Ten Strategies to Improve Teaching with Video
For years, video has been used in classrooms to impart knowledge to students. But only recently has the idea of video as a tool to impact teacher growth started gaining ground.
As states and K-12 organizations around the country look for ways to support teachers in improving classroom practice, attention is increasingly turning to video. For self-reflection and peer collaboration, video provides an opportunity for teachers and coaches to observe lessons from the same point of view, and allows classroom observation to occur at any time. And thanks to advancements in technology, video is easier, better, faster and cheaper than ever before.
Below, principals and school administrators will find several methods for using video to improve teaching performance. You’ll learn what works — and some things to avoid — when implementing video in your district or school.
This white paper includes:
- A look at ten different ways video is useful for improving teaching practice
- Best practices for using video as a reflection and coaching tool
- Real-life examples of organizations that have successfully used video to support educator growth
- Tips for those new to using video in evaluation and professional development settings
Using Video to Improve Student Performance
Teaching practices that lead to high student performance can be taught, mastered and measured. Research has confirmed that instructional expertise can be assessed accurately and that teachers who receive high-quality feedback can steadily improve. Capturing teaching practices on video can provide several benefits, including providing opportunities to:
- Watch a lesson any time, not just at the moment it’s being taught
- Pause a lesson to discuss the teacher’s thinking and explore “what-if” scenarios
- Get peer feedback about a lesson
Video Technology Trends Today
Video and audio technology has advanced to become easier to use, faster to upload and more affordable, making it more accessible for classroom use. The equipment has become smaller and less intrusive, allowing it to blend into typical classroom settings. This permits teachers and students to quickly move beyond the tendency to “play to the camera” in a very short time.
Video quality has also greatly improved. Clearer pictures, better audio and even reasonably-priced panoramic cameras allow teachers, principals and coaches to see everything that happens in the room, not just a static view of the teacher.
The use of video has tremendous potential to improve performance and boost teaching effectiveness, but many — if not most — teachers might feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Here are some tips to get started:
Use video for self-reflection first.
To help teachers get acclimated to using video, in the beginning let them try it out on their own, using it only for self-reflection. Knowing that no one else will see their first videos can give teachers the confidence to start recording lessons on a regular basis.
Know that the first time feels awkward for most people.
Teachers should allow a few moments to adjust while watching, and then move on. When watching their own videos, it’s best if teachers don’t focus on their looks. Video provides a valuable opportunity to observe one’s teaching and isn’t supposed to be a time to be critical about hair and clothing.
Focus on one aspect of the lesson — student engagement, for example — that video can uniquely shine a light on.
When watching themselves on video for the first time, teachers can be overwhelmed by the change in perspective. Until they become more comfortable with video, they should concentrate on improving one particular area, rather than critiquing an entire lesson.
Share a clip from a lesson that went really well with a peer.
Once teachers start to share videos on a regular basis, they will become more comfortable sharing lessons that didn’t go as well and asking for support and coaching.
Educators in the Berkshires of Massachusetts give us a real-life example. There, educators are setting goals, reflecting on their learning, connecting new ideas to practice and proposing additional professional learning approaches to meet their specific needs.” – Dan Brown, National Board Certified Teacher [i]
Ten Strategies to Improve Teaching with Video
- Self-Reflection and Self-Evaluation
- Peer Mentoring
- Coaching Teachers
- Inducting New Teachers
- Building Video Libraries of Best Practices and Professional Development Workshops
- Creating Video Learning Communities
- Prepare for New Curriculum and Teaching Standards
- Motivating Teachers
- Curbing “Habituation”
- Bridging Time and Distance Constraints
Teaching is complex — the hundreds of decisions teachers must make in any given day keeps them incredibly busy. For most teachers, stepping back and observing everything that is happening in their class while they teach is nearly impossible.
The ability to see one’s own performance in the classroom can be invaluable for experienced teachers as well as teachers in training.
When teachers can reflect on how they work with groups of varying abilities and interest levels, they gain a greater understanding of how they serve all their students. Developing awareness, for example, of which students are engaged during a lesson and which seem distracted or uninterested can help teachers hone in on the specifics of the classroom dynamics — where the students are located, what visual aids are being used, the learning styles of different students, and their own presentation style.
Teachers will also see what is working well in their classrooms, which can help them develop greater confidence in their abilities and thereby improve their practices.
