How does Peer Coaching fit with Professional Online Learning Networks for Teachers?

Professional Learning for teachers can take many different shapes and forms. There can be workshops, presentations, action research and peer coaching. Most recently Online Learning Networks have emerged through the Read/Write Web allowing teachers to learn anytime, anywhere.

In their research Joyce and Showers tells us that Coaching (Peer Coaching) is the most effective way to ensure skills and knowledge are transferred to the classroom.

My question therefore is - how do we blend online networks (web 2.0) with face to face peer coaching to gain the best possible results for our students?

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Great question, Helen, especially since as I just read somewhere this has been dubbed the summer of personal learning networks (I forget where or I'd link to it)!

I think peer coaching is important in a few ways. First, to state maybe the obvious, peer coaches can go a long way in helping teachers to establish PLNs. While some teachers will take the ball and run in developing their PLNs, I suspect a majority need help cultivating and even initially sustaining theirs.

Second, peer coaches can really help with translating what is learned from a PLN into a local perspective answering questions such as "Can I do this in our school?, "Do we have this available?", or "How does fit into our local curriculum?" Also, peer coaches know the students, community, parents, and leadership. They also know the local culture and vision of the school.

Third, peer coaches can be there physically to help co-teach, observe, reflect on, and assess teaching and learning. While blogging, Ustream, Skype, and other tools can certainly do this, logistically peer coaching can be a bit easier for real-time feedback. Plus I'm not sure we're quite there yet. Maybe it's my own short sightedness but PLNs are great for the tools and resources but there still seems to be a void when it comes to the nuts and bolts of teaching and learning. Not that there aren't great resources and people discussing these things but it just doesn't seem to be quite there yet for me.

Fourth, while PLNs are filled with smart, caring people, peer coaches want to ensure success in their teachers' classrooms. I think for the most part (and again, I may be stating the obvious) folks in PLNs are invested in their work, teaching, and projects. Peer coaches are typically there to help teachers and students be successful including all the minutia that may come along with it to make the teaching and learning work well.

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