The Power of Video in Education

Donna Spangler, Ed.D., HMS Instructional Coach

Fostering Professional Learning and Teacher Collaboration through Video

Implementing a video-powered professional learning process is one of the most powerful things you can do as an educator.

No other method of professional learning comes close to the power of actually seeing yourself and other teaching professionals teach. Videos for self-reflection, coaching, and peer collaboration will clarify and amplify the impact you have as a teacher.

In sports, the most powerful thing you can do is review the tapes. By watching yourself, and your teammates, you can see what is working, what isn't working, and it jump starts your reflection about improvements.

Yes, there are other things you can do: read books about sports, ask advice from people who have played sports themselves but may have never seen you play, set goals around things you think you need...but there is nothing as powerful as seeing what is happening with your own eyes, and then making adjustments from there.

While you are in the game as a player, you cannot see everything that is going on. You do not have an objective standpoint. Instead, you are involved in the game.

The same thing is for teaching. While you are teaching, you are making hundreds of decisions every day, often several in a minute. You are one in a class of maybe 25 students. Do you think you can see everything while you are in the game of teaching? Did you execute the lesson effectively? Were all students self-directing their learning or merely following directions? Was anyone off task? How do you really know whether students were learning and applying their new knowledge, and how many out of 25 were?

You can't possibly know the answers to everything you want to know about your teaching. Why? Because you were in the midst of the game of teaching. You weren't an outside spectator looking in, and if you had been an outside spectator looking in, chances are that in a room of 25 students and 1 teacher, you missed some things. You do not have a photographic memory.

Video, however, can change that.

Is video uncomfortable for a teacher? Yes!

Are you going to at first fixate on what you look and sound like (which will be different from what you think in your head you look like and sound like? Yes!

However, if you can get past all that, it can be powerful.

After all, video recording your classroom instruction isn't only about you as the teacher. It is ultimately about the students and their learning.

If you view video in that frame, you will find it valuable.

Why Video in the Classroom?

Classrooms are complex environments. Most often, the challenges that arise within them are of the adaptive, not just the technical variety. Adaptive challenges can be difficult even to identify, and they have no ready-made solutions. They require teachers to engage in sustained inquiry to improve their teaching and to address unique challenges for students.Changing mindsets and mental models is at the heart of adaptive challenges.

This means that effective teachers need to be able to learn from their own teaching. Video coaching and collaboration does just that. It gives teachers an opportunity to learn from their own teaching, and to help teachers see themselves as their students do.

John Hattie's Visible Learning (2008) argues that teachers need to be able to see learning in their classrooms through the eyes of their students. Once teachers do this, they can better evaluate their own teaching; they can understand its effects on student learning, and teachers can determine how to improve.

What Video-Recording Allows Us to Do as Classroom Teachers

1. Video-recording yourself and self-reflecting allows us:

  • To self-reflect not built on a recollection of facts
  • To view through video what happened based on actual facts about what occurred (or didn't) in the classroom
  • To help teachers with a growth mindset
  • To see our teaching strengths, and areas where we can improve
  • To see where "perception" meets "reality."
  • To self-reflect accurately about did those things that the teacher believes actually happened in the lesson, did they happen? Use of video allows you to verify that those things really did or didn't happen.

2. Video-recording yourself, self-reflecting, and engaging in a coaching conversation allows us:

  • To make the conversation more objective since video-enhanced coaching is indisputable
  • To use the recording to build credibility between the coach and the teacher
  • To validate the teacher's and the coach's perspective
  • To have accountability on both sides
  • To have a conversation not built on a recollection of facts or scripting done in the classroom
  • To allow the teacher to open up to feedback because video is a non-biased opinion
  • To help teachers with a growth mindset
  • To normalize conversation through video review
  • Feedback can be time-stamped. A teacher can go to that timestamp, see the video, and understand what the written feedback is documenting.
  • Video helps teachers to see their strengths, and areas where they can improve in.
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Five Different Ways to Set Up Video-Powered Personalized Professional Learning

Here are a few ways to set up video-powered professional learning.
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Method 1: Extending Traditional Classroom Observation

Instead of the traditional observation where a principal shows up once or twice a school year, an online collaboration platform like Sibme gives both parties more options.

One of the shortcomings with traditional observations is the the post-conference often becomes a game of who recollects what. Sometimes things are mentioned to the teacher that he / she has absolutely no recollection of occurring during the observation.

Video changes that. By having the teacher see the video, the conversation becomes focused on the evidence available on the recording.

In some districts, teachers have the option of uploading a video-recording to a collaborative huddle in a certain time frame. This allows the teacher a choice of not only what to upload, but her / she can upload something that correlates with a personalized goal the teacher has for himself / herself making the conversation more meaningful with the administrator rather than simply any observation.

