Teacher Evaluation

Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 3 – Helping You Get Started

The reflection that I did myself, when I videoed, offered me more opportunity for growth than anything an outsider could do for me. Watching my kids, what went on in my room, how I handled it, and things I said—that was more important than any sit-down that I could have with anybody [else]. ” Best Foot Forward teacher, North Carolina (2013)1

In this third installment of our Using Videos During Teacher Observations series, we will dive right in to what the research says with regard to using videos to support teacher observations.  Our previous two posts can be found here: My Own Struggles and Creating an environment where teachers self reflect.

I’m guessing most of you don’t formally use videos during your teacher observations.  Coaching?  Maybe.  The observer sitting down, watching the lesson on video, and providing feedback specific based on what was seen on film?  Probably not.  There are a lot of reasons why schools are hesitant to use videos.  According to Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research and their Best Foot Forward Project, these reasons may include but are not limited to:

  • Compliance Culture
  • Rudimentary Reflection
  • Inflexible Time
  • Inadequate content area feedback

I’ve personally had conversations with several administrators who had various other reasons why they aren’t using videos for teacher observations.  These reasons include their Union won’t allow it, they don’t have the appropriate technology, there is not a simple way to do it, and they are afraid of teachers putting on the proverbial “dog and pony show”.  Others had concerns about students being recorded and what would be required from a policy perspective to allow for recording in the classroom.  However 95% of these administrators rated the potential of video reflections/observations as having a major impact in their school.  In other words, most (95%) think using videos during observations would make a positive difference for them and their teachers.  They just aren’t doing it.

The aforementioned Best Foot Forward Project from Harvard University does a fantastic job providing specific suggestions to break through these barriers.  Their toolkit is simply amazing.  If you haven’t reviewed their toolkit, you should download it now.  The Toolkit provides support in the following areas:

  • Leveraging Video for Learning
    • Video for self-reflection, peer collaboration, virtual coaching, evaluation, and building a video library
  • Cultivating Trust in Video Observations
    • Create a safe environment for teachers and communicate with parents and manage student privacy concerns
  • Turnkey Technology: Setting up Schools for Effective Implementation
    • Choose the right technology, set up your infrastructure, train teachers and observers
  • Measuring Readiness and Assessing Success
    • Ensure readiness, Assess Success
  • Appendix
  • References

Speaking of the dog and pony show, The Best Foot Forward project addressed that directly in its Leveraging Video for Learning section: “If teachers control the camera, they are able to choose a videotaped lesson that they believe represents a comprehensive view of their best work.  Not only does this process increase teacher agency in evaluation, but it also encourages teachers to rewatch several lessons and contemplate what constitutes effective, evaluation-worthy instruction before choosing what will be submitted to the administrator.”  Later it reads “…teachers put their ‘best foot forward’, but this did not fundamentally change the distribution of observation scores between teachers.”2  For a more detailed quantitative review, please see the Best Foot Forward research brief.

The Best Foot Forward Project also includes a self-guided module for analyzing videos of your own instruction, a self-analysis noticing rubric, coaching conversation scripts, and many other worthwhile resources.

If you are considering using videos to support teacher reflection, coaching, and/or evaluation, the guidance from the Best Foot Forward project may help you map an implementation schedule and feel comfortable doing so.  There are definitely logistics to consider, timing issues, collective bargaining disagreements, and other barriers you will face, but best practice suggests using video can have a positive impact on your entire observation process.

Next week we will take a look at how a professional athlete uses video to improve his game, and you may even learn a little bit about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.


Have you used videos during any of your observations, coaching cycles, or evaluations?  If so, how did it go?


1Fullerton, J., Greenberg, M., Kane, T., Le, L., Quinn, D., Thal, D., & Zelaya, S. (2015). Leveraging Video for Learning: Strategies for Using Video Observations for Professional Growth [PDF]. Center for Education Policy Research. p. 2

2Fullerton, J., Greenberg, M., Kane, T., Le, L., Quinn, D., Thal, D., & Zelaya, S. (2015). Leveraging Video for Learning: Strategies for Using Video Observations for Professional Growth [PDF]. Center for Education Policy Research. p. 11-12

Video Self Reflections

Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 2 – Teacher Self Reflection

