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Using Video for Teacher Education: Lessons from the Pandemic for Moving Forward

Timothy Boerst and Meghan Shaughnessy

Timothy Boerst and Meghan Shaughnessy

Working in teacher education programs at the University of Michigan and Boston University, we are well-versed with practice-based teacher education, including the usage and importance of video to connect the university classroom and K-12 schools. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, video has been crucial in engaging with our teacher candidates in practice-based work.

At the AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting in February earlier this year, we shared how we used video in our work as teacher educators over the 2020-21 academic year. Our presentation, “Using Video to Learn to Do the Work of Teaching When Schools are Closed,” highlighted the ways in which we used video at the University of Michigan to support practice-based work when methods courses were conducted online. While we have robustly used video in our programs for over a decade, the last year forced us to explore new possibilities.

Fundamental Impacts of the Pandemic on Teaching and Learning to Teach  

We view “practice” as central to teaching and learning to do the work of teaching. Teaching relies on practices that support the interaction of teachers, students, and academic content (Cohen, Raudenbush, & Ball, 2033; Lampert, 2001). These practices must be sensitive to, and shaped by, teaching and learning contexts. Teaching during the pandemic was fundamentally impacted on many dimensions, including teaching environments and approaches, students’ engagement, access and interaction, and the selection and portrayal of content.

Many of the practice-based approaches that we used in the past were not possible when traditional field contexts were fundamentally impacted by the pandemic. In this context, videos proved to be crucial. Videos enhanced access to aspects of teaching that were less prevalent or substantially different during the pandemic (e.g., whole class discussions). Videos can create “common texts” that are shared with colleagues. Videos can support analytical and prospective engagement with teaching. Strategically used, video can also nurture engagement in expressive components of teaching (questioning, explaining, representing, etc.) that are a staple of day-to-day teaching and crucial for learning to teach. 

During the session at AACTE, we highlighted our use of Edthena, a video observation and collaboration tool. Teacher candidates recorded themselves and gathered other artifacts relevant to their teaching. Teacher candidates uploaded their videos and other artifacts to securely share with colleagues and coaches. Colleagues and instructors added feedback through timestamped comments embedded in videos or connected with other artifacts. Using Edthena supported our efforts to use new structures in teacher education to support practice- based work. Lessons learned have impacted our perspectives and practices. We think that the field will benefit in the long run from sharing insights developed under pandemic constraints. We highlight two examples of innovations in our use of video for wider consideration.

Person working on laptop. "With video sharing and analysis, instructors had access to the insights of every candidate."

Expanding Access to Elaborated Teaching Demonstrations

We used video to open up demonstrations of teaching practice in ways that would be unusual in typical classroom observations and teacher education coursework. When working on the teaching practice of explaining and modeling core content in mathematics prior to the pandemic, we typically relied on standard physical manipulative materials and synchronous in-class demonstrations.

This year, we posted demonstration videos of the practice on Edthena that illustrated key aspects of the practice. The videos included teacher talk before and after the demonstration and “sidebar” think alouds during demonstrations to highlight key points and teacher decisions.

Video recording these demonstrations created enduring and robust mentor texts for supporting learning about the teaching practice. In the past, these enhanced/annotated teaching demonstrations would not have existed. Instead, candidates would have relied on the residue of recollection and notes.

Deepening Insight into Candidates’ Perspectives on Student Thinking

We used video in new ways to support our efforts to support candidates in learning about student thinking. Prior to the pandemic, we frequently showed video examples of student thinking in class and teacher candidates discussed the videos in class. We also assigned candidates to watch video examples available through QR codes in books and submit video analyses.

Our in-class time was shorter this year.  So, we sought additional ways to gauge the sense that teacher candidates are making of student thinking and their ability to identify common patterns. To address these needs, we created “Example Analysis” explorations in Edthena so that all teacher candidates could watch and analyze the same video. We collected each teacher candidate’s analysis through comments on their own “copies” of each video. We then provided feedback on the analysis through nested replies to candidates’ comments on the video.

The use of “Example Analysis” explorations enabled easier sharing of the video and established easy to follow routines with familiar tools for teacher candidates to engage in practice-based work. By collecting each candidate’s analysis through comments tied to particular points in the video, they could focus on their sense-making of student thinking without the additional burden of describing what was happening in the video.

Providing feedback on the analysis through comments on the video worked well. It enabled the connection of feedback with specific teacher candidate comments. Further, it emulated being able to respond to something that the teacher candidate might have said in class.

Importantly, this approach expanded instructor access to candidates’ perspectives far beyond what was available in our prior approaches. Instead of hearing from a few candidates through an in class discussion, instructors had access to the insights of every candidate. The exploration also centralized records to examine the learning of individual teacher candidates and the group of candidates related to student thinking.

Short Term Challenges and Long Term Change  

While presenting a challenge, limited access to field experiences need not require a shift away from a practice-based approach to teacher education. The pandemic forced us to modify our practices, which surfaced shortcomings of existing practices and pressed us to explore alternatives to established, but limited, course routines.

In fact, some of the innovations that we’ve been developing may be equally or more robust than traditional field experiences. Video proved flexible enough to support a wider range of practice-based structures for working on teaching practice. This was particularly the case when coupled with a well-designed multimedia platform such as Edthena.

Timothy Boerst is a professor of clinical practice at the University of Michigan School of Education. His work supports the development and assessment of beginning teachers who are pedagogically skilled, subject-matter serious, and professionally committed to the learning of every student.

Meghan Shaughnessy is an assistant professor of Mathematics Education at Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Previously, she was a teacher educator at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the design and study of practice-intensive approaches to the professional preparation and ongoing learning of teachers and approaches to assessing developing skills with teaching practice.

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