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Peer Coaching

After our initial meetings with Cindy and beginning to develop the kinds of relationships that would support our work together, we began the second stage of our grant work. We started to research and practice peer coaching models. This page documents our process.

Introduction to Peer Coaching

 Coaching session with Cindy


We were very lucky to have Dr. Cindy Kratzer of Sierra Education, LLC agree to facilitate our understanding of current practices, protocols and literature through thoughtful dialogue. Below are the agendas of our meetings together along with notes that document our time together:


Reflections on initial peer coaching cycles

As we learned about how to take on the roles of being the observed teacher and being the coach, Cindy Kratzer regularly asked us to reflect on what was working throughout the process as well as the challenges we were encountering. Below you will see Tagxedos that represent our thoughts.


Lab school from

Vignettes of our Experiences with Peer Coaching

Starting from a Familiar Place

When we began the process of exploring peer coaching, we applied and received a mini-grant from the Cotsen Foundation to gather relevant resources and meet together as a study group in order to pilot some coaching strategies. During that trial period I had the opportunity to practice coaching Chris, a teacher I had long wanted to see in action. As I prepared for our pre-observation meeting, I fell back on my clinical supervision strategies and searched for a set of questions that could help get the ball rolling in a focused manner. I found a resource from the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy that reminded me of the kinds of questions I used to use with preservice teachers, just basic prompts that allowed the teacher being observed to guide the process.  

  CW vignette 1.1

When I met with Chris for our pre-observation meeting he explained that he was hoping I could gather information over two class periods about the level of engagement of the younger students in his multi-age classroom as well as the amount of "teacher talk" that was taking place. Listening to Chris describe his lesson, on comparing and contrasting communities of long ago with those of today in terms of how they used their resources, it was clear to see why he chose particular foci for me to observe. His lessons would center around students analyzing primary source images of communities and he really wanted "student talk" to drive the learning and for both younger and older students to have a voice in discussions.  Before we completed our meeting, I asked Chris to let me know what type of data he thought would be most helpful and he replied that he wanted to know what students were actually doing versus just whether they were engaged or not engaged, and he came up with a list of examples of engagement he was looking for during rug time: oral participation, raising hand, rephrasing or restating ideas when speaking to a partner, listening to a partner's ideas, and also during work time: leaning in, scanning image, sharing comments, recording ideas for group, on-task conversations and reflecting on the teaching point. He also wanted to know how much time he had actually spent talking to the whole class throughout different segments of his lesson (launching, small group work, debrief, etc.). So, we determined that I would take notes on what students were doing while also noting timed segments of teacher talk during whole group segments and then complete time sweeps during small group work. Later that day, Chris sent his lesson and a class seating chart with students' photos on it to assist with my data gathering. 

During our debrief, I asked Chris to begin with his reflections of how the lesson went and how it compared with his expectations. Chris and I had a lively discussion as we reminisced about the profound comments students made regarding the images and also about the squirming the younger kids exhibited. The exciting part of this meeting was when we looked at the time segments and time sweeps together. It was very meaningful for Chris to "see" from the data what "teacher moves" he had intuitively used to engage younger students and validate their comments and observations. In addition, and most importantly, from looking carefully at students' participation and engagement during small groups it was glaringly evident that although the younger students may have exhibited behaviors during whole group discussion that could be possibly interpreted as non-attentive, they actually were immersed in the lesson and shared their observations, ideas, and reflections with their peers. This led to a discussion about how, as multiage teachers, we both differentiate our learning expectations for age groups and individual students, yet would benefit from expanding our interpretations of level of engagement. 

                                               CW vignette 1.2

Upon reflection of my role as coach, I realized that I truly enjoyed gathering data and providing information to my colleague. In addition, it was a relaxed and enjoyable professional development opportunity, in that I gained ideas about working with primary sources from observing Chris' discussion, the resources he provided students, the questions he posed to students and the overall environment of inquiry he created. The area I need to work on is to try to keep my anecdotes, personal reflections and commentary to a minimum so as to ensure that the teacher that I am coaching is given as many opportunities as possible to process and reflect upon the data gathered.  


