This is an adaptation of an article I submitted for publication in collaboration with TeacherB mentioned below. As such, the language is slightly more formal than what I normally use here in this blog….with References to boot.
Twice in as many weeks I’ve promised to blog about this in relation to questions about peer coaching. Here it is finally.
As a mathematics teacher, I have always been a big proponent for literacy as corollary to achieving numeracy. One of the strategies I know that helps improve literacy is having a class blog.
I proposed this idea to a Year 8 English class teacher (TeacherB in this related post) as well as do so as an action research exercise. TeacherB was receptive to both suggestions in line with her desire to increase technology integration and explore the blended learning model. She was keen to learn about blogging itself and how it could enhance her own teaching and learning, on top of student outcomes.
Essentially, we agreed to work collaboratively, sharing our individual expertise, to implement blended learning in view of enhancing literacy and technology outcomes. We agreed that I would be welcome into the classroom to get a better sense of TeacherB’s approach as well as classroom dynamics, and in so doing be better able to pitch technology integration at a level both teacher and students were comfortable with. Without calling it so, we settled on one form of peer coaching (Huston & Weaver, 2008; Robbins, 1991).
I set up two blogs: a class blog for the virtual side of blended learning and a teacher reflection blog for TeacherB to record reflections and serve as a digital peer-coaching place. In effect, even as TeacherB was doing blended learning with her students, she was also subject to blended learning as a “student” of blogging.
I introduced blogging and the class blog to the class. We discussed do’s and don’ts (along these lines) as well as teacher expectations on how it would be used in the study of the novel, “Only the Heart”. I read the novel and throughout the unit, I visited and commented on the class blog as well as visited the classroom a few times. Visiting the blended learning spaces – both physical and digital – allowed me to provide timely, objective and relevant feedback. Classroom observations and non-evaluative feedback are important elements of peer coaching (Robbins, 1991).
In true action research form, TeacherB surveyed students at the beginning and end of the unit. The initial survey was paper-based and the findings were none of the students knew about blogging or comfortable about using it for their learning. I digitised the final survey made accessible via the class blog. The findings were largely positive on the efficacy of blogging as part of blended learning for the purpose of novel study. This supported my observations of the improvements in written, reading and speaking literacy skills. In my opinion, the progress of both teacher and students were faster, deeper and broader than expected…in just a few weeks.
Peer coaching is a collaborative process that facilitates adoption and implementation of newly learned concepts into the classroom; it can be one-way or reciprocal (Huston & Weaver, 2008; Robbins, 1991).
Learning was definitely reciprocal in this case. I learned about conducting action research as well as blended learning in a different context, i.e. an English classroom. Blended Learning and Peer Coaching are new terms for me even if I’ve practiced both before; this is important because now I have terms I can search and concepts I can research about (did I mention literacy is important to me?). I have gained as an IT integrator as well as an educator, in general.
Huston, T & Weaver C (2008) Peer Coaching: Professional Development for Experienced Faculty, Innov High Educ, 33, 5-20.
Robbins, P (1991) How to Plan and Implement a Peer Coaching Program, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.