In addition, a "best practice library" of clips of teachers within the building / district can be created as a resource for other teachers. This personalizes not only the evaluation process, but it also personalizes the learning because the items in that video library are the teachers within that building / district.

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Method 2: Non-evaluative Instructional Coaching and Mentoring

Instructional coaches and teachers can use a collaborative platform like Sibme in a variety of ways.

1. Coaches and teachers could engage in a three-step coaching cycle to improve instructional teaching and student learning.

2. Coaches and teachers could examine a recent video alongside previously reviewed videos with annotated videotags to identify evidence of change in practice over time and to reflect on what those changes are.

3. Coaches and teachers could engage in a structured cycle of inquiry within their classrooms in order to improve instruction, student and teacher experiences, and students' learning / achievement.

4. Coaches and teachers could analyze an example video that models a specific skill the teacher wants to use. Teachers could then tape themselves doing the skill, and share the footage with a coach. Both the teacher and the coach review and analyze the recording in order to receive feedback.

And, there are many more examples....

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Method 3: Video-Recording with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Now, PLCs can certainly video-record lessons and teachers can view, analyze, and discuss footage of one another's classrooms in order to collectively improve teaching and student learning.

But, there are so many other things that PLCs (which meet face-to-face) can also leverage with a collaboration platform like Sibme.

For example, you could:

1. Video-record student focus groups responding to questions about teaching and learning in the classroom to gain a deeper understanding of what is / isn't working for students. These recordings can be shared with PLCs to view, analyze, and discuss the footage.

2. Video-record a PLC meeting and then view, analyze, and discuss the footage using focused questions and / or a meeting rubric to determine what is really effective about the PLC meeting and what could be improved in future meetings. PLCs can share the videos asynchronously and examine what other groups do to provide feedback and to improve their own meeting practice.

3. Conduct an analysis of student work and / or data that could be shared, discussed, and reviewed through a collaboration platform like Sibme.

4. Record teachers rehearsing portions of upcoming instruction in order to refine the practice before implementing the teaching with students. Members of the PLC can provide feedback through the Sibme platform.

And, there are many more examples....

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Method 4: Video Learning Teams (VLCs) in Action

In VLCs, teachers view, analyze, and discuss footage of one another's classrooms in order to fuel collective improvement of the members of the VLCs.

Using a platform like Sibme allows members of the VLCs to upload videos and resources. They can also hold discussions in the Sibme platform, videotag and annotate the recording, and respond asynchronously to each others comments.

VLCs are collaborative, ongoing groups that work to maximize teacher and student learning.

VLCs personalize learning because teachers choose the video footage to share, and ask their peers to focus their analysis on some specific item either from the state of student learning and / or the way that instruction influences the students' learning.

VLC members analyze and compare shared footage, identifying evidence of what students are able / not able to do, and then offer feedback or identify best practices and useful resources.

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Method 5: Creating Microcredentials

Microcredentials are performance-based assessments intended to allow the educator to demonstrate competency in a skill.

Microcredentials incorporate pathways whereby learning can occur and the skill can be strengthened as the teacher works towards the credentials, making them assessments for learning.

Effective professional development is effective when it has a positive and "enduring impact" on school leadership, classroom practice, and student learning (Gusky, 2021).

Jacob and McGovern (2015) write, "We bombard teachers with help, but most of it is not helpful - to teachers as professionals or to schools seeking better instruction" (p. 4).

A great deal of what teachers may learn in settings like conferences and workshops never transfers into their practice (Joyce & Showers, 2002), so it cannot have the enduring impact that Guskey describes above.

Watch It: Bill Gates--Teachers Need Real Feedback [10:21]

In this TED talk, Bill Gates focuses on the idea of improving education through a simple yet effective mechanism - teacher feedback.

Until recently, many teachers only got one word of feedback a year: "satisfactory." And with no feedback, no coaching, there's just no way to improve. Bill Gates suggests that even great teachers can get better with smart feedback -- and lays out a program from his foundation to bring it to every classroom.

Gates points out that among countries whose students perform better than the U.S. (ranked 15th) in reading, 11 out of 14 have systematic teacher feedback systems in place as way of improving teacher performance. The U.S. does not. Teachers in many of those nations routinely get together to talk about what's working, and many are also required to observe and offer feedback to their peers.

There is a difference for teachers between the abstract of how we see our practice and then the concrete reality of it. Video offers for us is a certain degree of reality. You can't really dispute what you see on the video.

There is a lot to be learned from the use of video and there's a lot of ways that we can grow as a profession when we actually get to see our work.

There are even more ways to grow as a professional when you share that work with someone, and see that work through their eyes.

Donna Spangler, Ed.D.

Hershey Middle School

Instructional Coach

Department Chair for Coaches

Derry Township School District

Hershey, PA 17033

Hershey Middle School Instructional Coaching Website

Welcome to my Instructional Coaching site for Hershey Middle School in the Derry Township School District.