Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Dynamic Learning Environment/Peer Learning

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search
How can we promote learning from peers?
L.S. Vygotsky's theory is that children learn through expert guidance.

—Gunning, 2005

With any profession there should be teamwork, which involves working together to accomplish a goal. Within the field of education that goal is to work together to educate the minds of all youth to be, productive, smart, and successful citizens. The support, guidance, and instruction provided by an adult is known as scaffolding" (Gunning, 2005). Even as adults one never stops learning. Therefore, teachers can help each other to become experts in their subject area by helping them with ways to improve their teaching strategies, classroom management and any other conflicts that may arise. Educators helping other educators to be experts will help increase not only that educators self-esteem and confidence when entering into the classroom, but will also benefit the students learning experience that enters that classroom.

To teach is to learn twice.

—Joseph Joubert

When a fellow educator talks, we are more apt to listen because they are at our level. They teach every day and understand what is important. If a peer tells us to try a new web site for information on the latest ways to integrate technology into the classroom, we get excited. When Mrs. Brown, the second grade teacher with 15 years experience, tells us how she gets her students to pay attention, we listen eagerly. Learning through peers is an important way for teachers to acquire new ideas, make fresh lesson plans, get insight on disciplinary issues, and receive constructive criticism. This article will cover the three ways teachers learn through peers: peer review, peer mentoring, and peer coaching.

Peer Reviews[edit]

In a peer review, a teacher will sit in on part of another teacher's lessons. They will note what they think the teacher is doing well and what needs improvement. Then they review their observations with that teacher and/or the principal. The peer will make recommendations about which areas teachers need training or counseling. This process first started in 1981 as part of a professional development program. Not all districts require peer review, however they are becoming more and more popular. The main reason for a peer review is to create a higher level of professionalism and set standards for teachers that enter the classroom. “Peer review requires teachers themselves to make decisions about what constitutes good teaching and makes provisions for teachers with expertise in their subject area to evaluate and assist weaker teachers.”(Troen) It also “requires teachers to make decisions about removing [the evaluated] colleagues who cannot perform.”(Troen) The peer review process can help new teachers start off stronger and help veteran teachers learn new techniques. It can also be a valuable tool for school systems to remove teachers who are not meeting standards. “More probationary and experienced teachers have been dismissed under peer review than under the previous system of administrative review.”(Troen) Although some teachers are scared of peer reviews, most good teachers welcome it. Peer reviews foster an environment for fellow teachers to learn from the strength of others and help open a dialogue among peers to teach each other.

Peer Coaching[edit]

Peer Coaching got its start in the early 1980s with the idea that coaching educators would “share aspects of teaching, plan together, and pool their experiences.” (Wong) The concept behind peer coaching is similar to peer review: fellow teachers will sit in on a lesson plan or part of a day and then go over the strong and weak points of that teacher. The difference with peer coaching is that teachers will go over what they saw with only each other. They do not make decisions on counseling, training, or dismissals. With this open dialogue peers are able to discuss methods that are successful and methods that have been ineffective. A bond is created among teachers that promotes strong professional development.

There are three types of peer coaching, which are categorized by their strategies. First is technical coaching which “focuses on incorporating new curriculum and instructional techniques in a teacher’s routine.”(Wong) With technical coaching teachers receive tips from peers on how to improve day-to-day management, lessons, and discipline. For example, Mrs. Griener might get feedback on her lack of integrating the use of computers in her lessons. Next, cognitive and collegial peer coaching is set up to improve an already existing routine. Its main purpose is to “refine techniques, develop collegiality, increase professional dialogue, and assist teachers in reflecting on their teaching styles.”(Wong) For example, the science teachers from County High School get together once a month to go over new ways to make science fun. Third is challenge coaching which is used to zone in on a specific area or problem. For instance, the entire third grade class at Parker Elementary school is falling behind in math skills. With peer coaching the third grade teachers can get together, evaluate another grade that is excelling in math, and pool their thoughts. The success of all three types of peer coaching require trusting relationships, recognition from staff and faculty, clear expectations, and support from administration.

Peer Mentoring[edit]

Peer mentoring process occurs when a seasoned teacher takes on a new or probationary teacher to help them to become a successful educator and help the new teacher to achieve a high standard of education. Basically they “show them the ropes”. They will meet a few times a week or month to go over any questions or problems the new teacher has. Sometimes the mentor will give advice on how to implement a good lesson, good classroom management, grade appropriate activities, or anything they feel will be beneficial. For instance, if the new teacher is having a hard time organizing his/her schedule and feels stressed, the mentor teacher should sit with them and go over their schedule to give pointers for some improvements. The mentor is also there to help talk about feelings like stess, frustration, and insecurities. A good mentor will give examples of struggles they faced while starting off. Peer mentoring is there to guide and help a new teacher succeed. Although it is a great concept, the mentor needs to be active; some teachers complain that their mentor teacher has a lack of involvement. A mentor teacher should always provide support to their protegé.


