By Toby Trewin.
While peer-to-peer networks are often much maligned for their breeches of copyright in sharing media, another type of peer-to-peer network is making a big impact in schools around the world. Peer coaching is becoming widespread in many business and industry areas, with its personalised, tailored approach reaping rewards for its improved output for staff. This professional development advantage is now being realised within educational circles with a particular focus on the gains to be made from ICT peer coaching for the benefit of teaching staff. ICT peer coaching is a relatively new and effective method of providing sustained professional development for staff within a school environment, with research showing this methodology can have the greatest impact on what happens in classrooms.
Utilising the process of peer coaching to provide professional growth within the context of ICT has seen numerous benefits for both teachers and their students and, as a consequence, the improvement of the school’s performance. With ICT capability now a requirement to be integrated within all school subjects through the delivery of the Australian Curriculum (Australiancurriculum.edu.au, 2014), a strong demand has been created to successfully train teachers in this new and evolving discipline and subsequently provide an engaging and relevant course of study for students.
ICT peer coaching is a modern, ongoing method of implementing training for teachers to integrate 21st century learning for the benefit of their students. This service was previously conducted via instructor-centered, after-school workshops, which have been proven to be ineffective, changing teacher classroom behaviour less than 15 percent of the time (Showers, B. & Joyce, B. 1994). With time often the prime constraint in hindering professional growth, peer coaching provides continuous, collaborative and on-campus learning to solve common problems and challenges that teachers face in their workplace (Darling-Hammond, L., 2009). In a study of the world’s top-performing school systems, Barber and Mourshed (2007:29) described peer coaches as those who are trained in how to coach others, “…enter classrooms to observe teachers, give feedback, model instruction, and share in planning”. Systemic change and student achievement gains are seen to be produced by providing educators with structured opportunities to learn from one another (Fullan, 2001). This enables the opportunity to learn from one another on a sustained, ongoing basis. Peer coaching incorporates a collaborative and reflective learning methodology that changes teachers’ classroom practice more than 85 percent of the time (Showers & Joyce, 1994). Coaching involves a sustained, collaborative professional learning methodology that affects student achievement.
|Type of Training||Knowledge Mastery||Skill
|Coaching, study teams, peer visits||90%||90%||80–90%|
This table was adapted from the research of Showers and Joyce on the impact of professional development.
With national changes to school curriculum placing a renewed importance on the integration of ICT for students of all ages, ICT peer coaching becomes a valuable addition to a school’s professional development strategic plan. The Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) recognised that in a digital age, and with rapid and continuing changes in the ways that people share, use, develop and communicate with ICT, young people need to be highly skilled in its use. To participate in a knowledge-based economy and to be empowered within a technologically sophisticated society now and into the future, students need the knowledge, skills and confidence to make ICT work for them at school, at home, at work and in their communities. This influence has been compounded by the implementation of the Australian Curriculum where students are required to develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school (Australiancurriculum.edu.au, 2014).
Teaching staff are often under constant time restraints and restrictive access to meaningful and targeted professional development combine to limit the required integration of technology into the classroom. Peer coaching provides coaches with a scalable and sustainable tool kit, including high-level communication skills such as active listening, paraphrasing, pausing, clarifying questions and probing questions to effectively collaborate with teachers and subsequently improve the classroom experience for students by incorporating learning technologies to enhance deep understanding.
For a silver bullet solution to improve the teaching and learning in a school, consider peer coaching, a proven transformational process of improving learning for teachers and in turn their students, providing substantial gains in delivering a modern curriculum with integrated ICT for enhanced student understanding in a relevant context.
Toby Trewin M.Ed. is the Education Technology Manager at Hale School, Perth, Western Australia, integrating innovative and effective technology in the classroom for staff and students. Toby’s recent achievements include selection as a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert Educator for utilising various technologies to engage students and peers in innovative ways to positively impact learning. In addition to this recent achievement, Toby was awarded as a Microsoft Innovative Teacher, delivered sessional lecturing at the University of Western Australia, provided course writing and panel membership at the School Curriculum and Standards Authority, became a qualified Microsoft ICT peer coaching facilitator and has presented at numerous educational conferences. Toby can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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