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Video for Self-Reflection and Peer Feedback: First Steps

Professional Growth

Helping teachers get past the discomfort of recording their lessons on video.

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1998 was my first summer away from home. Backpacking through Europe was a bit out of reach, so instead I found myself working as a camp counselor. It had everything you’d expect: campfires, massive games of Capture the Flag, goofy songs, lots of laughter.

We were charged with making sure the kids in our care stayed safe, got where they were going on time and had a blast. I was great at the first two. The third? Not so much. I was so intent on keeping campers in line that I didn’t realize how often I said, “No.” “Stop that!” “Sit down!”

The camp director took me aside one day and helped me see how focused I was on order that I lost sight of fun. I was grateful for her oh-so-specific feedback. It made a difference to me, and to those kids.

Observers, mentors, coaches and colleagues can do the same for teachers: they lend experience, skill and perspective. Most likely, this already happens in your district. But with the arrival of the smartphone, one crucial tool has become much more accessible in recent years: video.

We’ve seen that video has tremendous potential to increase teaching effectiveness. Giving teachers the tools to record their lessons makes it possible to:

  • Observe a teacher at any time, so mentors and peers don’t need to be pulled out of their own classrooms to watch a teacher at work
  • Pause a lesson to discuss why a teacher did x, y, or z
  • Easily share lessons and receive feedback

Used properly, video can be a powerful resource to share and receive feedback on teaching practice. But many people are uncomfortable with the process at first (that comes as a shock, I know).

If you’re taking your first tentative steps with video, here are a few ideas to get started:

Start with self-reflection

Let your teachers start off using video by themselves at first — setting up a camera or phone on a tripod in the back of the room, then using the footage to self-reflect. Knowing that only they will see the video can give them confidence to record more lessons, and eventually share with a peer or mentor.

Remember that the first time feels awkward

It’s natural to be critical of hair and clothing when watching yourself on video, but encourage your teachers to focus on the lesson, not their appearance. Give them a few minutes to adjust while watching, then move on.

Focus on just one thing

Sometimes, teachers can be overwhelmed by the change in perspective when they first start watching themselves on video. Until they become more comfortable, it helps to focus on improving just one particular area — such as student engagement — rather than the entire lesson.

Ask teachers to share a clip from a lesson that went really well

Once teachers begin to get used to using video, ask them to choose a clip from a lesson that went well and share it with a peer. As they do this more regularly, they’ll become even more comfortable, and can start sharing lessons that didn’t go as well to get support and coaching.

So what’s next? What does it look like to actually start using video to support teacher growth and create opportunities for meaningful discussions and feedback? The ideas above were stolen adapted from our white paper, “10 Strategies to Improve Teaching with Video.” It’s chock-full of ways to use video for self-reflection, peer mentoring, coaching, new teacher training and professional learning. Download it today.

“You’re not just seeing the lesson plan, you’re seeing student engagement, you’re seeing the environmental print around the room. In the reflection process that we do on video, it’s never about the teacher, it’s always about the lesson itself.”
– Amy Carey, Reading Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia

Ryan Estes

Ryan is the Content Marketing Manager for the global award-winning Content Team at Frontline Education. He spends his time writing, podcasting, and creating content for leaders in K-12 education