Infusing the Entire Teacher Training Program with Video at Vanderbilt

Barbara Stengel Vanderbilt UniversityBarbara Stengel has long recognized the potential versatility of video as a development tool.

As Associate Chair of Teacher Education at Vanderbilt University, she is constantly balancing the need to implement research-based strategies with the desire to do it in ways that makes professors and teacher candidates happy.

Edthena fits into that category for her, and it’s one reason why teacher candidates at Vanderbilt now use Edthena in all stages of their preparation and development.

How does the use of video look across your various programs after a year with Edthena?

Our undergraduate licensure program uses video in methods classes to document on-site rehearsals and first attempts at critical practices. Students in this program also use Edthena for edTPA portfolio preparation.

Our in-service teachers use video observation and reflection to analyze student thinking – the process in which students sequence ideas and reach conclusions. Our teachers use this to inform their instruction and practice.

And, unsurprisingly, my team and I have found that video allows us to see our master’s level candidates’ thinking and problem solving processes more clearly, too – which of course is very valuable.

What about Edthena supports your varied use of the platform for classroom observation?

Vanderbilt university Edthena partnerEdthena can be used in these different contexts because it can be used both for self reflection as well as group practice.

Not to mention, both candidates and in-service teachers alike all come to truly enjoy the reflection and collaboration process. They WANT to see themselves and their peers in action.

Edthena also informs my practice as a professor and allows me to more easily collaborate with coaches and mentors.

What makes using Edthena different from other tools you’ve tried in the past?

Edthena makes the process of both reflection and providing feedback easy. It’s easy to share and find videos. That teachers can share their videos with others and get-and-give feedback in a nonthreatening, constructive space seems really valuable.

The way video conversations are set up – with the four specific types of feedback – makes it very easy to offer constructive feedback. I also appreciate the added space that allows me to provide private, constructive comments.

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This One Strategy Can Invest Your Teachers In Video Observation

A common concern with organizations new to using video as a tool for classroom observation is how to get their organizations — the coaches and the teachers — comfortable with a video-powered process.

video observation We know from experience getting everyone over the initial barrier of having not previously tried video reflection is important to their long term confidence in their ability to participate in video coaching. 

Much like how an English teacher might scaffold the process of essay writing by starting with a topic selection session, we suggest groups start with a low-risk classroom observation experience where there is a high chance of success.

And there’s one strategy in particular that’s easy to execute successfully while also adding value to the overall video observation process.

Ask teachers to record a classroom tour.

The logistics are as simple as you might imagine: Teachers are asked to capture and upload a short video which shows the organization of their classroom and to then explain any systems which might be in place. Then they share it with their peers and coach for feedback.

Not only does this experience gently introduce and familiarize teachers with the process of classroom observation using video, it also helps share the context of the classroom with the coach who may not be able to visit in person.

The video below is by Kaleigh O’Donnell, a fifth-grade teacher at Westlawn Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia. Kaleigh recorded this tour so that we could share an example of how accessible this experience can be for all teachers.

Bonus tip: We’ve seen a few of our partners expand upon this idea of a classroom tour video by using Explorations. In addition to an easy video, they might ask teachers to submit a short reflection, or analyze an example classroom tour video. This creates a more comprehensive experience for teachers, serving to immerse them more fully in the experiences they’ll have in Edthena throughout the year.

photo credit: BLC07_ 47 via photopin (license)
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What Edthena Learned as an edTPA Platform Provider

This past spring Edthena became an approved edTPA platform provider. This means we provide for the secure transfer of edTPA artifacts from Edthena to Pearson for scoring by Pearson-trained and calibrated scorers.

Our goal for participating in this process was to use technology to help streamline a difficult yet important step for becoming a teacher in some places. We believed our core expertise as a company — online tools to quickly and easily annotate classroom video — could also provide a scaffold of support to candidates before and during their process of assembling the portfolios.

Since most candidates have finalized the portfolios they started last spring, we figured it was a good time to reflect on whether or not we achieved these goals.

What the data say

When we release new features in the Edthena platform, we measure the activity of the users who are engaging with them. This allows us to analyze how things are being used.

Sometimes we measure the number of times a button is clicked. Sometimes we measure the time it takes for users to complete a process.

Of the data we collect pertaining to the edTPA features, portfolio transfer time and transfer success rate are the two numbers we watch closely because they’re an indication of the things that are directly under our own control.

5 minutes: Average amount of time it took us to package the portfolios and notify Pearson to initiate the secure transfer process; 98%: Percentage of portfolios we transferred from our platform to Pearson successfully on the first try

We can also calculate things like how long it took candidates’ portfolios to process on the Pearson servers. Hint: It was also a fast timeframe. However, we can’t say for sure how the extent to which our own efforts to prepare the files are in reducing processing time. And we always recommend that candidates transfer portfolios in advance of a scoring deadline anyway.

What the users say

The quantitative data only tell part of the story. The opinions of the users – the qualitative data – are also important.

We asked candidates and coordinators about their experience using Edthena via online survey:

  • “I found Edthena so helpful in making sure I had all the correct materials in the right place to submit for the edTPA.” – Candidate
  • “Edthena seems to be the simplest way to complete the edTPA.” – Candidate
  • “Overall, the students really loved using Edthena for the edTPA and found it very helpful.” – Instructor

One of the reasons we think our users were this happy with our edTPA features is that we involved them in the design and development process.

For example, it was a safe bet that we’d have copies of the edTPA handbooks and templates in our platform, but there were many potential places we could put the documents for download. Determining the best places for the documents was surfaced through user interviews before we ever drew a single design.

How we learned with our users

We’re very proud of our 98% success rate transferring portfolios, but maybe there were ways to edge closer to 100%.

We actively analyzed our failures to determine if any of the issues were caused by something we didn’t think of during the design process.

For example, early in the semester a candidate used a question mark in one of her file names, and this was not compatible with the rules for file names during the transfer process. This was something we hadn’t anticipated, but we quickly released a change to ensure no other candidates had the same problem.

Actually, as it related to file names, we added this question mark rule to the set of automatic changes we make behind-the-scenes for candidates. In addition to the formatting rules, we also add required labels to file names like “Clip 1” or “Student 2.”

Moving forward

A year ago we didn’t have anything in our platform related to edTPA. And today we’re fully engaged in this work of supporting teacher candidates to assemble a set of evidence that, in many places, can determine if someone becomes a teacher.

While we hear from many that the assessment is complex and challenging, we continue to believe that the assessment is aligned to the same skills we help our partners implement into their work of supporting teacher candidates: how to analyze and reflect on one’s teaching.

It is incredibly exciting to watch teachers use the platform to power their growth as a teacher — whether or not it’s related to edTPA — and we’re excited to continue supporting teachers in training.

The edTPA trademarks are owned by The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Use of the edTPA trademarks is permitted only pursuant to the terms of a written license agreement.

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