“…many of the teachers who participated in the MET project video study told us that seeing themselves was one of their most valuable professional development experiences.” – As noted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [ii]
At Gwynedd Mercy University (GMU) in Pennsylvania, student teachers are videotaped at least once as they conduct a lesson. Supervisors use the videos for one-on-one or group evaluations, and students use them for self-reflection. According to one GMU student, “As educators-in-training, we were able to step outside ourselves and see how our students reacted to our teaching. It’s an essential tool for any new teacher. The videos allowed us to critique ourselves properly and at many different levels so we could tweak and enhance our teaching.”
At La Joya Independent School District in Texas, the district’s early childhood program, in its infancy at the time, lacked a broad understanding of best practices in early childhood programs. A shift in priorities required the district to expand the program very quickly, which included the use of video as part of teacher training and mentoring. The ability to view video of their own efforts increased teachers’ confidence in dealing with classroom structure and management, as well as in implementing activities that helped develop children’s cognitive abilities and phonological awareness.
Peer mentoring is no longer restricted to teachers within one school or one district. Malaika Costello-Dougherty writes in an article on Edutopia:
A virtual environment allows teachers to explore their fears and learn from mistakes without being judged by the teachers they work with every day at their school. Statistics show that new teachers are at risk for leaving the profession. These online exchanges can give guidance to such teachers, keeping them in the field. They can also rejuvenate experienced teachers who are looking for some motivation.[iii]
Working in pairs or small teams, peer mentor teachers can use video to record their classes and review them with a focus on one area. Participating teachers can avoid nit-picking and concentrate on producing specific takeaways about how to improve in that area, resulting in a more constructive and positive session.
A mentor and peer can record a class on video, then identify a specific lens through which to view it — for example, “In this class, how well were all students engaged through the use of questioning?” Then, at the next coaching session, they can watch the video, paying careful attention to how often questions were used to engage students, how often the students answered the questions, whether questions were asked of all students or only a few and whether the teacher allowed enough wait time for questions to be answered.
After this analysis, the mentor and the teacher can work together to create a plan of action for the next lesson, putting processes into place to ensure the appropriate questions are asked and that many students are engaged. Additionally, the action plan might include measures to ensure that students have the opportunity to discuss possible answers with peers before responding to the teacher.
A second round of video-based mentoring might include recording another lesson, then watching it together to debrief. This time, the focus could be on how successful the questioning strategies have been implemented.
Video opens up possibilities for coaching beyond the typical “observe and-reflect” between a teacher and a coach. Coaches can set up a continuous improvement process for the teacher using video as an integral part of trying out new strategies, getting feedback and trying again.
As teachers implement new strategies in the classroom, video can help them see the direct impact their changes have in improving instructional effectiveness and student performance. Actually watching oneself excel and make a difference with students is powerful positive reinforcement and motivates teachers to apply their strengths to other behaviors and practices.
“The most important part of instructional coaching is goal setting.” – Jim Knight, Instructional Coaching Group
The most important part of instructional coaching is goal setting, according to noted instructional coach Jim Knight, president of the Instructional Coaching Group. Effective goals are based on a clear picture of what is happening in the classroom, and video is the easiest way to capture that picture. Knight suggests that, after recording a video, the teacher and the coach each watch the video on their own. The teacher may also complete survey questions based on her teaching activity and/or the activities of her students. After watching the video, the teacher and coach can work together to help identify and establish measurable student goals.[iv]
New teachers often find themselves in a situation in which they are unaware of the norms and expectations unique to the school. Video can be used to demonstrate these expectations and how they are displayed in the classroom.
For example, if a principal or a curriculum director expects certain practices or behaviors to be evident in every classroom, video clips can exhibit how experienced teachers successfully use these practices in their classrooms. If a particular practice can be executed in multiple ways, examples of each acceptable method can be compiled and shown, giving new teachers flexibility as they incorporate these behaviors into their individual teaching styles. The videos could also be made available for future viewing if remediation or a simple refresher is needed.
Teaching is complex. Video allows districts to develop local libraries of best practices based on their definition of teaching effectiveness featuring teachers they know and respect and students and classrooms that seem familiar.
Collecting and sharing video of best practices from across the district can help teachers modify areas they need to work on and reinforce their strengths. Building a video library gives teachers on-demand access to examples of best practices when they need them most. Ideally, the library should be tagged and searchable by strategy, class content, grade level and other criteria.
