Using Video to Improve Your Practice

Most teachers seem to have a love-hate relationship with watching themselves on camera. While it can be incredibly eye-opening, it’s also really stressful or awkward to watch. I know the first time I watched myself teaching, I was too distracted by scrutinizing my facial expressions, voice, mannerisms – you name it – to pay much attention to my actual instruction. So then I re-watched it, which took forever. And since I didn’t have a particular focus in mind other than ‘reflect,’ I didn’t get much out of it besides noticing tons of things I didn’t like. In an effort to amplify the benefits and make the process less painful and time-consuming, here’s a short list of ideas to get the most bang for your buck.
 

  • Keep it focused and short. Choose a particular segment of your lesson to focus on and just record that 5-15 minute section. That way, if you have to obsess about how weird you look on camera, you won’t lose your whole evening watching the entire lesson and can jump to the reflection part sooner.

 
 

  • Give yourself a specific task. Before you watch, determine what you’re looking for. If you’re struggling with management in a particular class, maybe you want to tally the number of positive versus negative comments you make. Or record your directions in order to reflect on how clear they are. Or tally which kids you inadvertently ignore, which you interact with, and how often. If you want to work on your questioning strategies, you might write down all of your questions and then determine their level of Bloom’s. Or maybe keep track of how much actual time students are given to process your questions before you call on someone. If you have a specific task as you watch, you’ll get more out of the activity and have less time to be mortified by how weird you look.

 
 

  • Narrow your view, literally. With a teacher I coached, we focused the camera on a single table in her class that had some strong and some struggling students. When she watched it, she only had to focus on 5 students who served as a microcosm for how all her groups might be functioning. It was very revealing to see which kids were engaged and when, which one seemed checked out, and how many in a group were actually completing the tasks. And if everything seems strong as you watch it, you can analyze why it was successful in order to make sure you know what to replicate more often!

 
 

  • Open your ears. One of my colleagues found this to be really helpful with teachers she coached. Instead of watching the recorded segment of class, sometimes they simply listened to it. This gave the teacher insight into whether her class felt calm with nice chunks of silence and the buzz of focused work, whether it sounded hectic and confusing, whether the teacher talked the entire time, whether it sounded happy, etc.

 
 

  • Enlist a colleague. If you have an instructional coach or dean who supports you and they haven’t recorded your class already, ask them to. A nice bonus here is that, since it’s their job, you may be able to have them do a lot of the leg work, like doing the recording and analyzing the video ahead of time to determine trends or do the tallying of whatever you’re focusing on. This can be especially helpful if you are hesitant about video – they can guide you through it! And if you don’t have an official supporter or coach, ask 1 or 2 fellow teachers if they want to do this sort of reflection together. If you’re willing to be vulnerable enough to watch and analyze your teaching with trusted colleagues, they’ll probably be more open as well, and all of you will benefit from the successes, mistakes, and insights you all have to offer each other.

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