The effectiveness of peer coaching on classroom teachers' use of differentiation for gifted middle school students

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Special|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Despite the obvious importance of educating all children to their fullest potential, gifted students remain underserved and unchallenged in many educational settings. Gifted students spend much, if not all, of their time in the regular classroom, yet classroom teachers have usually received little or no preservice or inservice training in gifted education. The implications are obvious: teachers who serve gifted students must receive appropriate training in techniques to meet the needs of these children, particularly in strategies and resources for differentiating the regular curriculum and instruction. Peer coaching has emerged in the research literature as one effective professional development technique which encourages and enables teachers to practice and implement newly learned strategies.^ The purpose of this study was to examine whether peer coaching was perceived by participating middle school teachers as a useful professional development technique for the acquisition of curricular and instructional differentiation strategies for high ability and high achieving students in the regular classroom. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to describe participating teachers' perceptions of the training and supported practice of peer coaching. Key participants in this study were middle school classroom teachers; additional participants were district administrators, peer coaches, students, and parents.^ Findings from this study supported the use of the principles of peer coaching for the development of new strategies. Participating teachers reported positive perceptions of peer coaching and its usefulness in the acquisition and implementation of differentiation strategies. Quantitative data indicated conflicting perceptions among teachers, students, and parents about the amount of challenge and differentiation initially provided to high ability middle school students. Qualitative data yielded three emergent themes: (1) the variety and contradiction of teachers', students', and parents' perceptions throughout the study; (2) the initial absence of a common definition and shared understandings of differentiation among participants; and (3) the nature of change and the time and training needed for the strategies of differentiation to be widely implemented by classroom teachers. ^