T here are many ways to critique our teaching, but few are more ffective than video. Personal
reflection through the use of video
allows us to see what really happens
in our classrooms—good and bad—
and provides a visual path forward
for improvement, whether it be in
your teaching, your work with a
particular student, or your learning
environment. This is true regardless
of the focus of the video.
teaching strategy you are trying, and
you want to know if you’re effectively
implementing it. Or maybe you have
an unresponsive class and want to investigate and develop your classroom
management skills to help reduce the
barriers to learning. You may want to
model a technique for other teachers
in your professional learning community. Whatever you decide, be sure to
thoughtfully narrow your focus. If
you try to include too much, it could
be difficult to make changes that lead
to improved practice.
As you narrow the focus of your
video, it may make sense to ask for
some volunteers. Some students might
be interested in helping you improve.
Let them have a voice, not only in
what you record, but also during the
reflection of the video. Your students
can provide a unique perspective that
you may be missing as you reflect on
If you don’t know what to record,
try making a general video of your
classroom that doesn’t focus on
anything in particular and see what
emerges. If you’re still not sure, ask
someone, such as your students, another teacher, or your principal, or
refer to a previous evaluation to help
guide your development. Don’t feel
as though you have to do this alone.
You’re surrounded by educators who
want to help you improve, so be sure
to leverage them as you examine your
Focusing on the learning environment might be necessary if you are
changing to student-centered instruction, such as problem-based learning.
Traditional learning environments
aren’t suited for student-centered instruction, so it’s entirely possible that
you and your students are struggling
with this new type of instruction because the learning environment isn’t
Whatever you decide to focus your
video on, be sure this is what you record. It’s important that you don’t prepare a special lesson for the days you
record, because in the end that isn’t going to help you improve your teaching.
Finding a Focus
Before running to the media center
to check out a camcorder, it’s important to think about the focus of your
recording. A critical question to consider is: What am I going to reflect
on as I watch my video? You could
ask yourself questions such as: Is there
a better way for me to teach this unit?
Are my students engaged during large
group discussions? Is the current
layout of the classroom conducive to
project-based learning? You can focus
on any aspect of your practice, such as
your students, your teaching methods,
or the learning environment.
First, ask for permission from the
student and the parent or guardian.
Create a simple form that explains
what you’re doing and why. Be sure
to have a place on the form that allows
both the parent and the student to
opt out of any video recordings (see
“Recording Quick Tips” on page 24
for a few samples).
It’s essential that your students
know the videos aren’t going to be
used against them. Let them know
that you are trying to learn from
them. It’s important for your students
to understand that even adults continue to learn. Using video of your
students is also a great way to model
what lifelong learning looks like.
Determine in advance what to
reflect on. Perhaps there is a new
When to Record
Once you have determined what to
record, the next step is deciding when.
I recommend recording throughout
the school year, as often as possible.
The more you do it, the better you
will become at honing your practice. Developing a reflective practice
doesn’t happen overnight, so the more
opportunities you have to engage in
that activity, the better.
It’s important to find the right
balance. Remember, the point is the
learning and teaching that takes place
in your classroom. You don’t want to
become so consumed with setting up
the camcorder and recording that you
lose focus of what really matters.
Start out slower by recording once
every three or four weeks. Then, once
you get used to recording and become
more adept at implementing changes
to your teaching, you can increase the
frequency of your recordings to once a
week or so.
Finding that balance will likely
take some time, but once you do,
schedule recording into your calendar.
This will allow you to schedule other
obligations around recording and to
arrange to have the necessary equipment available for the days you record.
Look at your lesson and unit plans
and decide when it is most appropriate to record. Avoid days you’re giving
an exam, when school is dismissing
early or starts late, or when there are
special events taking place. Scheduled
recording dates will also help keep you
Consider recording when you are
formally evaluated by your principal