Video: a powerful observation and development tool

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Throughout my 9 years in the classroom, I’ve worked with some incredible educators who have been instrumental in my development as a professional educator. Unfortunately, I rarely have time to pop into classrooms and see how they deliver instruction and interact with the students we teach in the same building.

When I first started teaching, administrators and instructional support staff encouraged me to observe and collaborate with my teacher colleagues; however, this was rarely possible since we mostly taught at the same time during the day and what little time we did have during our off periods between grading, lesson planning, and making copies, was usually forced and inauthentic.  Observation had become a chore to check off on the laundry list of compliance requirements rather than the type of organic development that usually occurs when relationships and trust are built first among colleagues.

I never looked forward to days where I was under the microscope, those eyes in the back of the room staring at you, listening and holding on to each and every one of your words.   I always strived for perfection while being watched, and I never really felt myself during the observation, even though students were usually on their best behavior.

Every good teacher knows that teaching a lesson rarely goes as planned; it’s a minefield you have to navigate on a daily basis.  Most observation and professional development done in schools is broken.  Some teachers love being observed by their peers, while others hate it.  If you don’t trust or respect the observer’s judgment in your room, it can be uncomfortable.

It’s natural to avoid or become defensive when given feedback or criticism, even if it’s constructive, and that’s why I felt there had to be a better way to encourage more authentic and less threatening collaboration in schools.  I’m a firm believer in teachers being able to develop their skills as educators with trusted colleagues in a private and secure environment.

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When used properly, video is an excellent tool for self-reflection and peer review. Watching oneself on video is a vulnerable and humbling experience; however, a willingness to overcome this fear can lead to more serious and deliberate practice. The Sibme platform, coupled with a smartphone or any other recording device, is a powerful new way to work more efficiently with other educators in a more focused manner.  By stopping time and reflecting on our practice, we have the tools to improve our practice.

We all have weaknesses that can be improved and strengths to share with our peers. “Video provides an anchor for reflection and inquiry and thus contributes to the ability to develop functional habits” (Harlin, 2010).  As teachers, we have the ability to overcome bad habits through powerful self-reflection and peer review, which is the epitome of authentic professional development.


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