Videoconferencing isn’t only a benefit to students. Video coaching is a concept that can help teachers learn from one another.
Most administrators and building leaders agree that professional development is essential to helping teachers continuously improve their skills. However, most would also agree that it can be a challenge at times figuring out how to maximize – and personalize – the learning process for teachers.
At my middle school, we started conducting peer-to-peer observations to help teachers collaboratively share best practices and receive constructive feedback. These observations benefitted our teachers, but going into other classrooms to observe their peers was taking up too much of their prep time. We knew there had to be a better, more efficient process.
Turning to Video Coaching
To help streamline the observation process, we implemented a video coaching initiative three years ago. Using a platform called Edthena, our teachers were able to quickly and easily upload videos they captured of their classroom practices. They could share those videos with coaches and colleagues who provide timestamped comments and feedback.
Video coaching eliminated the need for teachers to physically go into their colleagues’ classrooms to conduct observations – they were now able to watch the videos and provide feedback anytime, anywhere.
Progression with Video Coaching
The use of video really allowed us to provide a focus for our observations. The first year of the initiative, for example, we honed in on the instructional goal of having teachers use more domain-specific vocabulary. We asked our high-performing veteran teachers to record themselves using this vocabulary and then had other teachers watch the videos and reflect, share feedback, and collaborate about what they learned. We also recorded co-planning sessions so our teachers could learn co-teaching strategies. Dialogue about these videos really got going and helped us create a more collaborative, growth-focused environment.
In our second year we still used video for co-teaching and highlighting exemplar practices, and we started using it for teacher explorations. Individual teachers started recording their own practices and using the videos to work toward proficiency. This was paired with in-person coaching as part of a blended approach.
This year, we are using video in a variety of contexts, including for co-teaching, peer observations, teacher explorations, and during reflective grade-level PLCs and coaching meetings.
Benefits of Video Coaching
Moving to video coaching with Edthena has freed up more time for our teachers to engage in collaborative professional development. They no longer have to give up their prep time or leave a co-teacher alone in the classroom to observe their colleagues. They can also take videos of themselves whenever they want, and receive valuable feedback from their coaches.
In addition to saving teachers’ time, we’ve noticed a real shift in our culture around professional learning since implementing video coaching. The quality of feedback teachers receive has improved, and we’ve been able to create a common language around effective practices. This has led to more and more professional learning conversations between teachers across grade-levels and departments.
Additionally, video has helped our administrators and coaches to more effectively monitor teachers’ specific goals and progression. Video allows them to pinpoint specific areas teachers are doing well in or may need to improve in.
Tips for Implementing Video Coaching
With the introduction of any new technology initiative, it’s important to help teachers (or any stakeholder) feel comfortable so they are engaged and excited to participate. This was a priority of mine when we implemented video coaching – it can be initially daunting to see yourself on video, after all.
When we first started, I encouraged teachers to upload videos of themselves discussing a schoolwide initiative, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), rather than video of their actual instruction. This helped them get acquainted with video while receiving valuable feedback, just in a less intimidating way.
When it came to using video coaching for instructional videos, I worked with individual teachers to frame a lens about the type of feedback they wanted to receive – such as suggestions on time management or questioning strategies. Choosing the area of focus increased teachers’ comfort levels.
We also made participation in portions of the video coaching voluntary. Although our teachers are required to record themselves for peer-to-peer feedback, it is optional for them to use video for in-person feedback roundtables. The flexibility of our program has benefitted our teachers and allowed them to see the power of video coaching.
Amanda Huza is the Middle School Principal of Equality Charter School in New York City, NY.