In the guest post I wrote for the Washington Post a couple of months ago, The best kind of teacher evaluation, I shared the elements that I have found useful in the evaluation process we use at our school.
I want to add another one to that list today. This post will sort of be an introduction to it, and I’ll write a more thorough description as it proceeds.
We’ve just begun experimenting with Kelly Young of Pebble Creek Labs, an extraordinary teacher trainer and mentor who also has developed much of the curriculum we teach at our school (and at others across the country), videotaping teacher lessons. I invited him to visit my classroom, and he taped one period of my double-block ninth-grade English class.
The previous day I had explained to the class that, even though it would be hard for them to believe, I was not a perfect teacher :). So, Mr. Young, who also was the writer of the curriculum we used in class, was going to come in to videotape the lesson the next day. He would then meet with me at a later date to review it and help me become a better teacher. Only he and I would see the tape. One of the students said, “Are you in trouble, Mr. Ferlazzo? We think you’re a good teacher.” I explained that, no, I wasn’t in trouble — I just wanted to become a better teacher. Others wanted to know if they could get to see it, too, and I told them that I hadn’t thought about that, but that I would explore the idea with Mr. Young.
The next day, coincidentally, the lesson was focused on them being “teachers” for the first time. They needed to demonstrate their use of reading strategies by teaching a “Think Aloud” to members of a small group. They needed to show what the “little voice inside their head” was saying as they were reading a passage aloud to their group. The lesson included us making a list of what they thought were the qualities of a good teacher, which they had to use to reflect on their own work at the end of the lesson.
Kelly now will take the hour-long video and edit it down to fifteen minutes. He’ll meet with me to review it. Students, though, continue to talk about wanting to see it, too, and that got me thinking — why not? In fact, it seems to me that it would be great to show the edited footage and even ask Kelly to come in and provide a similar commentary to them that he will provide to me.
Doing that would accomplish a lot:
* Students would see me modeling being open to critique and not viewing it as weakness. In fact, I’d be modeling it as a strength.
* Especially since the lesson was on them being teachers, and that they will be doing that several more times this semester, they will gain insight on what a good teacher does and doesn’t do.
* Since I have emphasized from the first day the qualities researchers have found make-up a good learner, and that one of them is being a good teacher, this kind of public exercise will only reinforce that idea.
* Students could give their reaction to the commentary — do they agree that some teacher actions are good and others not-so-good, and why, which I think will be helpful to both Kelly and to me.
* It would help them to become better prepared to give critique to me on what is happening in the classroom — both informally and formally during our regular Friday reflections.
I’m sure that one of the reasons they want to see the tape is because they want to see themselves, but I also think there is a genuine interest on many of their parts to learn more about why teachers do what they do in the classroom.
As I mentioned, I’ll write a much more lengthy post after the entire process is complete, which should happen fairly soon.
Fabulous idea and openness on your part. I found video-taping my lessons to offer great insight to my teaching (I did both better and worse than I imagined). I love the idea of bringing students into that circle.
I suspect, as an evaluation vehicle, teachers would need to use videoanalysis of their lessons at a safe distance for where they are in the self-reflection process. Highly self-reflective teachers would benefit from what you describe, while less-so folks might need to begin using videotape in the least threatening way possible (perhaps only themselves and a trusted other viewing and discussing the tapes). Also, I found in my research that women were much more self-conscious and self-critical in a videotaped analysis (tended to worry that they looked fat and such). That could get in the way of some good teaching reflection, especially in a shared format like you describe.
In any case, love to hear more as you move in this direction!
You make some excellent points. You mean that not everything works the same way for all people? But standardized test do, don’t they? 🙂
Haha. Yes, standardized testing works the same way for everyone, it leaves us all feeling a little bit empty and tired, no?
I look forward to hearing how your students respond. I believe you are (by making yourself vulnerable) giving your students an amazing life experience that is sure to change how they view their own growth process. Thanks for doing that.
Great post Larry! Thanks for sharing.
I have made several videos of my own teaching and one of those videos was for my Teacher Learning and Leadership Project (funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education). I had three cameras in the classroom and even though it was somewhat intimidating for the students (and me), the experience was incredible. The video features instructional practices that I use to help increase subject-area literacy skills. I learned a great deal about myself by watching myself teach. And my students were very curious to see the video; a few asked for a copy of the video, which was a great honour for me.
Congratulations for the great and unique process of all round teaching that you have chosen to take up. Wile this openness would help you to be a better teacher, it will also help in the development of your students. ‘Best of luck’ – you might become the “Best Teacher” one day through your true endeavors towards achieving it. Eager to know more from you. Will keep a close watch on this blog for further developments. Thanks again.