This post is sponsored by Teaching Channel.
Video is quickly gaining ground in K-12 as an effective way to improve teacher development. In this Expert Spotlight Q&A, Teaching Channel CEO Pat Wasley details how and why video is so powerful for improving teacher practice.
How is video changing the landscape of professional learning?
Video-based collaboration fosters a culture of continuous improvement with the added benefit of an evidence base. Because video breaks down the barriers of time and distance we no longer have to work in isolation, which has often been one of the essential limitations of the teaching profession. Video allows me to go in many, many classrooms to better understand the full variety of kinds of great teaching.
It is helpful to think of video in two broad categories: video of other teachers’ practice and video of my own teaching practice. Each has a unique value and there are many ways to collaborate deeply around both types of video. Teachers always tell me that if there was one thing they wish they could do it is to visit other classrooms to watch how other teachers teach. Video gives us that opportunity and more. We not only get that one visit, but we get to revisit that classroom as many times as we need to. And we can, in effect, stop time and think about, and discuss what is happening and why.
Watching video of other teachers calibrates our understanding of effective teaching practice and expands our ideas of how teaching can be done. Research shows that when we watch these videos intentionally, with a specific focus for understanding, and reflect on and analyze what we are seeing with our colleagues, this helps us translate and adapt techniques and strategies for our own students in our own classrooms.
Video is helpful in another way. If I have seen a great technique that I want to try, I can adapt the strategy for my students and my subject matter and then video myself trying the new strategy. That enables me to reflect on my practice and my students’ understanding. When I watch a video of my own teaching, I can think about whether my approach approximates the one I saw in the video. I can send it to other teachers to get their feedback. I can send it to a coach to help me see what I am doing well or could do better. Jennifer Wolf, a teacher and facilitator at the Oceanside, NY district that uses our Teaching Channel Teams video-based professional learning platform, comments that Teams is, “a great way for us to introduce examples of effective teaching and to support what we are doing with teachers with actual evidence of it being done.”
What apprehensions do teachers have about using video for teacher training and coaching? How can administrators alleviate these concerns and encourage teachers to embrace video as a support tool, rather than as a device for pointing out error?
Just as we see in traditional coaching or classroom visits, there is a level of anxiety about seeing video of our own practice. There are concerns that our practice is going to be watched only in order to point out mistakes. As in other areas of professional learning, it is vital to establish an environment of trust when we ask teachers to participate in capturing video of their teaching. We often recommend that people develop protocols for collaborating on video. McDonald and McDonald have a great book of on-line protocols that we recommend. Jim Knight’s book Focus on Teaching is another book filled with great tools for learning with video.
Here are some important guidelines for helping teachers feel comfortable and successful capturing video of their own classrooms:
- Make sure to communicate that the use of the video is to interpret what is going on in the classroom, not judge it
- Allow teachers the ability to control who is going to be watching the video of their classroom instruction
- Work with teachers to set purposes for viewing the video before the actual filming and stick to these during the reflection and feedback process
- Model the process: administrators and coaches can take video of themselves doing a model lesson or leading a meeting or PD session and review the video as a group with teachers
- Commit to the idea that the overall goal is not to be a ‘perfect’ teacher, but to always be improving your practice
A great example of how this is being done successfully is Fresno Unified School District, in California. The district uses our Teams platform to support their implementation of the Common Core. Math teacher Brandon Dorman has this to say about using video of his own classroom: “What I’ve been able to do and get excited about is share new ideas and examples of new methodologies with colleagues in a way that is meaningful and has feedback built in, within a safe environment for educators to discuss things.”
The built in feedback that Brandon mentions refers to the collaboration tools we’ve built into the Teams platform including:
- Tch Recorder app, for easy video capture and sharing
- Online Groups, where teachers can choose with whom they want to share video
- Time-stamped video notes, for point-specific reflection
- Discussions, posts, direct messaging and Q&A
- Lesson planning sharing with Google Docs integration
Common Core has disrupted traditional pedagogy. The playbook of rote tasks and memorization has been replaced with a new one that requires teachers and students to interact with math and language arts content in new ways. How do you see video facilitating this transition?
Effective support for the Common Core standards begins with teachers being able to see what the instructional shifts look like in real classrooms, and then being able to work with colleagues to adapt and apply the standards in their classrooms.
Video is an excellent starting point for seeing and understanding instructional shifts, but watching a video alone will not sustain the shifts in practice that Common Core requires. Teachers need to collaborate, to unpack what is happening in the video and why.
For example, on the Teams platform, teachers can work together in online groups using powerful analysis tools to annotate video, enabling deep discussions and reflection of practice. Groups can be led by teachers, coaches, and instructional leaders, building on face-to-face PD activities to extend the impact into the classroom. Ultimately, teachers can share videos of their own classrooms for reflection and feedback. Providing this ongoing support increases the effectiveness of existing PD initiatives and helps teachers internalize the instructional shifts needed to implement the Common Core.
Pat Wasley has been a public school administrator, a researcher, a university professor and a dean of both the Bank Street Graduate School of Education and the University of Washington College of Education. Along the way, she has worked in a variety of roles to understand how to prepare and support teachers as they develop an ever-growing and sophisticated repertoire of approaches for working with children.