This fall I attended Jim Knight’s Focus on Teaching two day workshop and was reminded of the power that video can have on improving instruction in the classroom. In his book, Focus on Teaching: Using Video in High Impact Instruction, Knight writes:
The major reason video is so useful for learning is that it helps us see exactly what it looks like when we teach or our students learn. This is important because professionals often do not have a clear picture of what it looks like when they do their work.
One of my goals as an instructional coach this year was to use video observation as a way to help the teachers that I work with have a clearer picture of the realities in their classrooms. I wanted teachers to see the positives that they may have missed in the midst of teaching a lesson as well as areas where they could continue to improve. I am responsible for observing our new teachers every other term and when I first attempted video observation in the fall, I can honestly say that I failed miserably with it. I made it more time consuming for them than it was worth. Teachers didn’t take time to watch their videos so the post-observation meetings were more superficial than I had hoped.
For my second go around with video observations I made a few changes to how I approached taking video and to the post-observations. If you are looking to try video observations, here are my tips to making it a more successful experience.
- Buy a camera that you can connect to your computer. I tried to video tape with my phone but I always ran out of space and the files were too big to email to the teachers I worked with. You also want to buy a small tripod that you can attach to your camera. Using the tripod helped me stop the shaking in my videos and made it easier to take notes while I was observing.
- Film the teacher in short chunks. When I first filmed teachers, I taped the whole lesson in one chunk (30-45 minutes long.) No teacher wanted to rewatch 30-45 minutes of a lesson NOR do they want to swift through that video to find the part of the lesson they want to watch. Now I break up my videos into the parts of the lesson: beginning of the class procedures, intro activity, lecture or group work, etc. I never let a video tape longer than 10 minutes. If a lecture or activity goes long, I break the video up into multiple parts.
- If you have Google Drive, I highly recommend downloading the video to Google Drive and then sharing it with the teacher. It is very hard to email video to others. The files are just too big. If you have a teacher who is nervous about others seeing the video, I download the video directly to the teachers computer and delete it off of my camera right away.
- Prior to the post observation meeting, ask teachers to watch a few video chunks looking for two things: what they noticed that was different from what they thought occured in class AND what they would change for future lessons. This helped the teachers focus when they watched their videos and gave them something to talk about during our post observation meeting that was driven by their own observations and not mine.
- When it came time to meet for the post observation, if teachers hadn’t already watched their video, I handed them my headphones and let them sit on my computer and watch a few snippets before we meet. It wasn’t ideal, but the teachers understood my reasoning for having them watch and all found it beneficial in the long run.
- Highlight positives in their lessons. Most of the teachers I worked with were so critical of themselves that I didn’t need to highlight much in the areas to improve on. Instead, I wanted to boost them up a bit and show themareas where there were positives in their lessons. Not all lessons are all bad!
With only thirteen days left in the school year, I don’t think I will be videotaping any more lessons now. Using video was definitely a learning experience for me and I can’t wait to use it more consistently with teachers next year.
What tips do you have for coaches trying to use video observations with the teachers that have worked for you? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.