Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary M. Williams, EdD, Director; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD; Edward Kujawa Jr., PhD


collaborative teaching, descriptive case study, Excelsior Academy (San Diego, CA), Leadership studies, peer coaching, professional development, special education


No longer is it appropriate for educators to come together as a group to "learn" a new skill and return to their classrooms to practice it in isolation. In the past, staff development programs have focused on development of a singular skill with teachers practicing it in isolation. The teaching and learning process can better be developed through collaboration. In order for this to happen effective teachers must be able to create effective interactive relationships with their peers. Hence, the practice and art of teaching ceases to be an individual enterprise; becoming instead a collaborative enterprise. Peer coaching is one such collaborative teaching practice where greater learning means heightened reflection thus enabling educators to focus on the way they learn from their interactions with each other. This heightened reflection can assist in creating a positive cultural ethos that fosters further collaboration and collegiality. A descriptive case study was conducted of voluntary pairs of teachers acting as peer coaches for one another in Excelsior Academy, a small private special education school in San Diego. The purpose of the study was to investigate the patterns that would explain coaching experiences and responses to discover the implications for how collaborative teaching practices such as peer coaching might affect the cultural ethos of this particular school. This investigation then might provide a greater understanding of the importance of collaboration among educators in such a setting as well as in similar educational environments. The study uncovered five major themes within the peer coaching model which served to focus attention on the framework of peer coaching at Excelsior Academy. These themes included: communication, empowerment, collegiality, discovery and collaboration. The effects of the peer coaching model on the cultural ethos of Excelsior Academy were varied and broad. Essentially, an effective system of communication within a resultant atmosphere of thoughtful collaboration and collegial bonding provided a structure for enhanced professional development. A sense of mutual empowerment involving supportive learning opportunities, constructive feedback and a positive change process was established. Additionally, the excitement and tone of staff motivation provided evidence of a continuous process of discovery where staff learned to reflect upon and refine their teaching and learning. With growth come challenges and the Excelsior staff face the challenge of refinement of the peer coaching model. In order for the staff to engage in more meaningful coaching interactions, this study presents the following recommendations: a) provide indepth staff training in the areas of questioning and listening skills; b) promote further assessment opportunities through the development and study of self-assessment techniques; c) provide inservice trainings in the various types of analysis including summative and formative, critical and reflective, and deductive and inductive analyses; d) allow for acquisition of the skills necessary to challenge and refine a topic through the study of topic development; and e) reconceptualize and develop the teacher-as-researcher concept. This peer coaching model is evidence that collaboration can be a highly effective approach to improving the way educators learn and ultimately on building not merely isolated instances of collaboration but a cultural ethos of collaboration. Through coaching and shared inquiry educators can manage their skills efficiently and effectively and learn new strategies that will create a climate of problem solving and reflection.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access