Even If The Lesson Is Ugly, Classroom Videos Are Beautiful Opportunities For Teacher Reflection

Not every lesson is a masterpiece. But Courtney Groskin, a learning technology coach, doesn’t think they need to be.

Courtney supports teachers in the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado. She says she sees the beauty in a majority of the videos she watches of her teachers. Not because they are all exemplars of perfect classroom instruction but because her teachers use video to reflect on their practice and refine their teaching.

We recently talked with Courtney about her experiences using video to accelerate her teacher’s professional development.

Can you provide an example of how video-reflection has positively benefited the teachers you work with?

We start out by focusing on classroom management with for our first-year teachers. This year, I can think of one example in which a teacher I was working with did not even notice some extremely disruptive behavior happening in the back of her classroom. We are deliberate on having our teachers not only watch themselves in a video, but the overall student engagement. I told this teacher to reflect on how some of these student behaviors were impacting the other students and the classroom.

Later, when we sat down for a coaching session, she had determined that by not recognizing the lack of student engagement in parts of her classroom, she was enabling a lack of engagement as a whole. Through the process of reflecting on a video, she started to focus on seeing what’s happening in her entire classroom.

What are some of the ways that your district currently uses video?Courtney Groskin Picture

In our district, we use it with all our first-year teachers right away in our induction academy. Outside of our first-year teachers, any other teacher has the opportunity to use video through Edthena if they or their coach feel that it will be a beneficial tool for them.

I also have a bunch of experienced teachers that have started using video coaching to reflect on their practice and see how they can elevate their teaching.

How has video impacted you in your role as a coach?

This year we started an inter-district coaching collaborative by working with another district in Colorado’s coaching team. Both our team’s coaches are capturing video, and we’re going into Edthena to leave comments for each other on our actual coaching.

It’s a bit of a meta-coaching model with Edthena, and it has really been helpful for me since it’s my first year in the Learning Technology Coach position.

What is the structure for how your first-year teachers use video?

They capture video of their classroom on a monthly basis. We will provide specific topics of things we would like for them to record. We start the year focusing on classroom management and then focus on other topics based on the specific teacher’s needs.

After each recorded video, we have a coaching session by sitting down to watch the video in Edthena. Then we can pull up exemplars of other teachers throughout St. Vrain and discuss some of the techniques used in these videos that are useful. St. Vrain Image

What do you tell your teachers to look for when they reflect on their video?

They look at things like student engagement to see what the students are actually doing in the class. As a teacher in front of the room, the cognitive load is so high that it’s really hard to see everything. Edthena really lets you step back and focus what’s happening in your classroom from a different perspective. Then you have time to process and reflect on how you can refine your lessons as a whole.

What recommendations would you give to other coaches who were using video as a professional development tool?

Tell your teachers to focus on the students and their engagement first. Having used video to reflect on my own practice, I know it does take time to get used to watching a video of yourself.

Your first look should be to dive into your students. It’s a lot easier to have teachers listen to their voice in the background, rather than watching their mannerisms, and having their focus be on their students.

Courtney’s interview is the latest in our Educator Voices series. To see the previous Educator Voices installments, click here. 

Keep Reading

Resources for Teachers & Instructional Coaches – June 2019

It’s about time to slide into summer, and these articles can help you prevent the PD summer slide. Sometimes, fewer coaching touchpoints can be effective More coaching isn’t necessarily a good thing, according to researchers Matthew Kraft and David Blazar. Surprisingly, we find little evidence that coaching “dosage”—that is, the number of times teachers and…