Want to take your practice and PLC to the next level? Swallow your fears, get over that initial dismay when you hear how your voice really sounds to your students, and let the camera roll.

Note: This month CTQ bloggers are exploring the theme: How do Teachers (Really) Learn? We invite you to join us with your thoughts and comments and share ideas using the hashtags #Love2Learn & #CTQCollab. 

The single most painful and rewarding professional learning venture was video recording, viewing, and analyzing my practice. It forced me to confront and make sense of the teaching I thought I was doing and the teaching I was actually doing.

Analyzing video of my teaching changed my practice — from the way I facilitated small group and whole class discussions, to an increased awareness of my wait time (or lack thereof), to lesson planning and pacing. This experience also changed the way I approached coaching, data driven discussions, and professional learning.

I often wonder if we changed nothing else in our schooling system, but ensured that every professional learning experience in every school and district was grounded in authentic classroom data (namely video, live observations, and student work, not standardized tests) what might the impact on student learning and teacher practice be?

If we reframed professional learning as learning from classrooms and in classrooms instead of from external consultants and stand alone workshops, how might we transform the profession?

If nothing else, I believe this deprivatization of our practice would force us as a collective body of educators, to look at our real-time words, actions, and instructional moves, and speak candidly about what worked and what didn’t in that teaching and learning moment. It would bring real, raw data into every professional learning community discussion and staff meeting. It would keep students (and teacher practice) at the center of school improvement work.

The only thing more vulnerable than watching your teaching on tape, is sharing it publicly and soliciting feedback from others. And yet, if this level of analysis is expected of National Board candidates, shouldn’t it be common practice for all teachers?

Fortunately, the power of video as a professional learning tool is catching on. The effort is being led by teacher leaders who shelf their fears in order to reach deep levels of reflection and growth. Fearless practitioners like Amy Berberich, Teaching Partner at Hinkley, a large comprehensive IB high school in Aurora, Colorado.

Amy works in a hybrid role, teaching 11th grade English part of the day, and supporting teachers through professional learning teams and 1:1 coaching. In an effort to deprivatize her practice and support teachers who teach full-time, she began videoing her practice weekly, annotating the videos, and publicly reflecting on camera. Amy thinks aloud about her teaching moves and is refreshingly honest about students’ strengths and struggles and her instructional decisions. She shares the clips weekly with her entire school and her colleagues who work in similar roles throughout the district.

Aside from being fearless, vulnerable, a lead learner, and an authentic embodiment of the Teaching Partner hybrid role itself, Amy has also seen an impact on her practice and student learning through the use of video. And with a little editing, trimming, and annotating of her thinking, she’s using video as a coaching, professional learning, and instructional tool.

Amy learned that editing and trimming videos down to short clips versus providing colleagues with footage of an entire class period, supports teachers who are tight on time to engage in analysis and viewing. And while initially she shared clips with little to no feedback or knowledge of who was viewing her work and how it was impacting her colleagues, slowly but surely, the videoing practices are catching on, both in classrooms and in professional learning settings at her school.

Want to take your practice and PLC to the next level? While self-reflection is a huge benefit of video analysis, after you get comfortable with yourself on camera you might also consider:

  • Flipping learning for students: When Amy’s students expressed confusion about a culminating assignment connected to a class text, Amy taped a model of the product, timed herself, and shared a painful experience from her own high school experience to help students envision and create their own version. She also recorded student examples which can serve as models for future classes or assignments.

  • Modeling practices for other teachers: In this video, Amy recorded her first attempt using a new strategy she learned at a district inservice workshop. She thinks aloud and annotates the “question storm” throughout the process, including hiccups and adjustments she had to make based on students’ struggles along the way. In addition to taking risks by modeling a new strategy publicly, Amy also used this video to refine and improve future “question storms” in her class.

  • Committing to the National Board process: Want to take your analysis to the next level? Become a National Board candidate and prepare for a personalized professional learning endeavor that demands deep reflection and analysis of your practice through video, student work samples, and written commentary. (Note: Component three was released earlier this month!)

In Amy’s words: 

I think it’s really important that even though I was hired to be a Teaching Partner and am considered a ‘master teacher’ I’m still learning, I still fall down, and I still have lessons that flop in a way that makes me realize I have to do it all over again tomorrow.

To refine your practice and improve student learning, swallow your fears, get over that initial dismay when you hear how your voice really sounds to your students, and let the camera roll.

Want to learn more about the logistics, possibilities, and power of using video as a professional learning tool? Check out Jim Knight’s book Focus on Teaching: Using Video for HIgh Impact Instruction.  

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