Video use for professional development is much more than a simple substitution for face-to-face coaching, according to district leaders in St. Vrain Valley Schools.
Assistant Superintendent Diane Lauer says it’s a “disruptive innovation that accelerates professional growth.”
St. Vrain Valley is a recognized national exemplar for implementing video within professional learning, including recognition from US Department of Education Office of Ed Tech.
During the presentation, Diane and David detailed their journey of using video observation with teachers and coaches in their district. Although it took time for their district to buy into the idea of video as a primary professional development tool, now it is being used across the entire district. Novice teachers, early career teachers, and mentors are all using video as a professional development tool.
Video reflection supports teacher memory, clarity, and objectivity when analyzing their classroom practice
One reason that St. Vrain Valley instructional coaches and teachers feel video reflection has had a pronounced effect on teacher growth is that it supports memory. The teachers do not have to remember every detail of their instructional time to reflect on their practice. The video acts as a memory catalyst.
David spoke about this when detailing is own experience in the classroom. “When I was standing in front of a classroom of eighth graders, I was watching the students and trying to remember what was coming in the lesson. I didn’t always notice what the subtleties were that were gonna help my students learn. I wasn’t able to see everything.”
Their second belief is that video produces clarity for teachers (and instructional coaches) about what actually happened in the classroom.
“What I see and what you see, and what I remember and what you remember, cannot be denied when it’s right there in video format,” said Diane.
Diane and David’s final reason that video enhances the teacher professional learning process is objectivity: a video recording is an impartial perspective.
“Video removes bias. It removes that point of assumption,” said Diane.
A classroom video gives an unbiased perspective of what a teacher’s classroom looks like. Teachers are able to see what is happening in their classroom, not as they remember it, but as it actually happened.
David reemphasized this point by saying that teachers can “begin coaching themselves because they can use video to accelerate their practice on their own.”
Many current classroom teachers from St.Vrain were also quoted in David and Diane’s presentation. One of them stated, “Video coaching and reflection helped me in my classroom because it gave me an unbiased perspective of what my classroom looks like.” While another said, “Reflecting on my practice through video has made me a more dynamic teacher as it helps you see yourself in a more objective way.”
David added that it is significant for teachers to make a concrete goal of what they want their classroom to ultimately look like. He “uses video with teachers to go from where they are, to where they want to go.”
Four ways St. Vrain educators utilize Edthena within professional learning
Diane and David highlighted four distinct ways that video reflection has been integrated into their district professional learning:
(Each link jumps to a specific moment in the video)
They highlighted video clubs through the example of one of their first-grade teams. The teachers were trying to analyze why they were teaching the same curriculum but getting different results. The teachers decided to create a video club that focused only on literacy instruction where the could glean best practices from each other.
“This was a self-grown initiative,” said David. “They wanted to get better together. They believed and trusted in each other and they knew they were working to make a difference for those kids.”
Lesson study can often be a logistically complex activity requiring teams of educators to visit classrooms together. The benefits, though, can be tremendous. One elementary school has implemented a virtual lesson study process using Edthena.
There was a grade-level focus, identified by reviewing video of classroom teaching. Then the teachers co-planned the shared lesson and then the implementing teacher recorded the lesson. The team members were able to watch and analyze the video separately, and finally the team was able to gather to discuss implications for action and next steps.
Using video to power action research ensures that teachers can gather practice-focused data in their classrooms. The teachers have more ability to conduct the research independently or in small groups.
Finally, utilizing video within peer coaching has been a powerful lever for creating collaboration opportunities among colleagues. Teachers are able to virtually invite others to observe and give feedback “as friends, as colleagues, and as experts.”
The district’s peer coaching resources are available at http://bit.ly/PeerCoachingDallas2018.
“We have teachers asking for more feedback because that is what they crave.”
Lastly, David points out the common practice in video reflection of sharing peer-to-peer for feedback. Through video, teachers are able to observe one another and then identify the focus on what is going on in the room.
“With video, you do not have to leave your own classroom to do this. No subs, no other teachers watching your room, no sitting in the back of your colleague’s class. You are able to gain insights from your peers directly through video,” he said.
You can learn more about the St. Vrain Valley model for using video within professional learning on their Office of Professional Development website.