Taking Teacher Candidate Support to the Next Level: 3 Ways to Use Video Coaching
Video is a powerful tool—for teacher candidates and teacher educators alike—to engage in reflective practice and accelerate professional growth. And I can say this from personal experience as it has helped me grow as an educator.
As a proponent of video, I believed this innovative professional learning approach would be an asset to the undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Our preparation program is organized around a decolonizing framework that recognizes that schools are designed for acculturation and colonization. And, as such, we prepare teachers who simultaneously teach in—and resist—that context (Trinder, 2021).
As my colleagues and I were talking about bringing video coaching to our program, questions were raised about how to make sure that we do not lose the context-driven aspects of our program that are attended to as our faculty come to know the children, schools, and communities in which our students learn to teach. Questions often associated with any new technology implementation were also brought up: How hard is this going to be to implement? How am I going to use it? Is it going to take too much time?
By approaching our early video coaching use with teacher candidates using the following approaches—and by being very intentional about our goals for video coaching and how it would be used to support teacher candidates—we were able to address these concerns and ensure a smooth implementation.
Building Confidence with Video for Teacher Feedback
As we began to use Edthena as the platform for video analysis and feedback, we first asked our teacher candidates to record and upload a quick video touring their classroom. Teacher candidates had just been placed in their field placements, and this served as a good way to introduce them to the platform in a non-intimidating way.
The teacher candidates had studied and identified features of optimal learning contexts, so we asked them to take a 45-second video highlighting their classroom, zooming into places they found particularly interesting. For example, candidates identified the presence of a print-rich environment, the presence of multiple languages, and spaces designed with children’s social and physical needs in mind. Then, within the platform they were able to comment and reflect on the learning environment, both about what is working and what can be modified to better ensure a student-centered environment, as well as pose any questions that they might have about the particular space. (See an example classroom tour-style video from Edthena.)
By redirecting candidates’ focus from themselves and their own practice to the classroom environment to start, this learning task served as a low-pressure way for candidates to build their confidence and skills with the technology. At the same time, it created some very organic conversations between teacher candidates and their mentor teachers about the spaces, which was a win-win.
Connecting Video Feedback to Teacher Growth
To get buy-in from teacher candidates, we wanted to help them see the important role video can play in helping them understand the needs of their students and improve their teaching practice. We also were committed to helping candidates understand that video can provide a lens into the classroom and the interactions taking place in it.
For example, in a particular video that comes to mind, a teacher candidate had been facilitating a text-based discussion with a class and at the time thought one of the students was confused about a specific part of the text they were reading. However, going back to the video, the candidate realized there was something she missed during that teaching moment—the student did make contributions that suggested they were understanding the text. By seeing that “missed” moment on video, the teacher candidate was able to more accurately reflect on the student’s ability to make sense of the text and topic.
As the semester continues, we gradually add more elements to the video analysis process, however, we find focusing on student thinking in those early moments help teacher candidates become more confident in using video and focus their attention on students. We also emphasize the importance of collaborative learning and building a learning community, and intentionally design opportunities for teacher candidates to review and comment on their peers’ videos using the Explorations learning cycles feature within Edthena.
Focusing on “Mini” Teaching Moments with Video Observation
When I first started with video feedback to teachers almost 10 years ago, my teacher candidates would record their lessons, upload them to a hard drive, and submit them alongside a written analysis with timestamps. I would then watch all of these videos and papers and provide page-long feedback. Sounds cumbersome and time-consuming, right? And I am not convinced that my feedback was always read!
Moving the process online has certainly streamlined this work. However, watching a whole teaching lesson can still be a lot. So, now I often ask candidates to focus on one 90-second clip of their teaching. This can be a moment of their teaching they questioned, one where they felt they excelled, or one where they really put a strategy learned during methods class into action.
Now, by honing in on that moment, rather than an entire lesson, we can actually have deeper conversations around the candidate’s reasoning and pedagogical decision-making. Plus, it makes the process much more manageable for all involved.
Video coaching continues to be an asset in helping our methods course instructors, field instructors, and mentor teachers deliver meaningful feedback, while helping teacher candidates become reflective practitioners. As your own organization considers implementing this professional learning approach, these tried-and-true ways into the work will help all participants get the most out of it from the start.
Kristine M. Schutz, PhD., is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction for the College of Education at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research focuses on improving literacy instruction in elementary classrooms, particularly for children from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. She conducts research on literacy teacher preparation that supports elementary teachers in engaging in humanizing and disruptive literacy teaching, as well as pedagogies of teacher education that situate teacher learning inside practice.
Trinder, V.F. (2020, April 17-21). Reparative curricula for decolonizing teacher education [Invited Speaker Session]. AERA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.