Our sister publication, TechDecisions, recently published an article about how the Principal of Howard University Middle School (HUMS) wanted the observation and evaluation process to to be a way for teachers to become better teachers. So for the 2016–2017 school year, she started asking certain teachers to capture videos of their lessons. The result was that she was able to give specific feedback to teachers she recorded. Here are four selling points for video evaluation that integrators can share with their education clients — directly from a principal who implemented the program.
Inspiring Teacher Growth and Internal PD
We started with the math department. Using the Insight ADVANCE platform, all the math teachers took a video of one class, and I used our instructional rubric to discuss different points that I saw in the classroom.
With the video evaluation recording as a common frame of reference, I didn’t have to comment on a show that they put on for me. Instead I said, “this is what I saw,” then they provided their feedback, and we agreed on what they needed to improve. Some teachers were surprised by what they saw themselves doing.
Recently, I asked the teachers to isolate two parts of a lesson that they wanted to improve. They took short videos aimed at helping us reexamine skills like questioning or transitioning. One teacher wanted to make sure that students were following the systems that she had implemented in class: put your pencils here, put your device here. Video evaluation showed us clearly where this was and wasn’t working.
An added bonus of having video from classrooms is that when I see a teacher doing something well, I can take that snippet and show it to other teachers. I have internal PD going on in the building without having to schedule a meeting.
Next year, we are rolling out the video observation system to the whole school, and we will expand our focus to include both growth and evaluation. I have made it clear that I am looking for gradual improvement. I don’t expect that teachers will go from “needs improvement” to “highly effective” in one jump.
To prepare for the 2017-2018 school year, I am asking teachers to pick a lesson that they’re going to teach in the first week or two school, and tape 10 or 15 minutes without the children. I want them to get used to seeing themselves—get comfortable with being on video. Once school starts, I’ll have them tape a full class and I’ll meet with them in the third of fourth week of September, again using our instructional rubric to evaluate. Most importantly, I’ll be able to ask each teacher, “What did you see that would you like to work on for this quarter or this half of the year?”
Video evaluation showed us clearly where this was and wasn’t working. An added bonus of having video from classrooms is that when I see a teacher doing something well, I can take that snippet and show it to other teachers.
Showing Teachers What Works
Our teachers are excited about using video evaluation because more than anything, it removes the “gotcha” piece of evaluation. I don’t like that kind of atmosphere. I want to create an atmosphere where teachers want to get better at teaching, and where I can be there to help them do their best. One way I can do that is by creating a resource library of videos to showcase our teachers who are doing something really creative.
Those videos also serve as a digital portfolio for the teacher. I hope that all of my teachers stay with me for their whole career, but realistically, they won’t, and having an objective example of their work in the classroom is going to set them apart from any other teacher, wherever they’re going.
Collaborating Without Travel with Video Evaluation
This fall, our video evaluation initiative will expand not only to every classroom in the school, but across the ocean to South Africa as well. HUMS is on the campus of Howard University, which is where Nelson Mandela got his law degree. Last year, one of Mandela’s fellow freedom fighters in the Soweto uprising, Dr. Jacob Ngakane, came to visit our school. Dr. Ngakane is now the head of a nonprofit that supports education in South Africa.
Like some of our students at HUMS, many students in South Africa have difficulty with mathematics. They get to 10th grade and switch to general math, so when they finish high school they can’t get into college, and very few jobs are available to them. During his visit, Dr. Ngakane and I talked, determined to come up with a way that our children and our teachers could collaborate.
At Dr. Ngakane’s invitation, I went to visit South Africa and talked to teachers, children, and principals. I told a principal about how we do observations with video evaluation, and we realized that we can collaborate without traveling. Starting this fall, we plan to share video snippets of good math teaching with each other. As a former math teacher, I am thrilled at the prospect of working with other math teachers around the world. We are a global community, united in our goal of giving students the opportunity to excel and making sure they are ready for the jobs that the 21st century will provide.