Too often, professional development activities have a “drive-by” feel. While the content may inspire teachers as it is being delivered, that feeling fades over time, as does the impact of the information provided. By capturing workshops and training on video that teachers can watch anytime, administrators can increase the value and extend the life of their professional development, reach more teachers and even offer periodic refreshers at no extra cost.
As part of a program for instructional facilitators who provide job-embedded on-site coaching and support monitoring at Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina, individual teachers can access a full library of video resources and strategy concepts at any time. While professional development teams focus on particular strategies like setting objectives and obtaining feedback, teachers maintain a degree of autonomy throughout the process, experimenting with new strategies on their own while still being guided by the online content’s research and guidelines.
School districts across the United States are discovering the power of sharing video among teachers for professional development, as an enhancement to professional learning communities (PLCs). During the 2012-2013 school year, 12 schools in Hillsborough County, Florida, took part in a pilot program to create a video learning community (VLC). The VLC allows teachers to reflect on their practices, share videotaped lessons with their colleagues and receive feedback and coaching in a non-evaluative way. According to teachers who took part in the program, “using video in this way is very powerful.”
Those teachers used video as a basis for ongoing professional conversations focused on increasing their proficiency and for reflection on their own instructional practices. Teachers participated in an engaging VLC where they received feedback, coaching and mentoring; shared videos of best teaching practices and lessons with their colleagues; discussed implementation strategies in face-to-face meetings; and recorded in-person professional development sessions and PLC meetings, sharing the videos with faculty who were unable to attend. The program proved so successful that 20 or more additional schools in the district anticipate establishing similar VLCs for the upcoming year.
Another example of a VLC might involve teams of teachers engaging in a lesson study in which they jointly design a lesson, capture a teacher teaching the lesson on video, then review and analyze the lesson to work on strengthening it for future delivery.
When deciding to share video, a professional learning community should establish expectations of its members regarding the types of feedback to be provided. For example, the community could opt to place no limits on comments, welcoming both positive and negative remarks. They could choose to permit only positive feedback, or simply have members watch the video and incorporate personal observations and reactions to what they see into their individual teaching styles. Establishing norms will help the community develop a greater comfort level with video, with the potential of creating video learning communities.
As curriculum and teaching standards are changing, teachers need to change their instructional strategies to meet these new expectations. By using video in the classroom, teachers can identify and capture instances where they are successfully demonstrating these new strategies and share them with other teachers more quickly and easily.
Districts are collecting and building video libraries to help teachers develop and improve their instructional practices to get different and greater results from their students, and to help students perform to new standards.
Teaching is demanding enough on its own, and with the intense focus on teaching from the government and media, it can be difficult for teachers to stay inspired and motivated. Video can be a catalyst for promoting and holding collective discussions about all the positive work teachers do, and the success stories they are seeing with their students.
In Florida, principals with the Escambia County School District have moved beyond one-to-one reflections with teachers. Now, teams of teachers support each other through viewing videos of each other’s teaching and sharing in regular group reflection. Group participants include grade level teachers, department teams or the entire faculty, and they meet every 8 to 10 weeks. The reflective discussions serve to increase teachers’ feelings of ownership in their professional development, boost confidence in their capacity for improvement, and develop feelings of support and solidarity with their colleagues.
“Habituation” — the tendency for people to stop noticing or responding to what they are repeatedly exposed to — can be an issue in the classroom, as Jim Knight, president of the Instructional Coaching Group, explains. As teachers get used to teaching the same material and seeing the same students every day, it is not unusual for, say, a disengaged student to go unnoticed, or student behavioral problems to go unaddressed. On the lip side, a teacher who suffers from habituation can, sometimes without realizing it, lose her motivation and forget the importance of her job.
Watching their teaching on video can help teachers gain a fresh perspective on and new awareness of their practice, and how (or whether) they are engaging their students. Video can show teachers, in stark relief, when they are doing a good job encouraging their students, instances where they could be more positive, and particular students who may not appear engaged and require extra attention.[v]
The day of a school-based administrator has never been more complex and busy. For this reason, many principals use video so they can observe more teachers more often over the course of the school year. As an added benefit, principals can review video observations at times when urgent issues are less likely to be a distraction, and they can provide feedback to teachers more frequently.
Similarly, professors in schools of education can review the classroom work of student teachers more frequently, without the need to travel to every school where their students are training.
In both cases, observations and findings can be shared among multiple school administrators or faculty, providing a more comprehensive review and consensus.
In school districts where distance can be an obstacle to peer sharing, mentoring and coaching, the use of video can bring teachers who work miles apart together more frequently.