Last week I spent some time talking about my own personal struggles when completing observations.  As a quick recap, these difficulties included an inability to notice, and capture, everything that happened in the classroom, the difficulty in remembering and recalling the specific details of each lesson when in an observation conference with a teacher, and the teacher’s own self-reflection of the lesson.  You can read last week’s post by clicking here: Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 1 – My Own Struggles

Today I want to focus on the self-reflection aspect of the teacher observation/evaluation process.  Many researchers have proven the power of creating an environment where employees thrive, one which:

  • Challenges employees but provides appropriate support.  The Pygmalion effect suggests that people will reach the expectations that are placed on them.  If you expect a lot from your employees, but not so much that you consistently discourage them, your team will rise to your expectations.  Consequently, if you expect very little from your employees, guess what you will receive in return?
  • Values employees and their contributions.  Teaching is a tough job, as we all know.  Your teachers are impacting dozens, if not hundreds, of students each day.  Teachers are world-changers – let’s treat them as such!
  • Encourages both collaboration and autonomy.  Teachers have a lot to learn, and a lot to share.  Encourage your teachers to continually learn from each other, yet create an environment for teachers to practice and implement their learning in their own classrooms.  In the words of Daniel Pink, “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.
  • Allows for risk-taking.  For teachers to improve, they must try new things.  Allow your teachers to take risks and see what happens (of course the risk needs to be legal, ethical, thought out, and fits within the vision, mission, and beliefs of the organization…)  Setting up an environment where risk-taking is “allowed” will provide encouragement and motivation to teachers to improve, even if there are stumbling blocks along the way.
  • Supports teacher self-reflection.  See below:

To get the most out of any professional development, initiative, or strategy, the ownership must lie in the hands of those on the front line.  The best book study or workshop will not positively affect your teachers, and therefore students, unless and until your teachers actually practice the actions.  Studying is not enough.  Learning is not enough.  You must actually “do”.

Being the owner of a company that specializes in employee evaluations, I fully support the effective use of observer feedback.  After all, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  Having an outsider provide perspective, suggestions, and questions can go a long way to improve teachers’ instruction and implementation of the studying and learning.

However, sometimes I think we miss the boat and provide a little too much observer feedback.  Many times I had observation conferences with teachers, and the teacher was WAY harder on him/herself than I thought was necessary.  The teacher would have an entire monologue prepared with things he/she would change.  This is great self-reflection, but as we discussed last week, I question what the teacher was using to reflect.  It was solely based on memory of what she heard, saw, and said as well as what she let through her own filters.  Additionally, how many days had passed between the lesson and this reflection?  Again I question if this is the absolute best way for teachers to self-reflect?

I wonder how this teacher’s thought process would have been different if he/she had reviewed the lesson on video first?  I wonder what this teacher would have noticed and how more meaningful it would be to watch the lesson, or a portion of it, on video?  Perhaps the teacher is so in tune with his/her own teaching the reflections would have been identical.  I’m guessing not though.  I’m guessing this teacher would come prepared to show, not just talk about, what she noticed and what she would do differently.  As a former observer, this is the kind of self-reflection I would want my teachers to participate in.

Next week we will dive further into the research and discuss the Best Foot Forward project from Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research.  Here’s a little teaser to think about between now and then:

“The reflection that I did myself, when I videoed, offered me more opportunity for growth than anything an outsider could do for me. Watching my kids, what went on in my room, how I handled it, and things I said—that was more important than any sit-down that I could have with anybody [else]. ”

Best Foot Forward teacher, North Carolina (2013)1


SMART Goal Setting Teacher Education

6 Best Practices for Professional Growth Goals

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar

For many of you, another school year has come and gone.  Have you reflected on what professional or organizational goals you and your staff accomplished?  If you haven’t, you’re not alone.  A study in 2016 found that only 8% of people set and achieve their goals.  Yes, you read that correctly! 92% of us don’t set and achieve goals.  We want to help this number grow, starting with you!

The truth is, setting and reviewing professional growth goals is a rewarding process and is necessary to achieve professional growth.  Fortunately for you, we’ve condensed this process into 6 best practices for professional growth goals as outlined below.

  •  Professional Growth Goals should be collaborative, but teacher-driven.

