Video killed the radio star…

…but it may bring your work back to life!instruction

In the past, using video for reflection and feedback was difficult or even impossible. Equipment was expensive and less than portable. Video clips could only be shared between people using similar medium.  Much like videos on MTV, these concerns are a thing of the past.

The time is now to harness the power of video in teaching.

The power of video

Athletes from little league to the major leagues view video to analyze performance, identify strengths and weaknesses, and generate next steps for their practice. The purpose is not to criticize and belittle, but to be better in time for the next game. Teachers, coaches, and administrators can also utilize video, both for private reflection and collaborative feedback.

There is no need for special equipment, any smartphone or tablet will do. But before you view, remember these points:

When using video for self-reflection

  • You are your own harshest critic. Be kind. The temptation will be there to pick out every error. Perfect instruction does not exist. Look for what’s next, not what’s wrong.
  • One handy rule is to look for two stars and a wish. Force yourself to write down two positives (stars) for every area of concern (a wish).
  • Regardless of your first result, repeat the process. By engaging in honest feedback, you will see learning and growth over time.

When using video for giving feedback to others

  • Collaborate based on a framework, rather than living in the realm of generic comments. Using a framework focuses your work and allows you to identify next steps.
  • Focus on one or two small chunks of time: The beginning and end of class, a short exchange of discourse, or a student explanation.
  • Feedback must be built upon a strong relationship and working agreements.
  • Like any coaching or supervision agreements, the boundaries of confidentiality must be set before the work can begin: Who can told about your work? What level of detail can be shared?

Above all, whether using video for reflection or for feedback, think of the coach watching game film with the team. Whether you are serving as your own coach, working in a coaching partnership, or you’re an administrator supervising a teacher, remember the words of football coach Ara Parasheghian: “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”

So, watcha’ watcha’ watcha’ want?

Attention coaches: The teachers have spoken! As coaches, we are charged with the goal of working with teaccropped-slice.pnghers to improve student learning. We cannot attain that goal without understanding the perspective of the teachers we serve.

To better understand teachers’ perspectives of coaching, I recently conducted a (highly unscientific) data collection on Twitter using the following question:

What are the essential qualities of an instructional coach?

Approximately thirty responses were submitted. After reviewing the results, several patterns emerged around the need for the following: Positive relationships, Communication, Flexibility, Learning and growth.

Positive relationships: The need for strong, positive relationships appeared in the responses of nearly all teachers. Teachers described these relationships using words like non-judgmental, honest, trustworthy, and supportive. Building relationships is an essential component of coaching.

Communication: Several responses expressed that communication was essential. Teachers emphasized not only clear and coherent speaking, but the importance of the coach as a patient listener. Teachers want to be heard!

Flexibility: Teachers described the need for instructional coaches to be flexible. Flexibility in time is no doubt essential, but flexibility in approach and coaching strategies is perhaps more powerful. Teachers expressed this as support in “whatever way you need” it and not giving “cookie cutter advice.” Teachers want to work with coaches who personalize and differentiate their approach!

Learning and growth: Teachers expressed the desire to learn and grow. Teachers want to work collaboratively with coaches who build on their strengths. Teachers want to work with coaches who are resourceful, innovative, and student centered.

So, the teachers have spoken. This small sample of teacher response represents powerful feedback for instructional coaches. The challenge is to take this feedback and feed our practice forward. More importantly, don’t take my word for it. Instructional coaches, ask the teachers you work with: What are your essential qualities of an instructional coach?