A descriptive and exploratory study of peer coaching and selected factors in the working environment of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in a large suburban Virginia public school system

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Experts have suggested that a restructuring of the organization of schools is one way to improve the teaching profession. One way to bring about such a restructuring is to allow teachers the opportunity to build collegial relationships. Advocates of peer coaching believe that it can be used to bring about this opportunity to build collegial relationships and allow for the restructuring of schools in order to create a more professional working environment in which teachers work and learn together. This restructuring should decrease isolation of teachers by creating a working environment of trust and allowing for greater resources sharing among the teachers. In turn, teachers' levels of job satisfaction should increase which ultimately should result in better teaching. However, there is little, if any, empirical support for this claim. Administrators who are interested in restructuring schools need information about the implications of building such collegial relationships on the profession of teaching and the working environment of the school.

In order to provide this information, 565 teachers in a large suburban Virginia public school system that had implemented peer coaching for a two-year period were surveyed. A questionnaire was used to document the ‘teachers' levels of job satisfaction and perceived usefulness of peer coaching, as well as their perceptions about the degree to which trust and sharing of resources (interactions) existed in their schools.

The data collected from the questionnaire was entered into a computer using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSSx). Specifically, descriptive statistics (means and standard deviations) and Pearson product-moment correlations were used to describe selected variables and V explore interrelationships between the variables. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine to what extent differences existed between elementary, middle, and high school teachers on the selected variables in the study.

Based on the results, the teachers agreed that peer coaching was useful and that they trusted each other. Their participation in resources sharing tended to be more infrequent than frequent. They were satisfied with their teaching jobs. Further, it was found that pairs of the variables were positively and moderately correlated except for a weak correlation between resources sharing and job satisfaction. This meant that, on the whole, the more useful teachers found peer coaching, the more satisfied they were with their jobs, along with perceiving greater degrees of trust and resources sharing. No differences were found to exist among the three levels of teachers on the A usefulness of peer coaching or job satisfaction. All levels differed on the degree of trust that existed in their school. Middle school teachers differed from elementary on the frequency of resources sharing.

In conclusion, peer coaching appears to have reduced isolation among the teachers and provided teachers the opportunity to learn about their teaching on the job. Further training in feedback skills and group process skills along with more opportunities to observe one another are recommended as ways to further reduce isolation and create conditions in which teachers are more able to collaboratively solve problems.