In their 2010 book, Advancing the Three-Minute Walkthrough: Mastering Reflective Practice, Carolyn Downey and colleagues emphasize the importance of professional growth goals grounded not only in self-reflection, but also in reflective dialogue with administrators, coaches, and/or fellow teachers.  

  • Professional Growth Goals should be individualized.

This is pretty straight-forward. No two teachers should have the same professional learning goal. Boston Public Schools has some good examples and templates for professional growth goals and professional learning plans.

  • Professional Growth Goals should be based on information from various tools/processes.

When most people make big decisions, they seek information from a variety of sources and a variety of trusted people.  Professional growth is no different.  Professional growth goals should be derived from  a combination of self-assessment, walkthroughs, observations, student data, and reflective dialogue to name a few.

  • Professional Growth Goals should be written as a SMART goal.

In case you’ve never heard of a SMART goal, here is a general article about SMART goals and how to use them.

Check out this specific example of a SMART Professional Growth Goal.

Professional Growth Goals

  • Professional Growth Goal progress should be reviewed mid-year.

This moves the process from primarily summative to more formative. Nobody makes goal adjustments on information they don’t have! The review should be face-to-face, productive, and focused. Specific recommendations should come out of the meeting to help achieve the professional growth goal by the end of the school year.

  • Professional Learning Goals should be tethered to an individualized professional learning plan.

The professional learning plan should outline intentional activities designed to support learning of the educator in accordance with their individualized professional growth goal.  Think of it this way: The professional growth goal is the destination, and the professional learning plan is the roadmap to get there!


If you use these 6 best practices to guide professional growth goals, you’ll join the 8% of people who set and achieve their goals!


“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra


5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

[Infographic] 5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

Our blog post on the 5 best practices for classroom walkthroughs was so popular, we decided to turn it into this easy-to-share infographic.  There’s nothing better than a simple, concise visual reference.  As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words!

Classroom Walkthrough


Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

Of all the different components to the various teacher evaluation frameworks out there, the most misused piece is often the classroom walkthrough. It’s no surprise given there’s much less discussion and research on classroom walkthroughs compared to formal observations. In fact, if you googled walkthrough right now you’d get results mostly about video games! In her research, Carolyn Downey and colleagues offered this definition for a classroom walkthrough, “short, informal visitations to classes followed occasionally by reflective questioning.”. In this way, classroom walkthroughs are quite different than short classroom observations which are formal and evaluative.

When used correctly, classroom walkthroughs provide the observer with key information they can use to build reflective dialogue with teachers and customize professional development opportunities for teachers. If you follow the 5 best practices outlined below, your walkthroughs will transform your performance evaluation processes into something more meaningful – a framework of self-reflection and self-direction to drive the cycle of continuous improvement.

Here are 5 best practices to follow for classroom walkthroughs:

  1. Classroom walkthroughs should be informal.
    This means that minimal data are collected. Any data that is collected is not shared with the teacher directly, rather the information is used to generate reflective questions.
  2. Classroom walkthroughs should be short.
    Most walkthroughs should be no longer than about 10 minutes – just long enough to gather information on how curriculum and instructional decisions are made.
  3. Classroom walkthroughs should be non-evaluative and nonjudgmental.
    This means no checklists with performance descriptions, and no feedback! The focus isn’t on judging the actions of teachers, but to gather information about decisions teachers make. This allows the observer to take on more of a coaching role with the teacher.
  4. Classroom walkthroughs should be tied to a model of collegial supervision, not conventional supervision.
    This puts the focus on teacher development rather than teacher conformity. Conventional supervision will result in substandard results and even lower job satisfaction. Walkthroughs make supervision practices more collegial and encourage collaboration and ongoing reflective inquiry.
  5. Classroom walkthroughs should be tied to a reflective dialogue process.
    The overarching purpose of walkthroughs is to create high quality reflective questions to guide reflective dialogue with teachers. The goal is for the reflective questions to nurture teachers into deeper self-awareness and self-reflection of their teaching practices. However, dialogue with teachers is not necessary after every completed walkthrough.

At the very core of these best practices is trust. Remember, trust is the foundation upon which all teacher observations and classroom walkthroughs are built. If you stick with the core best practices listed above for classroom walkthroughs, your school will build a cycle of continuous improvement focused more on self-reflection and professional growth instead of mere conformity.