Reflective Practice: Vignette #8

A first grade teacher videotapes her classroom as a means of self-study and as a way of getting feedback from her more seasoned colleagues. 

Heather admits that at first she was intimidated by the thought of videotaping her classes. With the help of a more seasoned colleague, Heather learns some tricks for viewing that help her “get over” the self-consciousness and move to a healthier place of effective reflection. Supporting the work of Mitchell and Weber (1999), veteran second grade teacher, Carol, reminds Heather that “screwing up” while being videotaped can foster teacher improvement. Videotaping often (at least one day per week), further helps Heather adjust to having the camera going. Carol encourages Heather to first watch her video-clips without sound, in order to analyze body language and make some observations about her relationships with her students (and their relationships with each other). Honing in on the physicality of the classroom gives Heather a chance to “see” the dynamics at work. Heather notices how her non-verbal demeanor and teaching strategies impact her students – both individually and collectively. For example, when she employs hand signals to check for understanding (modeling them herself), she sees the majority of her students engaging in the moment. She can see it in their eyes and in the way they perch their bodies. Adversely, while viewing another clip where she was calling on individual students for answers, Heather notices some students slinking down and disengaging while their more vocal peers step up. She takes note of a scowling student (this had gone unnoticed during the actual class) and tries to assess what might have been contributing to this moment for him. 

Before viewing the clips with colleagues (everyone in her school is experimenting with videotaping daily or weekly) in team meetings, Heather is encouraged to view and take some notes based on the following questions: What do I see happening? What are the relevant moments? What happened before/after? What was my goal for the class? What is he communicating when he . . . ? How were the students responding? When did they seem most engaged? What else did/could I try? What do I think would happen if . . . ? How would I approach this next time? How will I know if it is successful? After downloading the video clips from her Ipod (which she attaches to a tripod for filming) to computer, Heather is able to take notes on a Google doc while she views. The notes become a valuable resource for figuring out how to proceed with certain lessons and students. They provide her with powerful anecdotes to use for parent-teacher conferences and for meetings with colleagues. Although the members of Heather’s team do try to visit one another’s classes, their monthly video clip share has become a helpful way to collectively bring their classrooms into one room. Heather reveals that the discussions that come out of these shared video clip meetings have helped with the seemingly mundane (how to help her students transition between activities) to the more profound (an awareness amongst the teachers that their beliefs about “good teaching” don’t always match up with the reality of what goes on in the classroom). Heather insists that it is the combination of the individual and group reflections that help her create a much improved learning environment for her students.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  • Mitchell, C. and Weber, S. (1999). Reinventing Ourselves as Teachers: Beyond Nostalgia. (pp.199-217). Philadelphia: Falmer Press.

 

  • In this short clip, a high school teacher explains how and why she daily videotapes her classes. She meets with her principal and they are able to use the videos for conversation and feedback. She also shows how simple it is to use the technology; she puts a small camera on a tripod, showing viewers how she can then sync the video to her computer where she takes notes on various aspects of the class. The takeaway: regularly videotaping your classroom is a fantastic method of creating authentic material to use for self-reflective practice and to get feedback from others in order to improve practice and student learning. Video “exposes” and shows us what we often cannot see in a lesson plan or book of pedagogy.

 

  • This video clip provides hands-on basics for video-taping your classes. From old flip cameras to IPhones, the technology is accessible and effective. The clip shares simple tips on how to avoid technical video-taping pitfalls in order to create good, usable quality footage. The takeaway: all teachers can video tape themselves in their classrooms easily, effectively, and at low cost.

 

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