At the Greenville Independent school district, we adopted video for instructional coaching because we didn’t have enough coaches to visit all the classrooms where they were needed. In the first year of implementation, however, we found video observations to be a powerful tool not just for instructional coaching but for encouraging teacher self-reflection and improving school culture as well. Here’s how it has worked for us.
From Coach Multiplier to Self-Reflector
We adopted ADVANCEfeedback as our video-observation platform due to a shortage of coaches. With this video platform, our coaches were able to virtually visit classrooms on their own schedules or even observe separate lessons that happened at the same time—without having to physically be in two places at once.
Using video helped us solve those logistical challenges, but we also found that it improved teacher comfort with the observation and coaching process. Teachers were able to choose when they recorded a lesson, and they were also able to decide if they submitted it once it was done. Many teachers shared them with one another and coached each other before they ever sent them along to the administrative team.
It’s also been helpful in preparing teachers for the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, which requires pre-conferencing and post-conferencing as part of the evaluation. Because our teachers have been using video to evaluate their own performance, they’re more comfortable heading into their evaluation at the end of the year.
Supporting Teachers on the Verge of Greatness
Video also helped provide a missing piece in our overall approach to professional development for our teachers. Prior to adopting our video-based model, we focused PD on customer service, improving school culture through Capturing Kids’ Hearts, small-group instruction and guided reading, and on classroom management, because we have a lot of first-year teachers.
With the ability to use video in teacher coaching, we’ve been able to focus on developing individual teachers’ unique strengths. Sometimes a teacher is on the verge of greatness, and they just need a little help from a coach to achieve that next level. Similarly, video has allowed us to put teachers who are having similar challenges together for support and collaboration as they work to improve their practice.
It’s really allowed us to divide and conquer and, in turn, provide more targeted support and development for our teachers.
Improved Results and Culture Through Transparency
The biggest benefit to using video for instructional coaching has been all the “aha moments” teachers have had. I’ve heard so many stories of relief from teachers who shared their challenges and fears about their practice through video and then had colleagues show up to their classroom to help them improve.
What teachers are being taught in the PD process is actually showing up in their practice and making a difference in the classroom. At each milestone along the journey, teachers have been excited to see improvements and eager to recommit to the process because they can see that it’s working.
More broadly, there’s a positive cultural shift happening as a result of the transparency video provides teachers into one another’s classrooms. They know they’re in it together because they are sharing their challenges and successes and they can see that they all have the same kids, the same opportunities, the same minutes in a class, and the same lesson plans. As a result, they offer each other a bit more grace and a lot more collaboration as they work to improve teaching and learning within our district.
Coaching in the Future
As we head into our second year of using video to facilitate instructional coaching, we have plans to expand the program in two ways. First, we plan to continue remote coaching. Though video has helped us make the most of the coaches we have, we still have a limited number of administrators and other instructional leaders who can provide coaching, so we’re looking to expand that.Second, we are going to bring our assistant principals into the program to receive their own coaching. In a bit of coaching the coaches, they will be working on improving their feedback by ensuring that it is specific, actionable, and corrective. They will also be revisiting teachers they’ve coached 24 to 48 hours later to confirm that their feedback has been helpful.
Teachers have so much on their plates already that it’s very important that we don’t ask them to do anything simply to go through the motions. Video self-reflection, feedback, and coaching has allowed us to demonstrate that we’re walking the walk. They know we’re not looking to catch them with a “gotcha” moment. Instead, we’re putting systems in place to help them and, in turn, their students grow.
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.