Exploring What it Means to be a Peer Coach


Created using Tagul by Annie Tremonte

This quarter in my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am studying the practice of peer coaching. I have arrived to the table unsure of this role and ready to explore the model alongside my cohort of peers who come from rich and diverse educational environments. So, I am starting with the basics.

What is peer coaching?

While I have not worked in a school with peer coaches before, I have heard the term used in the past. Unfortunately, I have been disinterested because of my perception that it was a form evaluation. In an age when teachers are often blamed for educational malpractice, it is easy to be defensive. Additionally, while the practice of observation is often highlighted as a helpful component of coaching, it is closely tied with evaluation. Since I might not be alone in this perception, perhaps perception is an important consideration when implementing a peer coaching model. In order to address perception, it is best to start with the what before the how. According to Foltos (2013),  “A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st century learning activities” (p. 3). Integral to this process is a coach’s ability to guide a peer towards autonomy (Foltos, 2013). It is also a collaborative process between two peers, not a hierarchy of superiority. Transparency in these goals can also perhaps go a long way in establishing an effective practice.

What is essential for successful coaching?

Based upon the work of Foltos (2013) and my own experiences, the following themes have become apparent.


A coaching relationship needs to consist of willing participants, who are open to building trust with one another (Foltos, 2013).  This trust is the foundation of a working relationship that encourages risk-taking and growth.


It is important to set goals and norms collaboratively. While it can begin with a school or district goal, it can also stem from goals set by the coaching partnership (Foltos, 2013).


Establishing modes of respect is a separate consideration from participation. It is important to address time as a factor in a coaching relationship, and recognizing certification hours and/or compensation for work being done outside of the school day can properly value the process.

How do you create a peer coaching model that doesn’t suggest or feel like an evaluation system?

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