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There Are Some Right Ways & Some Wrong Ways To Videotape Teachers — And This Is A Wrong Way


Today, The New York Times is running two articles on videotaping teachers for evaluation purposes. They are:

Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher

Video Eye Aimed at Teachers in 7 School Systems

They both talk about a Gates Foundation-funding effort to videotape teacher lessons and then have them evaluated by people who have never visited the school nor have any kind of relationship with the teacher, and rate them using checklists.

Here’s a criticism voiced in the article that I agree with wholeheartedly:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has several affiliates participating in the research, also expressed reservations. “Videotaped observations have their role but shouldn’t be used to substitute for in-person observations to evaluate teachers,” Ms. Weingarten said. “It would be hard to justify ratings by outsiders watching videotapes at a remote location who never visited the classroom and couldn’t see for themselves a teacher’s interaction and relationship with students.”

I’d call this a wrong way to use videotape of teachers.

I’ve previously written about what I think  is a right way to use videotaped teachers (Now, This Is What A Useful & Effective Teacher Assessment Might Look Like).

Our school, led by principal Ted Appel, has begun having Kelly Young, an extraordinarily talented consultant on instructional strategies who we have been working with for years, videotape our lessons (I’ve written much about Kelly in this blog). He then meets with us to review an edited version of the tape, with us initially giving our own critique and reflections followed by his comments. This process is entirely outside of the official evaluation process, and is focused on helping teachers improve their craft.

This process has been universally acclaimed by teachers so far, and it has been one of the most significant professional development experiences I’ve had.

As I mentioned in that previous post on my videotaped lesson, I had suggested to Kelly that we show the video and discuss the critique with my class as an experiment.

We did this a few days ago, and it was truly an amazing one hour.

I’ve written an article for Teacher Magazine about what happened, and they’ll be publishing it after the holidays. After reading it, I think you’ll agree that there are far better ways to use videotaped lessons than what the Gates Foundation is planning.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I believe getting an opinion from an external independent observer is always useful.

  2. Pingback: Evaluation for the Purpose of Improvement? What an Idea! | Scripted Spontaneity

  3. I do not understand why there isn’t more conversation on using evaluation as a teacher improvement tool. As your post suggests, many teachers would welcome the opportunity to have a consultation with a competent teachers’ teacher. But at the policy level, we get the sort of nonsense indicated by the Times article.

    If teachers could be convinced that “evaluations” were a tool to help improve performance, rather than a trap set by a hostile administration and backed by forces antipathetic to the entire structure of public education (c.f. the Mackinac Foundation), there would be a lot less push-back. As it is, in the mind of at least this practicing public educator, genuinely good reforms are championed by people with an agenda that runs counter to mine.

  4. Pingback: Teachers on video — Joanne Jacobs

  5. Mr. Ferlazzo,

    I commented on one of your blog posts about two weeks ago. I will be summarizing this blog post and the previous blog I commented on. Feel free to check it out on my blog.

    I think that having someone who is competent to videotape lessons and then critique them is such a great tool! It can really help with self-evaluation as well when the teacher watches the video. I think that it was so great that you chose to share the video with your class. That seems like such a enlightening and fun experiment.

    I really have enjoyed reading your blog and will look forward to reading more in the future.

  6. Pingback: Educational Blog Digest 6th December 2010 | Creative Education Blog

  7. I agree that videotaping in the right way can make for phenomenal professional development. There is no bigger critic of yourself than yourself! It’s surprising what you can learn by watching yourself back and I think that if you watch yourself back five times you will note a new area for improvement each time.

    Congrats on all your edublog nominations! I’m just off to vote now!

    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here:

  8. Videotaping is such an important tool for improving teacher quality through pd and coaching that its integrity should not be misused by linking it to evaluations. If VAMs are destroyed as a tool to help kids due to overreach, I would not mourn. If we can’t use videotaping to help teachers because its been polluted by contact with the politics of evaluations, the harm will be huge.

  9. I had to videotape my lessons when I was working on my National Boards a few years ago. It was the most eye opening experience I had as a teacher, although no second person close to me got to see the lessons to give me more feedback. It was all self exploration and self critique. I think that using video to tape one’s lessons for professional development will be far more reaching and have a greated impact in students learning gains, that using it for evaluation purposes tied to tenure, anual contracts, merit pay, and the like.

  10. Pingback: Bill Gates’s $5 billion plan to videotape America’s teachers

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