With video, peers and fellow teachers don’t have to worry about leaving the classroom (and perhaps getting a substitute) in order to give peer feedback.
In addition, there are lessons to be learned beyond our nation’s borders. Establishing a VLC with a school in another country can help expand best practices and provide insight into the skills needed to succeed in a global economy.
The New Teacher Project (TNTP) believes that when video is used for thoughtful analysis in which teachers take an active role, it can make an enormous difference in education. TNTP uses video in its teacher support programs, and has learned some strategies for using video that work well. These suggestions are courtesy of Karla Oakley, senior strategist at TNTP.[vi]
Limit the scope of each session.
It might seem easy to try to focus on several areas that a teacher could work on, but concentrating on one or two key skills per video-based observation will be more effective and less overwhelming.
Gather multiple perspectives from reviewers in different locations.
Video allows teachers to get a variety of viewpoints from beyond their building’s walls. A principal who may not have a background in a particular teacher’s subject, for example, can share with this teacher a lesson video on the same subject from a teacher at another school.
Comment at specific moments in the lesson.
When teachers see a peer’s or coach’s praise or suggestions tagged to the corresponding activity in the video, it’s easier to visualize what worked, or what might have worked better, in the lesson. Viewing these moments by video is far superior to relying on memory, and software with a time-stamped commenting feature is important to this process.
Make video a regular part of the classroom.
When teachers routinely capture video of the classroom, teachers and their students become used to the video camera. When this happens, they are much more likely to be themselves and not act for the camera. With a natural picture of teaching and learning, teaching analysis is more effective.
In order to collect as many of these emerging best practices as possible, video should be captured regularly. It’s often difficult to predict when a breakthrough moment might occur. Unless video recording is done frequently, documenting these moments becomes difficult. As a result, opportunities to collect and share ways of reaching these new standards are lost.
Creating a Culture of Using Video
The use of classroom video can improve teacher effectiveness in a number of ways. To ensure the highest level of success from the use of video, administrators should consider the following:
Help teachers develop a comfort level with video.
Some teachers may embrace the idea of having their classes recorded and shared, while others might strenuously object. The principal, along with other building and district administrators, should continuously reinforce the idea that video is a positive force in the classroom and is intended to help improve teacher effectiveness.
When resistance is encountered, work to identify its source.
If teachers are concerned that their teaching style “won’t play to the camera,” encourage them to begin with short segments, such as the beginning of a lesson rather than the entire lesson, to develop a comfort level.
Avoid using classroom video as a part of performance evaluations, whenever possible.
Many teachers worry that video will be used for evaluative purposes, rather than strictly for professional development. If teachers feel the need to be “perfect” in front of the camera, innovative practices will seldom emerge.
Provide assurances to teachers that they control who can access the videos they create.
Establishing and maintaining the security of videos will build teacher confidence, leading to more widespread use of video.
A Focus on Teaching
Research consistently shows that the most important factor in student learning is the presence of a quality teacher. Improving teacher quality has a direct impact on student success. By implementing the use of video to promote greater teacher effectiveness, teachers can learn and improve in ways never before possible.
- Podcast: See Reality, Get Better: One of the best things teachers can do to improve their practice is to film themselves teaching, then replay and reflect. Dr. Jim Knight discusses how teachers and administrators can best use video to enhance teaching, mentoring and coaching.
- Podcast: The Camera Doesn’t Lie: Filming yourself teaching on video is scary. But here’s one teacher who fell in love with it, and she thinks you should, too.
[i] (Brown, D. (2011, December 6). Confessions of a New NBCT. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/12/06/ tln_brown_confessions.html)
[ii] Feedback for Better Teaching: Nine Principles for Using Measures of Effective Teaching (Rep.). (2013). Retrieved March 30, 2016, from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website: http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/MET_Feedback-for-BetterTeaching_Principles-Paper.pdf
[iii] (Costello-Dougherty, M. (2008, August 13). A Match Made in Cyberspace: The Next Generation of Teachers Will Seek Virtual Support. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/whats-next-2008-onlinementoring
[iv] Knight, J. (2013, February 22). The Most Important Part of Instructional Coaching? Setting a Goal. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from http://www.radicallearners.com/important-part-instructional-coaching-setting-goal/
[v] Knight, J. (2013, February 22). The Most Important Part of Instructional Coaching? Setting a Goal. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from http://www.radicallearners.com/important-part-instructional-coaching-setting-goal/