Suzanne Arnold is an educator on a mission to ensure that every child in Colorado has access to a teacher who’s ready to meet their needs. She’s the director of CU Denver’s ASPIRE program (Alternative School Professionals in Real-World Experiences).
Suzanne and her team support more than 200 teachers in 25 districts. They span from nearby Denver to Indian reservations in the far corners of the state.
One challenge Suzanne and her team faced when starting the program was finding a way to observe and coach all of their teachers. They only had the capacity to visit their teachers’ classrooms two to three times per semester, because of the time and costs associated with travel.
But in Suzanne’s second year with the program, she partnered with Edthena.
Coaches went from observing teachers a few times a semester to observing them more than twice per month!
How would you say has Edthena improved your team’s ability to effectively observe, support and develop the teachers in your program?
The use of the Edthena platform has tremendously expanded our ability to support new teachers in the field. It’s also expanded our ability to move them along the continuum of teacher development. It is a much more efficient process. No longer do we need to schedule classroom observations, nor travel to and from the school.
As a result, we have increased our coaching support more than threefold what it used to be.
Along with this we have been able to identify new teachers who are struggling in the field much more quickly.
What does that increased support look like?
Within the first two weeks of the school year we ask teachers to record themselves teaching the same group of students three days in a row. This gives the coach a baseline-understanding of how the teacher is doing with classroom management and basic instructional design. We can then quickly address those new teachers that are in need of immediate, intensive support, and provide that accordingly throughout the semester.
An anecdote about this is that we have uncovered teachers who are struggling before the administration in their school was aware of it. We can then intervene on the teacher’s behalf. We then help coordinate wrap-around support at the school and through our program. This was not something we initially recognized would be an asset of video coaching.
How do you think video observation enables teacher collaboration?
As a principal you could partner a less experienced teacher up with a more veteran teacher. You could then ask them to to engage in a particular focus, thus enabling them to learn from each other, creating a mentoring type of process.
It is very challenging for teachers to find time to get into other teacher’s classrooms to observe their teaching practices and classroom community. The use of video removes that barrier.
In what other ways do you think video can enhance the existing methods of teacher collaboration?
You could set teachers up in triads where they engage in several cycles over the course of a year or semester. In these cycles they can watch and support each other around the professional learning focus.
If a school is set-up into professional learning communities, video could be the center of the PLC. Teachers would record themselves, watch others, insert comments, and then come back together in-person to discuss what they learned prior to moving onto the next cycle.
Why would you say video is an important tool in the world of teacher professional development in general?
One of the biggest challenges that administrators and teacher observers have is not having enough time to coach and help teachers become more effective in the classroom. The process is not efficient. You need to fit the observation into your very busy schedule, matching the teacher’s schedule. Perhaps the greatest challenge is after the fact, finding time to debrief the observation.
A shift towards video coaching reduces many of these barriers. It also gives teachers the opportunity to review your comments, questions, and suggestions in real-time video. They can see what they are doing in the classroom in relation to where the video is tagged with the comment. This provides direct evidence for both the observer and teacher to engage in dialogue and coaching.