Have you ever tried peer or self observation? Have you had a visitor in the room and observe a lesson only to find the students don’t behave the same as they usually would – either better or worse?
As professionals many of us work in classrooms of isolation, with 20+ young people,
The average class size in Australian schools was 24.7 students, above the OECD average of 24, and far bigger than some high-performing school systems. (I Give A Gonski, 2014)
of whom we are entrusted to educate for our world’s future. I was once told that teaching is the hardest profession because we are the only group of professionals who spend extended hours every day with the young people in our classes without any additional supervision from their own parents/caregivers. Even Doctors , whom in most communities have greater community respect and responsibility only spends on average 5-10 minutes with children (and an accompanying adult). There is no other group of professionals in our situation.
I believe it is fair to say that when we, as teachers, are asked to achieve such great feats with these young people; to educate them in a group of peers with a vast array of skills, abilities, backgrounds and behaviours, the self reflection opportunities in our profession take a back seat. When we do get the time and inclination to get some professional feedback for self improvement and reflection, it often happens that there is something new happening and many students do not behave in the same way they usually would if there wa not another person there, and inevitably the observations your were seeking feedback upon did not occur to the same extent simply because of this one factor.
I have been using a tool that might be a great suggestion and possible solution to this ongoing problem. Use the technology that is around us.
We want to observe the “normal” classroom behaviours and activities for professional improvement. I have recently begun setting up a digital camera in my room, before the students arrive, and setting it to record. I am then able to carry on the normal lesson and the only person in the room that knows the camera is recording everything is me. I can then review, replay rewind the video as many times as I like to pin-point the areas I want to focus upon and make changes to my classroom operations. I can share and discuss this with colleagues or even use it as a part of professional development models to demonstrate a key feature to other educators.
In addition to being able to observe myself, I can keep a visual track of my improvements and the progress I have made professionally, and use this evidence in my achievement of the standards.
In Australia the ATSIL standards for teachers and school leaders specifically includes professional observations as an illustration of practice and a feature of professional learning. This video also includes the use of pre-recorded lessons in a team-teaching situation where both teachers can observe, reflect and share positives and negatives of the lesson for further improvement of learning goals.
Have you ever used video recording as a professional learning tool? What conversations arose from your video? Did you use the video as evidence of your improvement in a particular technique?