“The primary goal of any peer observation is to rethink the way we do things and adapt to changing times, students, and circumstances.” (Osten) The benefits from peer learning are enormous. The feedback teachers get is specific, learning is acquired from being observed and observing, a sense of teamwork is revealed, through that teamwork a higher standard of teaching is reached, and most importantly new teachers are staying educators longer due to support and mentoring.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

When the first grades teachers found out they were all having problems with teaching vocabulary they got together and realized the lessons were too difficult for that grade. What type of peer coaching is this?
A. Cognitive and Collegial
B. Technical
C. Progressive
D. Challenge

D. Challenge

Which type of peer learning can ultimately dismiss a teacher?
A. Peer Coaching
B. Peer Review
C. Tattle Tailing
D. Peer Mentoring

B. Peer Review

When Mrs. Abel was a first year teacher at Parker Elementary, Mrs. Pool, a 12 year veteran, would talk to her every week about questions she had, advice, and classroom management ideas. This type of peer learning is?
A. Friendship
B. Peer Coaching
C. Peer Mentoring
D. Peer Review

A. Friendship

The teachers from the Science Department in Martin County High School get together on Thursday afternoons to talk about how they can improve their teaching techniques but also to just talk about whats going on in their lives. This type of Peer coaching is what?
A. Cognitive and Collegial
B. Peer Mentoring
C. Challenge
D. Technical

A. Cognitive and Collegial

Mr. Sahlberg, A sixth grade teacher, went to a workshop where he learned how to incorporate UnitedStreaming technology into his classroom. He went back to school and taught his fellow teachers. This is an example of which peer coaching technique?
A. Challenge
B. Technical
C. Show Offism
D. Cognitive and Collegial

B. Technical

Mrs. John, a teacher at Granby High School for 15 years is evaluating Mr. Peters, a new first year teacher. She sits in on his classes and writes down positives and negatives of his teaching. They then go over the information to help Mr. Peters improve his teacher and also to decide if he is a teacher the school wants. This is called:
A. Peer Review
B. Evaluation
C. Criticism
D. A way to discourage Mr. Peters from continuing to teach

A. Peer Review

Mrs. Lenop lets Mrs. Roberts know that by organizing her desk in the morning it will help her get through her day more easily. What type of peer coaching does this best represent?
A. Challenge Coaching
B. Demanding Coaching
C. Cognitive and Collegial
D. Technical Coaching

D. Technical Coaching

Mr. Rogers is a new teacher at Northside Middle School and Mrs. Kaggle, a teacher with ten years of experience there has decided to help him by meeting a few times a week to go over any questions or concerns he has as a new teacher. This is best known as:
A. Peer Mentoring
B. Peer Review
C. Peer Coaching
D. Peer Evaluating

A. Peer Mentoring

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

Do you feel as a future teacher that you would welcome a peer into your classroom to evaluate you? If so which type of peer learning do you think would work best and why? If not why?

I believe that it is a good idea to have another teacher’s opinion about your teaching performance. I personally do not like to be observed by other adults because I feel more inhibited than I do with just kids in the class. When it is just kids, I feel freer to jump around, skip, dance – whatever it takes to make the kids get involved. However, with adults in the room I don’t do this sort of thing. Therefore, I’m not sure that during an observation the other teacher is getting a good assessment of what I’m really like in the classroom. Therefore, I think that peer mentoring would be what works best for me as a teacher. Peer mentoring would cause me to do a true self evaluation of my performance in the classroom and then discuss any concerns with another teacher. Also, I may see a problem occasionally in the classroom that a fellow teacher may not see if they are only able to come in and observe during one class. I also would not feel the pressure that I might feel because of a peer review. Peer mentoring seems like a less formal way to get good feedback without the stress of some of the other forms of learning from peers.


  • Darling-Hammond, Linda. A Marshall Plan for Teaching. (2007). [Electronic Version] Education Week.
  • Gunning, T.G. (2005). Creating literacy for all students. (5th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Grant, Gerald & Murray Christine. Teaching in America.(1999).London, England. Harvard University Press.
  • Osten, Marc & Gidseg, Eric. The Hows and Whys of Peer Mentoring. (1998).[Electronic Version] Rethinking Schools Online. Vol. 12, No. 4.
  • Tillman, Linda. Mentoring New Teachers: Implications for Leadership Practice in an Urban School. (Oct 2005). Educational Administration Quarterly. Vol. 41, No. 4. P.609-629.
  • Troen, Vivian & Boles, Katherine. Who's Teaching Your Children? (2002). New Haven & London. Yale University Press.
  • Wong, Kenneth & Nicotera, Anna. Enhancing Teacher Quality: Peer Coaching as a Professional Development Strategy. (2003). Vanderbilt University. Publication Series No. 5.