Asked and Answered: 6 Common Questions About Getting Started With Video...

Professional Development

Asked and Answered: 6 Common Questions About Getting Started With Video Coaching

By Adam Geller     Dec 3, 2017

Asked and Answered: 6 Common Questions About Getting Started With Video Coaching

Video coaching is no longer a professional development buzzword or novelty, in part because of the accessibility of devices in today’s world makes it a convenient choice for educators looking to improve their practice. Today all it takes is a smartphone with a high-quality camera to get started.

In South Dakota, a state-wide mentorship network is taking shape, which pairs experienced teachers with those in their first year. Using the network, veteran teachers like Crystal McMachen serve as virtual mentors to those like newcomer Stacy Cope, who works in a school with only two other math teachers. Their collaborative learning is powered by the video evidence of their own classrooms.

During an instructional coaching cycle, teachers can use any device to easily record, upload and share videos of their classroom practices with their peers or coaches. Teachers can self-reflect on these videos, receive feedback on their instructional practices, engage in dialogue with colleagues, set goals for improvement and more.

A video-enabled process allows coaches more flexibility in observing the right episodes of instruction while empowering teachers to actively examine their own practice. This is why Frank Gonzales, principal at Manteca High School in California, introduced video reflection to teachers in his school. He now has more opportunity to be an instructional leader who provides more frequent and more targeted feedback.

For schools looking to implement video coaching, the new book “Evidence of Practice: Playbook for Video-Powered Professional Learning,” which I authored, helps coaches and administrators make and implement a plan for how to best use video-powered professional learning with their teachers.

The book includes a framework for analyzing video evidence along with 12 video learning strategies such as Video Learning Communities (VLCs), Virtual Walk-throughs and Online Lesson Study. Each chapter provides a research basis for the given strategy as well as a detailed implementation guide with bulleted steps for planning and execution.

The following excerpt provides a sampling of the advice educators will find to help them get started with the process of recording video.

What device should teachers use?

Make sure the capture devices are common and easy to use. A device that requires a check-out from the media center and 20 minutes of setup is not as ideal as a camera that is readily available on a device already in the classroom. In other words, while a camera robot might be a nice-to-have, it’s certainly not a necessity. Make the barrier to pushing record low.

The place to focus energy is on the audio capture, as the video will likely be “good enough” regardless of your device. Most devices only have a pinhole microphone, which is fine for a phone call or video conference, but may leave something to be desired in classroom environments.

If the school already has recording devices, consider supplementing them with external microphones that can plug into the headphone jack or charging port. If the school is buying dedicated devices, consider a video camera with a substantial microphone—one designed for recording in noisy environments.

Who and what should teachers capture on video?

Decide who to capture (teachers, students, or both) and in what settings (whole group, small group, or one-on-one interactions), depending on the purpose of the professional learning strategy being used. Jim Knight (2014) suggests teachers point the camera toward themselves when trying to understand or improve a specific element of their instruction (such as the types of questions they pose, the amount of teacher talk vs. student talk, and the consistency of their student corrections) and toward students when trying to understand or improve specific student behaviors (such as their time on task, their authentic engagement, or the quality and thoughtfulness of their responses).

Consult school or organizational policies to ensure you secure the appropriate permissions to obtain and share classroom footage.

Of what quality should video be?

Teachers do not need to share their “best of” instructional footage. Instead, they should capture the everyday reality of classroom life. Additionally, teachers do not need to share only clips that meet a high bar for production quality. Having some video is always better than having none, even if there are moments where the camera isn’t close enough to see what’s written on the board or hear a particular student’s comment.

How much footage should teachers capture and share?

Advise teachers to record whatever amount of footage they like. If teachers want to get into the habit of regularly viewing lesson-length videos of their classrooms, it will most likely help them improve their practice. It may also be simpler for teachers to press record at the start of a lesson and not worry about the video camera again until the lesson is over. Remember: it is always possible to edit footage down after it is captured.

When deciding how much video to share, guide teachers to consider it as parallel to how much time an observer might need to spend to understand the topic at hand. For some topics, a video as short as 90 seconds might be sufficient, while other topics might require observers to see more instruction. In general, sharing 10-12 minutes of instruction usually provides enough evidence to analyze and work with, though shorter clips also have value. A narrow three-to-five minute segment can also help viewers focus and deepen their analysis—and may be more realistic for teachers with many items on the to-do list.

With whom should teachers share?

Depending on the specific strategy for professional learning, there may be reason to keep video private. In other cases, teachers might share footage only with a coach. Given the value of collaborative discussion of video evidence, encourage teachers to share their clips widely with peers across the school or organization when appropriate.

How long should viewers spend analyzing videos?

The amount of time necessary to analyze a video clip will vary based on the length of the clip, the depth of analysis required, and the complexity of the instruction featured. In-depth analysis of five-minutes of student discussion will take longer than it does to review a five-minute classroom tour.

It is important to share realistic time estimates with those analyzing videos, so they can plan appropriately. Within each strategy, we offer suggested time needed based on video length. For videos that require basic analysis of a relatively simple instructional practice, we advise spending roughly equal the runtime of the video clip. For footage that requires deeper analysis of more complicated instruction, we recommend spending one-and-a-half times the total runtime of the clip. For video that requires the deepest analysis of more complicated practices or asynchronous discussion within threaded comment, we suggest spending double the runtime of the footage. You’ll have to bring your own judgment to bear to finalize time estimates for video analysis, but these general rules should help.

These are all important questions to answer as your school or district starts to outline your video coaching initiative. Figuring out what works best—for both your teachers and coaches—and setting up a cohesive plan from the onset will help all stakeholders benefit from this powerful process.

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