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Teacher Evaluation Reflecting Time

Self-Reflection in Schools – A Lost Art?

Summer seems like the perfect time to do some self-reflection on the school year. The hustle and bustle of grading, lesson planning, meeting, and instructing is over, and there is finally time to think about what worked and what didn’t. However, reflection shouldn’t wait until June. Even though it can be tempting to put it off until there are fewer demands on their time, effective teachers reflect on their work often.

What to Look For:  Self-reflection is most powerful when it is purposeful. Whether it’s during a lesson, in a weekly reflection journal, or while playing back a video observation, it’s important that teachers and administrators have set clear, data-driven goals that encourage effective teaching techniques, student engagement, meeting state standards, and illustrating content knowledge.

Constant Reflection:  The best teachers are constantly reflecting and actively monitoring. During class, as teachers monitor the students for engagement and level of understanding, they may decide to include more instruction or encourage more active student involvement. Lessons may change during a class period or from one period to the next. This type of reflection is important, but it should be combined with other forms of reflection, too.

Notes/Journals:  Reflection is even more effective when teachers use reflection journals. These journals include reflection regarding specific, data-driven goals, making the reflection more purposeful. Teachers can write daily or weekly to reflect on specific goals. They can determine which lessons were most effective, what engaged students, and how different learners responded to differentiated methods of teaching. Through journaling, teachers can discover patterns that emerge as they record their experiences over time.

Video Observations:  One of the most powerful tools to aid in self-reflection is video observations. The video format allows teachers the opportunity to see what their students see. These observations are also a valuable way to reflect with peers and administrators. A series of videos shot at different periods throughout the year can make it easy to see patterns emerging and to gauge where improvement has occurred or needs to occur. And, the power of video means teachers can reflect conveniently when they have time to do it thoughtfully and purposefully.

students, video observations

Teacher Video Observations for a Changing World

The most transformative device of the 21st century, and arguably in all of human history, was created in 2007.  The first generation iPhone introduced us to a new wave of technology called smartphones.  It’s slogan was, “This is only the beginning…”.  How right were they?!  It’s 11 years later, and smartphones are part of our everyday lives just like getting dressed or going to work. As such, it’s no surprise that these devices will play an important role in how schools prepare, educate, and cultivate the next generation; particularly as it pertains to using video observations to improve instructional practices.

What does the future job industry look like?

According to the Institute For the Future, IFTF, 85% of the jobs people will have in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet (future jobs). This means that teachers today are preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Let that sink in for a minute!  It’s critical that we help teachers and students prepare for this approaching reality.

What are the skills that will be needed?

Although we may not know what these jobs will be, we do know that students will need skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration as well as the ability to adjust quickly in a rapidly-changing technological world. But, if teachers are to better prepare students for this, teachers should be innovators, too (innovative teachers).

What are the goals in order to get there?

Billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr, an early backer of Google and Amazon, understands innovation. His success, he says, comes from setting transparent goals he calls OKRs (objectives and key results) and evaluating them. More importantly, however, is that Doerr also gives permission to fail, because he says it is better to aim high and meet 70% of your goals than aim low and meet 100% of them.  Perhaps this same idea should be applied to education to encourage teacher innovators as they create professional growth goals?  After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

What will determine success?

Teachers, too, need permission to fail. They need to be able to try new things without fear. This will open the door to innovative ideas that encourage student engagement focused on creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. Teachers and evaluators can use video observations, like iAspire Reflect, to discuss ideas that worked and change the ones that didn’t. In this way, teachers can equip students with the skills they need to navigate this brave new world.

Video observations are the future of teacher evaluations because they support self-reflection, allow for more frequent coaching cycles, and can be self-driven.  This allows teachers to adapt and grow so they can prepare students for those jobs that haven’t even been invented yet!

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

1https://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/1._leveraging_video_for_learning.pdf