A User's Guide to

Peer Assistance and Review

  • What is PAR?
  • Costs and benefits of PAR
  • Designing your PAR project
  • Labor-management relations
  • Practical issues and advice
Related documents

How will CTs be trained, supported, and evaluated?

ct1Rochester CT and new teacher

CTs take on new responsibilities. Coaching and assessing the work of peers calls for different skills than those required to succeed with students. Thus, CTs need to be prepared for a new role. They need to be well versed in adult development and understand how individuals surrender previously-held belief systems and adopt new ones. They must be able to build trust with colleagues, especially those who are feeling very vulnerable. And they must be confident in maintaining high expectations and encouragement when they encounter poor teaching or lack of effort. They also need to know how to allocate their time among the teachers in their caseload and how to keep detailed and accurate records of their work.

Most districts provide CTs with formal pre-service and in-service training as well as informal opportunities to learn from their peers in the CT cohort. CTs praised the training they received in conducting standards-based evaluations, coaching their peers, and completing the paperwork and other logistical aspects of the job.

“It’s a huge learning curve. People come to this position at the top of their game. They’re the leaders at their schools. And this is a sort of kick to the ego, because you have to learn so much in this job.”

Montgomery County Lead CT

Pre-service training usually focuses on coaching techniques. Some districts offer a summer course conducted by a nationally-recognized organization, such as the New Teachers Center, Research for Better Teaching, or Pathwise. Training by experienced CTs also prepares them for the documentation that they will be required to complete and the legal issues they may encounter on the job. Some districts require new CTs to shadow experienced CTs before assuming their role. Toledo has new CTs attend a PAR Panel meeting as a way of learning about the role.

“What I learned so much about is how to establish rapport with people when you’re trying to get them to trust you and how to use that rapport to help them find their own path.”

Toledo CT

Toledo CTs CollaborateToledo CTs Collaborate

All districts also provide ongoing training for Consulting Teachers throughout the year. The frequency of this training ranges from once a week to once a month, with varying topics and structure. At meetings in Cincinnati and Minneapolis, CTs regularly discuss examples of teaching that they encounter in their work or watch on videos. This allows them to achieve shared judgments about the district’s standards. CTs say these sessions—though sometimes tedious—are essential to ensure that their evaluations will be fair. Rochester’s program director organizes voluntary “Collegial Circles” where experienced CTs facilitate small group discussions (usually organized by grade level or subject) about coaching techniques. In Montgomery County and Cincinnati, pairs of Panel members (called “PAR Pairs”, consisting of one teacher and one administrator) lead small groups of CTs to review individual cases and provide feedback on their work.

“We went and did a mock observation on a teacher at the beginning of the school year. And we all scripted it out. And then we compared notes to kind of calibrate.”

Cincinnati CT

In addition to structured training, CTs in all districts report that informal support from their peers is tremendously helpful. In Toledo, San Juan, and Syracuse, CTs meet together regularly in a less structured format to share ideas and get peer feedback on their cases. Districts facilitate this exchange by having the CTs share common office space, where they complete paperwork and engage in informal discussions about their cases. CTs say that they turn to colleagues for help in developing growth plans, preparing for Panel presentations, solving problems and sharing feedback about individual cases. In Toledo, for example, CTs hold mock Panel meetings, role playing to practice their presentations. Their CT colleagues also provide the emotional support they need to carry out the difficult aspects of their work.

“The support of this group [of CTs] is invaluable. There is no way I could do this in isolation.”

San Juan CT

CT Training in SyracuseCT Training in Syracuse

PAR Panels supervise CTs either formally or informally. In some districts, Panel members informally evaluate CTs when they present to the Panel. Other districts have developed more formal approaches, such as having Panel members observe and evaluate CTs at work or asking PAR Pairs to prepare written evaluations, based on how the CTs work with their caseload. Several districts survey teachers and principals about the work that CTs do. CTs in Rochester also evaluate each other by observing a CT colleague at work, providing feedback and submitting a peer evaluation to the director of the program.