Teaming up to Coach a Colleague

During a particularly hectic part of the school year we were struggling to maintain our original schedule of coaching cycles. Chris happily volunteered to let the four of us  - Carla-Anne, Cyrene, Shernice, and me - observe and conduct a team coach for his next lesson. We were excited by the opportunity to share the coaching experience as well as debrief tools and strategies, and Chris was looking forward to the varied perspectives we would bring to the table and that each of the coaches could focus on a different aspect of teaching and learning. We met to discuss the goals Chris had for his lesson and to select which tools we would like to use to gather data for him. Upon reflecting on the last time I had coached Chris, I felt that I had not provided him with a data set regarding student engagement that was as useful as it could have been. I took notes about what students were doing at different times, but he had to read through all my notes in order to get a sense of what I had observed. So, this time I wanted to work on collecting data sweeps of the ways in which students were engaged in learning AND to represent that data in a format that could give him an idea of how individual students were involved throughout the lesson. Here is one sample of the seating chart copies (with names crossed out to protect confidentiality) Chris gave me so that I could collect data at different time intervals, and this is the chart that I came up with to represent the data on student engagement that I gathered during his lesson.


Adapting to Change

Immediately after we received the TIIP2 funds, Cyrene’s context changed; she would begin working as a Reading Specialist at a new school in just a few months. As our TIIP team’s first leader, she spearheaded our attempts at getting our project funded and so we resolved to do whatever it took to maintain our team intact regardless of what schools we worked at. This allowed me the opportunity to coach Cyrene as she delved into her new position at the UCLA Bruin Community School.

Initially, neither of us had imagined peer coaching outside of traditional classroom teaching, so when we planned for our first observation I asked Cyrene to share what she was envisioning for the students she was working with. One of the main challenges she was considering was the time constraints of working with students who were pulled out of class and then put in a new context and then returned to class. Cyrene wanted to employ her social justice stance into creating a safe place for literacy development. I would be observing the first days with her students, a key time for establishing a community. We decided that I would just transcribe the sessions and that when Cyrene and I debriefed afterwards, we would see what emerged as elements we could analyze to keep her practice moving forward toward her goals.

  Cyrene Reading Specialist

As I observed Cyrene and her new students coming together, I was grateful for the role of transcriber because it allowed me to really stay focused on gathering data and simply witnessing, which is such an important part of peer coaching. When we sat down to debrief, I silently empathized with a common teacher question she asked of herself, “Did I do what I set out to do?”  In order to answer that question, I focused Cyrene on our initial pre-observation discussion and asked her what she was hoping to accomplish. She identified key areas that she felt were integral to creating a safe learning environment and we created single letter “codes” to label data points, in this case teacher moves, in my transcriptions. The codes included: M= making community, T= creating opportunities for student talk, A= creating access to learning, C= fostering a comfortable relationship between Cyrene and students, P= sharing a sense of purpose for tasks, S= use of space, and TE= sharing high task expectations.

With our own copy of the transcriptions in hand we each went to work coding the data (for both group 1 and group 2) and then I asked Cyrene to discuss what themes and/or or relationships between data points emerged and what she noticed about her teacher moves during the lesson. During her reflection, Cyrene shared how important it was for her to see that she did make strides toward building positive reading identities and creating a safe learning community.  She knew that she was setting the foundation for students to see themselves as capable readers, to feel that she was there to support them, and that she would look to various sources for an understanding of their reading progress (surveys, assessments, book choices, and articulation of ideas regarding stories and reading choices).  Cyrene also felt that it would be valuable to periodically discuss with groups how things are going  "What's working/not working?" in order to make sure that their short times together were fruitful and meaningful. 

The beauty of coding using teacher-developed codes for data analysis was the rich discussion of nuances - such as what constitutes "access" in this setting, the identifying of teacher moves that have become so intuitive that we forget their subtle value, and the discovery of links between quick actions – interpretations – reactions that makes teaching so invigorating.


Tools & Protocols

We developed these tools to help us organize our thoughts as we documented observations. We also found that this type of note taking facilitated our post observation discussions.

Helpful Articles

Feger, S., K. Woleck, and P. Hickman (2004).  How to develop a coaching eye.  Journal of Staff Development, 25(2), 19-23.

Garmston, R., C.Linder and J. Whitaker (1993).  Reflections on cognitive coaching.  Educational Leadership, 51(2), 57-61.

Knight, J.  (2009).  Coaching.  Journal of Staff Development, 30(1), 18-22.

Showers, B. and B. Joyce (1996).  The evolution of peer coaching.  Educational Leadership, 53(6), 12-16.

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