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Video Observation Improves Teacher Preparation and Enhances Collaboration

Authors Caroline Forrest and Cori Woytek will be presenting a live Q&A session at the 2021 Annual Meeting, “Using Video Across Diverse Settings to Provide Meaningful Feedback & Facilitate Reflective Conversations,” Thursday, February 25, 1:30 – 2:30 pm.

Providing resident teachers with meaningful feedback to improve their instructional practices is—and always has always been—a hallmark of our teacher education program here at Western Colorado University. Through the use of video coaching, which we implemented four years ago, we’ve been able to ensure this feedback is even more effective, rich, and applicable.

Our residency program is a year-long experience in which residents spend a minimum of 24 hours per week working alongside an experienced mentor teacher, culminating in a five-week full-time lead teach.

Due to Western’s location in rural Colorado, we are unable to place all 100 residents in our local school district, so we developed a remote residency. Our residents are placed across Colorado, the United States, and sometimes internationally. 

Even though the residents may not be physically close to the Western faculty, they must still meet the expectations of the program. The use of a video platform has become a foundational aspect of our work, as it allows us to continuously monitor our residents’ teaching practice.

Video Observation Enables Faculty to Participate with Supervisors within Our Remote Residency Model

Sudent centered clinical residencyOur resident support team at Western includes qualified mentor teachers and regional coordinators. The regional coordinator is an experienced educator who is the on-the-ground support.  In most instances the regional coordinator lives in or near the communities in which residents teach. They are available to observe residents and assist them with building collaborative relationships with mentors.

This two-tier system of support has proven successful for many years, however, as is common across many teacher education programs, there remained a disconnect between the residency experience and Western faculty.

Campus faculty rarely had the opportunity to see inside our residents’ classrooms, as much of the evaluative information was provided by the regional coordinators.  We felt an intense need to have a more active role in observing, coaching, and watching our residents grow from novice to professional.

We began by restructuring our program into a cohort model, where Western faculty (clinical coaches) work with a group of 20 residents, overseeing student teaching and instructing foundational pedagogy courses.  In order to become part of the coaching process, rather than passive onlookers, clinical coaches needed a tool to allow them to see inside classrooms and watch teachers in action.

This is why we adopted Edthena in the fall of 2016. The video observation platform enabled our clinical coaches to truly coach our residents more efficiently and effectively from afar.

As a result, our residents now have a three-tier system of support where they receive feedback on 5 formally-observed lessons from mentors and regional coordinators in person, as well as by clinical coaches via Edthena.

Teacher Residents Now Collaborate Across Classrooms via Video Observation

WCU Resident TeachersCollaborateSelf-reflection has always been a priority of our program: the body of research evidence supports its foundational role in teacher development (Brookfield, 2004; Dewey, 1933; Willis, 1999). Upon instituting videoed observations, we moved from asking residents to reflect from memory in a written response to asking them to reflect whilst watching themselves teach, utilizing the comment feature within Edthena.

Residents comment on their actions and effectiveness in real-time, providing them with the unique opportunity of being a “fly on the wall” in their own lessons. We immediately noticed that, as residents watched themselves teach and commented upon what they observed, their reflections were richer and ultimately, more effective in promoting growth. Our role transformed from directing reflection to supporting it.

Movement towards deeper self-reflection has made a substantial impact upon our program and our residents’ growth.  Although this was not why we initially adopted the use of video, it has become a cornerstone in how we support and guide residents.

Having seen the effectiveness of Edthena in its other uses, we felt we could enhance existing discussions between residents by utilizing the video platform.

Videos in Edthena can be made private to coaches (formal lesson observations) or open to a group.  So, we created different groups within the platform, for example a group of music teachers, K-2 elementary teachers, or math teachers.  This move suddenly enabled a resident teacher in the rural Western Slope of Colorado a glimpse into an inner-city Denver classroom and see both the challenges and the richness of both environments.

In this scenario, our role has been to create parameters for a discussion, but we have found that the conversation goes beyond our expectations in that residents notice similarities and differences in their peers’ classrooms, as well as encourage and use one another as resources as seen below.

Using video has transformed—and continues to enrich—our program and we would encourage other IHE teacher preparation programs to explore the benefits that it can offer in supporting and developing reflective teachers.

This is the first article in a two-part series from Western Colorado University. The second article will discuss how video has continued to support teacher residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caroline Forrest is clinical coach and lecturer of education, and Cori Woytek  is lead clinical coach and lecturer of education at Western Colorado University. 



Brookfield, S. (2004). The getting of wisdom: What critically reflective teaching is and why it is important. Retrieved from http://nlu.nl.edu/academics/cas/ace/facultypapters/StephenBrookfield.cfm

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: Heath.

Willis, P. (1999). Looking for what it’s really like: Phenomenology in reflective practice. Studies in Continuing Education, 21(1), 91–112.


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