Using video in the classroom to help teachers and students

When teachers are able to see themselves teach in the classroom, everyone stands to improve.
That’s the notion that guides a new initiative unfolding in the Georgia, where Cayanna Good, Deputy Director of Innovation and Strategy for the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), is spearheading a statewide program that aims to bring video observations to more classrooms across the state.
Georgia utilizes a contest called the Innovation in Teaching Competition, which began as part of a Race to the Top plan to recognize and reward Georgia teachers who embraced creative strategies in the classroom.
Taped video recordings of those high-performing educators is available on the Georgia Department of Education’s offshoot website GeorgiaStandards.org, so other teachers can watch and learn from their peers. The videos are supplemented with unit lesson plans and other resources.

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Report: Teacher-Controlled Video Observations Improve Teacher Assessment Process

Teachers who participated in a year-long study comparing video-recorded and in-person classroom observations found the video observation process fairer and more useful overall than in-person observations, according to a new report from the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University.

The report, “The Best Foot Forward Project: Substituting Teacher-Collected Video for In-Person Classroom Observations,” summarizes the findings of the first year of implementation of the Best Food Forward Project. The researchers studied 347 teachers and 108 administrators at schools in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and California. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Those in the treatment group received a video camera and access to a secure site to store and view recorded lessons, and those in the control group continued to use in-person classroom observations.

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Harvard Turns to Technology for Teacher Evaluations

Think back to the old days when your elementary school principal would slip into the back of the classroom and make mysterious jottings on a yellow pad. Your teacher appeared nervous. No matter how quiet the principal tried to be, it seemed the door always slammed as she bustled her way out of the classroom. Evaluating educators has traditionally been an intrusive, subjective process. One person could determine a teacher’s fate. Good day or bad day—new material or review—the evaluation of those few minutes became part of the teacher’s permanent record (yes, teachers had one, too!). Flash forward to this past year.
Researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University wanted to know if teacher evaluations have to be done the old way, and the answer is No. Instead, they gave teachers cameras in classrooms across the country to learn whether video technology allows for better teacher evaluations. The study is called the Best Foot Forward project.

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Helping Teachers See Themselves – TNTP

Most teachers want useful feedback on their instruction. Yet many feel they don’t get enough, or that the feedback they receive isn’t actionable. We’ve been piloting virtual coaching in over 200 schools and 30 districts to see if video and coaching from an expert outside the school can help teachers get more (and more meaningful) feedback. Some of the questions we’ve been asking are: How does it help a teacher develop to see herself on video? Can a virtual coach—someone a teacher has never met in person—guide the teacher through some specific changes to her practice? How can using video help focus the conversation on what students are learning?

As part of our pilot, we are working with the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard’s Best Foot Forward project, a study examining the impact of video technology on teachers’ classroom observations. Researchers recruited more than 400 teachers to participate; half were given cameras and submitted self-recorded videos to replace traditional drop-in observations. Teachers also chose which videos to submit to their observers, giving them more control than they generally have in traditional observation processes.

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Using video to make classroom observations more fair, more helpful, and less burdensome – Brookings

The Best Foot Forward project at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard has been investigating the use of digital video to make classroom observations more helpful and fair to teachers and less burdensome for supervisors. In a randomized field trial involving 347 teachers and 108 administrators in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and Los Angeles, teachers were given a special video camera and invited to collect multiple lessons. They could then choose a subset of their lesson videos to submit for their classroom observations. A secure software platform allowed administrators as well as external observers (selected for their expertise in a teacher’s discipline) to watch the videos and provide time-stamped comments aligned to specific moments in the videos.

In addition to giving teachers a reason and an opportunity to watch multiple instances of their own teaching, the videos served as the basis for one-on-one discussions between teachers and administrators and between teachers and the external content experts. The comparison teachers and schools continued to do in-person classroom observations.

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A Clearer View of the Classroom

Watching the playback, one teacher realized that she gave her students too little time to answer the questions she posed. Another teacher finally understood why her supervisor found her pacing was too slow. A third teacher used the footage to seek help managing a disruptive student who had spent the lesson bouncing a golf ball off the chalkboard.

Those educators were among hundreds participating in Harvard’s recently concluded Best Foot Forward Project, which studied a new approach to teacher evaluation: Using teacher-selected classroom videos instead of the traditional drop-in observation by a principal.

As states try to bring new rigor and accountability to their teacher evaluation systems, digital video is emerging as one tool for standardizing and enhancing the sometimes perfunctory ritual of classroom observation.

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Turning the Tables – Harvard

A challenge to education researchers everywhere: How is your work being used?

Last week, 15,000 tweed-clad attendees descended on Chicago for the annual American Education Research Association conference. They were guided by the twin mission of nearly every education school: to contribute to an ever-growing scientific body of knowledge and to make our teaching and learning systems better. In other words, education researchers came to share usable knowledge.

The breadth of intellectual production at the convening was overwhelming. At any given hour, there were 100 researchers at four different hotels presenting papers along the research-to-practice continuum. On the panel “What Vergara Hath Wrought,” HGSE Professor Susan Moore Johnson, alongside John Papay, Jack Schneider, and James Wyckoff, debated the role of research in the historic court decision last June and shared findings they believed should influence future decisions to help low-income students receive the best possible education. At the session “How People Learn,” panelists shed light on new research with the greatest potential to influence practice, particularly around cultural differences and similarities in learning.

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A New Lens on Teaching

When your supervisor points out a flaw in the way you do your job, you probably try hard to receive the criticism constructively and use it as a prompt to do better. But despite your admirable maturity, you’re human, and you may also feel defensive, or resentful, depending on your relationship with your boss. Or you may just feel confused — what she flagged may have gone unnoticed by you, or may not feel like a relevant indicator of your abilities.

All performance reviews are vulnerable to this kind of disconnect, but when it comes to classroom observations as a measure of teacher effectiveness, the stakes can feel particularly high. Classroom observations are not new, but they have been largely perfunctory in recent years, with more than 98 percent of teachers receiving the same “satisfactory” rating. A number of states are trying to restore integrity to the evaluation process (for instance, training and certifying supervisors on a formal rubric and encouraging supervisors to differentiate more meaningfully). But implementation has been uneven for a number of reasons, including inadequate training of supervisors, supervisors who lack content knowledge outside of their own subject, and the difficulty of finding time to do all the required observations.

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Videotaped Lessons Change the Nature of Teacher Evaluation

It’s not surprising that when it comes to evaluation, teachers would prefer submitting videotapes of their best lessons rather than having their principals drop in, conspicuously, on their class. But it turns out that many principals prefer it too.

Last year, four teachers at Young Oak Kim Academy, a Los Angeles middle school, participated in the Best Foot Forward Project. The new national initiative, which in its first year included 350 teachers and 101 administrators at 85 schools, allows teachers to choose videos of their best lessons for evaluation. Directed by the Center for Education Policy at Harvard University, the project aims to determine if such an approach can improve the teacher evaluation process.

Andrew Conroy, the assistant principal at Young Oak Kim, is convinced it does. He calls the video evaluation process a “one-hundred percent” success—and “a night and day difference from how we traditionally observe teachers.”

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