Supporting Risk Taking and Innovation

Successful coaching is achieved through three sets of skills: collaboration and communication, lesson design, and technology integration (Foltos 2013). Success with lesson design and technology integration depend on effective outcomes of collaboration and communication. Without a strong foundation of collaboration and communications skills, the peer coaching relationship will not facilitate quality lesson design and technology integration.

This week, I explored the essential question of what role communication and collaboration skills play in successful coaching? Through the course reading, I begin to understand the idea that “Collaboration needs to be taught and learned”(Foltos 2013). This was something I had to reflect on. Collaboration, to me, has always seemed like a natural thing that can be more of a strength for some people than others. I knew it could be facilitated and promoted in various effective ways, but it had never been phrased in such a way to me. However, the more I thought about it, teaching and learning communication and collaboration is exactly what I have been doing through my educational journey thus far. I have been experiencing through an authentic and organic delivery that I couldn’t even identify unless I took the time to reflect upon it, and isn’t this exactly how it should be for teachers and students?

Coaches can do several things to develop those vital communication and collaboration skills. They can be intentional about:

After exploring all of these, I felt drawn to investigate strategies on how to model and promote risk taking in a peer coaching relationship.

In an online post from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning through Indiana University Bloomington, Greg Siering outlines five key things that teachers can do to manage the risk inherent when fostering innovation. He suggests teachers:

Take an incremental approach. Too many big and new changes to instruction can be overwhelming not only to the teacher, but students as well. Small and manageable changes and risks allow the teacher to focus on the details, techniques and implementation of the new components. If the teacher’s new approach should happen to fail, it allows for the proper reflection and adjustment. It becomes a small failure that won’t have a big impact on the students or teachers. Failure should be an understood and welcomed risk. “Peer Coaches model risk taking and recognize that taking risks may occasionally mean failure” (Foltos 2013).

Do their homework. Teachers and coaches should take the time to properly research the innovations being explored. This includes researching the accounts details of real teachers partaking in similar experiences. You can hold a vast amount of knowledge and pedagogy, but  as the article puts it, learning about other teachers’ lesson “headaches,” can more realistically prepare and inform the teacher.

Involve students. Include students in your teaching effort. Inform them when you are trying something new, whether an approach or a piece of technology. Students can provide valuable feedback that can help you adjust changes accordingly.

Involve their chair (or administration). Involve administration early on in the process to build support. Communicate that student progress and outcome may look different while implementing new changes. Share plans of managing the risk and innovation with your admin and what plans are in place to assess the outcomes of the innovations. As the article states, getting your admin on board “may also help you build a stronger reputation as someone committed to the department’s educational mission.”

Document efforts and results. These innovations and changes that a teacher is implementing are created by the coach and teacher in a very purposeful way, which should include documentation and records. Why should teachers take any risk at all, if there is no proof of their process and outcome? Documenting the efforts and results can not only help refine the innovations over time, but can also create evidence of student learning outcomes.

Teachers may relate more strongly to a specific component of supporting risk and innovation. For example, some additional feedback from peers and colleagues in my cohort this week, has especially emphasized the value of having vital support from administration. Many teachers don’t feel comfortable trying much of anything new at all without support from administration. All the components above are vital to keep in mind when promoting risk taking in a peer coaching relationship.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration.

Managing Innovation (and Risk) in Your Teaching. (Jan. 2012). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from

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