A Key Ingredient for Peer Coaching- Building Trust
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).
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).
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…
- Listening/being a partner,not a supervisor
- Communication skills by asking questions p. 20 Peer Coach bk.
- Collaborating with the teacher; feedback
- develop a shared vision of instruction; set goals
- 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
- 2010 (n.d.). Peer Coaching Overview, Peer-ed, LLC. Retrieved from www.peer-ed.com
- 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.
- Coaching Conversations [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozdoqFjVrfw
- Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration (pp. 16-22). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
- Knight, J. (2011). What Good Coaches Do. Educational Leadership, 69 (2). Retrieved from http://education.ky.gov/teachers/PGES/TPGES/Documents/What%20Good%20Coaches%20Do.pdf
- Peer Ed. July 11, 2011. Coaching Conversations. [Interview audio file]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozdoqFjVrfw
- Robbins, Pam. (May 2015.) Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning (Chapter 1). Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/115014/chapters/Establishing-the-Need-for-Peer-Coaching.aspx