Why Do Video Observations When You Can Be in the Classroom?

A clip about the benefits of using video for observations, rather than doing everything in person

Five points that will convince you to include video recordings and increase the effectiveness of your teacher observation program.


Sean McCarthy:

We used to do a lot of in-person observations and we still do on occasion, but we really like the video piece because our mentors and candidates have given us so much feedback over the course of the year. And the first is that they find it’s very objective and authentic when we use the video in this way and objective because again, we have that third point, the video doesn’t really mask anything or lie. It’s not filtered through the mentors perspective or the observer’s perspective, but that video as opposed to the in-person observer makes the actual classroom experience much more authentic.

The kids, they tend to ignore the camera after a certain amount of time and the teachers is able to deliver the instruction and the kids behave the way they’re going to behave, which doesn’t always happen when you have an observer in the room. Sometimes it kind of changes the authentic nature. Our candidates all felt that it was far less threatening and disruptive to just do a video of a lesson rather than having someone in and taking notes and scripting what’s going on in their classroom. They really like the fact that it respects their time and the mentor’s time while still allowing for very thorough feedback.

They particularly appreciate how flexible the scheduling was. This was one of the big challenges we were trying to overcome. We have a real challenge in our district because of its particular location with our sub pool. We don’t always have anywhere near enough substitutes available for our mentors to be pulled out of the classroom. And I should have mentioned all our mentors are part-time, so they’re full-time teachers and they’re doing this mentoring work on the side. So that flexible scheduling was really, really powerful. And we’d also have experiences where the candidate wanted the mentor to come in to watch a very specific lesson or see a very specific student challenge that they were experiencing. And we would have things like, okay, they get it all scheduled, they get it all organized, and then the sub is not available, so they have to completely change things or the mentor can’t get away at that particular time, so they end up observing something that may not be quite as helpful or targeted as the candidate was hoping for.

So being able to just record any time you want for the exact element that you’d like feedback with was just a huge benefit of using video. And then we were also finding it was very cost-effective because the cost of a video platform is so much less than the costs that we were incurring by providing release time for our mentors to go out and take care of all of the observations that we were asking them to do.