iAspire Reflect

Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 4 – Introducing iAspire Reflect

In our previous three posts, we have discussed my own personal struggles with the teacher observation process, creating an environment where teachers self reflect, and sharing a wonderful resource called the Best Foot Forward Project from the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.    Properly evaluating teachers where a focus is on concrete evidence (video) can be a difficult transition for many schools and organizations.  Why?  Mostly it’s because it is not the norm in education and/or is not what they currently do.

To me, all decisions come down to purpose.  In the words of Simon Sinek in his wonderful book Start with Why: “For great leaders, The Golden Circle is in balance. They are in pursuit of WHY, they hold themselves accountable to HOW they do it, and WHAT they do serves as the tangible proof of what they believe.”  If you haven’t heard about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, below is a 3:40 clip of him explaining it:

So what exactly is iAspire Reflect?  iAspire Reflect is a simple-to-use software that allows educators to quickly upload video, add tags to the video (questioning, lesson objective, etc), share videos with colleagues, and search using a variety of criteria. iAspire Reflect also allows you to create a video library of the very best teaching in your organization.

The why behind  iAspire Reflect is to help create an environment where self-reflection and observations based on concrete evidence becomes the norm.  I think about the professional athletes of the world and how often they watch game film.  Being from Indiana (although a Chicago Bears Fan…), I have to make a reference to Peyton Manning, arguably one of the best football players of all time.  It was not Peyton’s elite athleticism that separated him from other quarterbacks. It was his ability and initiative to prepare for opponents that set him apart.  Peyton spent countless hours watching game film.  He reviewed each practice and game from multiple angles, identifying what the opponents were doing, their tendencies, and determining a plan based on what he saw.  He didn’t rely solely on his memory or what his coach told him to do.  Instead, he took complete and total ownership of the entire process and grounded his decisions in concrete evidence – what the “tape” showed him.  Here is an article from the New York Post on Peyton’s video prowess.  He was a machine when it came to preparation and watching video.

In an education environment, video observations allow the teacher and/or other educator to watch a clip, rewind, and watch again.  What specific behaviors were most effective for the teacher, and how do you know?  What exactly did the students do and say as a result of the teacher actions?  This is where recording and watching a lesson becomes extremely powerful.

Another why behind iAspire Reflect is to help alleviate some of the struggles that I faced when observing teachers.  No need to rehash all the struggles – you can read them again here.  Without something concrete, I would not be able to provide the specific actions or dialogue for everything that happened, the teacher would be basing his/her reflections on what he/she remembered, and my own filters would be a barrier to what I was able to capture and document.

As we have been developing iAspire Reflect for teacher observations using video, we have had the privilege to speak with schools across the country to gain their input on our development.  When we discussed our idea for iAspire Reflect, about 95% have been very intrigued and excited by the possibility.  In fact, most of the final responses from these conversations sounded a lot like this: “Can I try it?” or “How can I get started with this?”.


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Nobody Rises to Low Expectations

The title for this post came from a quote I heard in a professional development workshop a few years ago in regard to raising the achievement expectations for all students, especially students with special needs or learning challenges.  The basic premise of the presentation was that artificial ceilings should not be accepted for specific students depending on their perceived “learning potential”.  Talk about a major paradigm shift!  To say the presentation made a lasting impact on me personally and professionally would be an understatement.  The following were some of the implications I gleaned from the presentation that day:

1 – Encourage your high-performing students to perform even higher!   Challenge them to go above and beyond the grade-level expectations and benchmarks.

2 – Do not presume that students with disabilities cannot perform as well as their non-disabled peers. As a school psychologist, I have seen students with disabilities surpass many peers and grade-level expectations with the appropriate interventions.

3 – Rely on data to drive instruction and intervention.  Hunches and “gut-feelings” can often lead to stereotypes and artificial ceilings.

4 – Everyone enjoys to be challenged! We are intrinsically motivated by meeting new and challenging goals.

5 – As we set the bar higher for our students, we also set the bar higher for ourselves as educators.

We know that merely raising the expectations isn’t enough to raise student performance; rather it takes a strong community of support from fellow educators along with progress monitoring and intervention tools to meet the specific needs of each student.  All of this underscores the importance of Professional Learning Communities, research-based interventions (academic and behavioral) within each tier of provision, and reliable and valid Curriculum-Based Assessments to frequently measure progress.

Raising the bar shouldn’t mean raising the time and energy requirements of educators if the appropriate tools and resources are being used efficiently.

We’re ready to set the bar high.  How about you?

~Jason Cochran