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:











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