Video to help teachers learn
There are many ways we can use video for teacher learning. Below are six examples of what I think are the most potentially useful uses of video as part of teacher professional development. I’m sure most readers are trying some or all of these, so it would be wonderful to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Teachers benefit when they see other teachers work in new ways or when they see an innovation successfully implemented with the same types of learners and the same context that they encounter. Seeing other teachers in action offers credibility, models of intended practice, and promote comparative and critical reflection where teachers examine characteristics of good practice and measure their own performance against this standard (Jay & Johnson, 2002). Video provides a window into these good practices.
There are potentially three ways to deepen and extend these models of intended practice. First is to study these video examples as part of a case study approach where teachers are presented with a problem or situation, via video (for example, how to differentiate learning in a large classroom), that uses supporting documentation, such as lesson plans and student work, and that is embedded in analytic discussions. As an example of potential “cases,” check out Success at the Core (also developed by EDC and now part of the Teaching Channel).
Next, by creating videos that show different levels of a particular teaching behavior and aligning those videos with performance-level rubrics that make explicit these behaviors, we can help teachers see stepwise differences in implementation of a particular practice.
Finally, for teachers who are dispersed across various locations but who have decent Internet access, tools like Voice Thread (fee-based), which allow for voice- and text-based synchronous and asynchronous discussions, and free web-based video annotation tools like VideoAnt and Rabb.it can potentially facilitate analysis and rich discussion of video-based classroom examples.
The costs and effort for shooting classroom videos can range from modest to very high. However, there are a number of sites that collect and curate videos of good teaching—YouTube in general, but also particular sites like the aforementioned Teaching Channel.
In addition to being a window on good practice, video can serve as a mirror through which teachers analyze and reflect on their own practice. In Indonesia, over the course of several years, EDC’s coaches filmed teachers as part of classroom observations. Teachers then reflected on their practice using a protocol and discussed their observations with a coach. Research suggests that when viewed with a clear purpose in mind, and focused on how to interpret and reflect on practice, such self-reflection can offer teachers new insights into their own teaching (Sherrin, 2004).
There are numerous video self-reflection protocols that teachers can use, such as evidential reasoning and decision making (ERDM). For those interested in using video for this purpose, there are also numerous online resources. One of the best (I think) is Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research Best Foot Forward project.
Two-way video, like Skype, used with a Bluetooth earpiece, can be used for live, in-class coaching. This virtual “bug in the ear” technology is not new and is an approach also employed by EDC in Indonesia, between 2008 and 2010. We provided teachers with a Bluetooth earpiece and set up two-way Skype communication for live coach-to-teacher communication.
Teachers reported finding the live coaching beneficial. However, despite giving schools extra bandwidth, the demands of two-way video proved too much for the Internet. In addition to being bandwidth-greedy, online coaching, more than in-classroom live coaching, suffers from “blind spots,” so virtual coaches weren’t ways able to see everything that was going on in the classroom. However, even these with these challenges, virtual coaching is better than no coaching at all.
Webinars allow teachers to “meet” face-to-face to share ideas, collaborate or just get to know one another (a necessary ingredient in the formation of learning communities). Such video-based “face-based” interaction is particularly important in online learning where learners may never meet one another in person. Powerful webinar platforms, like the commercial Adobe Captivate, or the free and open-source Big Blue Button, allow learners to work together in smaller groups in breakout rooms, hold chats, participate in polls, share screens, etc.
Webinars (or more accurately “webcasts”) also allow teachers to participate synchronously or asynchronously in online forums, meetings or presentations with colleagues or experts with whom they might never come into contact on topics of interest (for example, successful teaching).
Video is also a powerful tool for peer observation to promote feedback and build communities of practice. At one EDC project in Southeast Asia, in order to supplement instructor face-to-face meetings, we’ve established online learning teams so that small groups of instructors meet online every few months to share a classroom example  of techniques they’ve implemented and provide one another with structured feedback (via an analytic rubric and a feedback protocol) on these techniques.
Many teachers across the globe find themselves teaching outside their content area. Many others may teach in an area they’ve studied but need support. In terms of helping teachers with content knowledge, video is often a godsend.
Khan Academy- style videos, talking-head videos, commercially-produced videos, and animations (like this one developed by EDC to help Pakistani teachers learn collaboration techniques  and this one by IREX to help instructors learn to teach online  can help teachers learn content and procedures that might be otherwise difficult to conceptualize and implement via text alone.
Having teachers access video-based content before they attend a face-to-face workshop frees up time during the formal face-to-face sessions. This flipped professional development approach thus permits teachers to engage in deeper, inquiry- and design-based learning with colleagues as they create, practice and revise classroom activities or tools based on this information.
- Models of intended practice
- Teacher self-reflection/assessment
- Live coaching
- Sharing between teachers
- Peer observations
- Content knowledge