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Peer coaching at Flanshaw Road School

Flanshaw Road School logo.

Flanshaw Road School is a multicultural contributing primary school in West Auckland. Teachers at the school use peer coaching to help them inquire into the impact of their teaching on students.

In this snapshot Dr Cherie Taylor-Patel, principal of Flanshaw Road School, explains how peer coaching was developed and reveals the highlights and challenges. Cherie offers advice to other schools wanting to use peer coaching to support their teachers' inquiries.

How peer coaching began | Setting up pairs | Successes | Next steps | Advice

How did peer coaching begin at Flanshaw Road School?

Dr Cherie Taylor-Patel.

In 2014 we introduced Teaching as Inquiry, but the process we used was informed by a range of inquiry models that we obtained through networking with local schools. We didn’t know if the model we were using was the best model.

The following year we modelled Pecha Kucha. We asked teachers to consider using this presentation style for their inquiries.

We let people interpret the inquiry cycle, just to have a go explicitly linking to Māori and Pasifika students. We got some good stuff but it was light on evidence. Not everyone used the inquiry model. We needed to be more embedded in the process. We used Tataiako as our cultural lens.

In 2016 we had a specific coaching and mentoring session to get a stronger scaffold for peer coaching conversations.
I’d read about "situational leadership" in an online course. It described a next step to gain more in-depth understanding of the principles of effective coaching and mentoring. So I put the question to staff: do you want to be coached or mentored? Out of that came the question: what does peer coaching look like? So we used the GROWTH model and did some professional development on this. Then we went back and scaffolded inquiry steps more carefully.

How did you set up coaching pairs?

Coaching pairs at Flanshaw Road School.

The senior leadership team set up the pairs. We put people together who would challenge each other and some pairs were teachers who had similar experience.

The goal was to create formal meeting times within the week and new times within class time for observations and informal meetings.

We felt we needed to use our time in different ways but it was important that we allowed for the time to be spent with our peer coach so it wasn’t an add-on. We used release times and some teachers regularly met informally and others not so much.

I didn’t initially follow up with individual pairs. I observed the pairs in staff meeting time and in senior leadership meetings. Therefore I got general feedback on how things were going. I received feedback via our end of year PLD reflections and beginning of Term 4 appraisal meetings, where people discussed their inquiries specifically.

How successful has peer coaching been?

It has improved the quality and consistency of teacher inquiries, which have been more evidence based. Thinking and reflection is consistently strong and the learning for staff was valuable.

An unintended outcome is that relationships have strengthened across teams and across the school.

What would you do differently next time?

The front half of the inquiry process was stronger than the second half. We need to review what created distractions in Term 3. We got overrun by "busyness" and so we became more reliant on informal meetings.

We also need to make the link between inquiry and student learning more specific. There was not a strong enough focus on the outcomes for students. The teachers’ learning was great but what was the impact on student learning?

We have embedded Teaching as Inquiry as a concept. Next we will be raising the bar even more.

What advice would you give to other leaders wanting to use a peer coaching model?

  • Introduce it as a “trial” with a mix of scaffolded support and experimentation (situational leadership needs to be applied to different teachers).
  • Make sure you value it and give it the time it deserves. What are you going to drop to do this so it's a valued part of the whole learning ecosystem of your school?
  • Don’t expect to get it “right”. Being too prescriptive, in my view, can kill motivation and innovation.  
  • This should not be a "compliance" task otherwise you kill the quality of learning. It has to be framed as an opportunity for teachers to learn with and from others. The key is for it to impact positively on students.
  • Proof is in the inquiry presentations and observable changes in practice that lead to key students achieving more – so it’s a process of incremental improvement that leads to success in learning for students.

The art of teaching is an elusive concept and it takes time to learn teaching as an art.

Cherie Taylor-Patel

Related content 

Fina Hallman.

Fina's journey in peer coaching
Fina Hallman, teacher from Flanshaw Road School, shares her peer coaching journey and offers practical tips on how to make teaching as inquiry a meaningful and effective process. 

Published on: 04 Mar 2017


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