any blended learning incorporated into the classroom? Could there be? Could digital tools increase student choice in the activity?
- Assistive technologies: What assistive technologies do you use? What assistive technologies would be helpful to your students? Can you incorporate any of these into your classroom?
- Troubleshooting: How do you troubleshoot problems (tech problems or otherwise)? How do your students troubleshoot? How can you teach troubleshooting skills? What do you need in your classroom to teach troubleshooting skills?
- Select and evaluate digital tools: What is your school or district’s technology infrastructure? How do you ensure that you select tools which are compatible with your school or districts’s technology infrastructure?
- Communicate locally and globally: What digital communication and collaboration tools do you use in your classroom to increase communication and collaboration between: you, students, parents, peers, and the community?
- Professional development and program evaluation
- Needs assessment: What technology-related professional learning do you feel like you would most benefit from?
- Professional learning programs: In response to (a), can you get this professional development through your school or district? Can we do anything to support your professional development?
- Evaluate results: What does research say about the results of specific professional learning programs?
- Digital citizenship
- Equitable access: What do students have equitable access to in your classroom? Where do you feel like equitable access could be improved? How can we improve equitable access? Can a technology help?
- Safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses: Where are some opportunities in the curriculum to talk about safe, healthy, legal, or/and ethical uses of digital information and technologies?
- Diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness: Where are some opportunities to promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness? Can a technology help promote those things?
- Content knowledge and professional growth
- Content and pedagogical knowledge: Is there a technology you would like to learn more about for classroom use? Maybe a technology you have never used before, or one that you would like to deepen your knowledge about?
- Organizational change and leadership: What are the dispositions of your leadership regarding technology in the classroom? What kind of change can you advocate for within your school or district? How can you advocate for that change?
- Reflect: What are some professional practices you have in place that you feel work really well? What are some things that you feel could run smoother? How do your beliefs and dispositions about technology affect your practice? How do the dispositions of your peers affect their practice?
The exercise of turning all the indicators into questions was quite valuable. It made me realize that this is something you can (probably) do with any set of standards, and I feel like it made the standards more manageable. Some of my questions were geared towards taking the first steps in the direction of the indicator, but I envision an iterative process where we use an indicator to come up with questions to pursue, and then come back to the indicator to come up with follow up questions.
For even more questions, there’s always questions like: “but what do we really mean by ‘troubleshooting’?” I find these to be enjoyable and enlightening rabbit holes of their own. I did not include these kinds of questions in my list above, but they are often the kinds of questions I pursue.