Harvard’s Best Foot Forward and VIEWpath

“Like athletes and doctors, teachers are engaged in a daily, high-stakes performance.”

-Miriam Greenberg, Director of Education and Communications for the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University

Athletes carefully analyze recordings of previous games to refine technique, then adjust in-game strategies to achieve better results. Researchers at the Center for Education Policy at Harvard believe teachers could do the same.

What is Harvard’s Best Foot Forward Project?

Recently, researchers at Harvard set out to discover if video technology improves the classroom observation process. The staff at the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research equipped 162 teachers in different schools with camera technology and allowed them to use the videos for self-reflection. From there, teachers were encouraged to share videos for peer collaboration. Once they became comfortable with this, their videos were used for virtual coaching and finally for evaluation. Teachers were always in control of their own videos. In all, the teachers recorded an average of 13 recordings each between 2013 and 2014, resulting in approximately 2100 video recordings altogether.

Based on the data collected from these recordings and the teachers’ interactions with them, the Harvard researchers found that cameras are a powerful tool for classroom observation:

According to the study, “Digital video can improve classroom observations by providing more detailed, objective feedback to teachers, allowing principals to perform their observation duties at quieter times of the day or week, and facilitating the inclusion of content experts from outside the school in the observation process.”

Cameras and Teacher Privacy

Privacy is always a concern when it comes to having cameras in the classroom. By placing full control in the hands of the teacher, cameras transform from an unwanted nuisance into a vital tool for personal growth. “Although administrators often think teachers won’t want to be videotaped, we found that most teachers are very receptive to the idea, as long as they are in control of the footage,” said the study’s director Miriam Greenberg. Using VIEWpath, teachers may grant permission to whoever they want to see their videos, and remove permission when they desire. This helps to create a feeling of confidence that the camera is there to benefit them.

Can Video Technology such as VIEWpath Improve Teacher Evaluations?

Absolutely! Here is what teachers participating in the Best Foot Forward Project thought of using video for evaluations:

of teachers agreed that watching their videos helped them identify their development areas.
of teachers said that watching the videos of their lessons will change their practice.
of teachers thought they put forward an equal or more accurate version of their teaching using video.
The Harvard Best Foot Forward toolkit suggests this roadmap for implementation of cameras in the classroom. By following these steps, teachers can gradually become more comfortable with having a camera in their classroom until they feel ready for using video for an entire evaluation.

The EduCam360: A One-time Purchase for a Powerful Tool

The EduCam360 from Audio Enhancement strikes a perfect balance between quality and ease of use for capturing footage of teacher’s lessons for observations.

  • View multiple, simultaneous angles of the classroom in high definition quality.
  • Choose from four different viewing methods: 360° panoramic, two 180° double panoramas, four 90° or a single angle view.
  • Privacy mode allows you to protect your privacy by hiding the lens inside the camera, preventing the classroom from being seen.
  • One time setup makes it easy to get the camera recording and get into action.
  • Recordings can be easily scheduled in advance, with the option to set up a reoccurring recording schedule.

What can the EduCam360 See?


“Reflection is one of the most important things to improve practice in education and [VIEWpath] allows them to do it.”

-Shannon Buff, Director of Secondary Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development at Newton County School System

Overcoming Barriers to Teacher Observations with VIEWpath

Using the EduCam360 and VIEWpath, educators can overcome the traditional barriers to effective teacher observations that Harvard found most teachers without a video recording system encountered. These four barriers are:

Teachers are too busy to float between classes to observe other teachers during the day.
Using VIEWpath, it is now possible to share videos of teacher’s lessons with other teachers so they can review them at their leisure. This allows peers to provide each other with more meaningful, quality feedback. VIEWpath eliminates the time constraints that make sitting in on another teacher’s class to learn from them difficult, since the footage can be viewed at any time.

Administrators don’t have time to observe.
Video recording solutions such as VIEWpath can make the monumental task of conducting teacher evaluations much easier. Permitting teachers to submit video recordings gives administrators the ability to watch the videos at any time, instead of disrupting an already busy schedule. Furthermore, according to the Best Foot Forward Project, allowing teachers to submit their best recordings resulted in “no significant differences in teacher and administrator perceptions of lesson authenticity between those using videos and those being observed in person” and only helped to build in “more self-reflection than the typical in-person observation process and better prepares teachers for an equal part in the post-conference conversation.”

Administrators can’t give robust feedback because of time.
Using VIEWpath for teacher observations gives administrators flexibility and ensures that they have the time to provide quality professional development advice to their faculty. Using video, administrators can perform “pivotal pauses” – pausing at crucial moments when the teacher has either performed excellently or when the administrator feels they have identified an opportunity for growth and provide specific, useful feedback about that moment.

Teachers aren’t receiving expert feedback in their own content area.
Recording videos with VIEWpath and the EduCam360 allows teachers to send their content to the best performers in their specialized field to receive feedback and assistance. Not only that, but the top performers can share videos of their own lessons with the entire district so that other teachers in the same content areas can benefit.

“Last March [2014] we had just over 22,000 video recordings across the district, and that’s without a mandate to do so.”

-Samantha Fuhrey, Superintendent Newton County Schools

According to the Best Foot Forward Project, in three years, the number of cameras installed in classrooms in Newton County grew from two to 1,390 – not because teachers were compelled by administrators but because they recognized the impact of the technology on their practice.

The Harvard Best Foot Forward Toolkit contains a wealth of information about using video as a powerful tool in the classroom. Included in the toolkit are strategies for using video observations for professional growth, information on cultivating trust in video observations, recommendations for setting up schools for effective technology implementation, and a guide to piloting and large-scale implementation. Download the full toolkit or visit the official Harvard Best Foot Forward Video Observation Toolkit page.

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