Looking at Your Practice in the Mirror #2


Talk about changing the face of professional learning; teachers as self-reflective practitioners can take a few lessons from the world of sports. Athletes and sports teams will gladly go to the videotape to verify a good or bad play, critique the implementation of a play, or just review technique. Imagine if teachers consistently used that practice to study what we do and how well we do it? I know there have been times when I thought I said one thing and the persons listening to me have said, did you mean to say XYZ? My response is usually, “Yes! What confusion have I caused? Let me correct it so that you understand my expectations.”

When we are at the helm, we are so engrossed in teaching. We know our instruction is very clear regarding what we want our students to understand, do or produce. That is until we get, “Can you repeat that again?” questions, until we gaze out into the sea of confused faces looking for clearer understanding, or get a response that we really just never expected!

So why wouldn’t we want to be able to “go to the tape” to review the play-by-play? Imagine the value the tape serves in relations to our instructional practice? That is, as long as we are taping with a focus in mind. Below are my top three areas I ask teachers to consider when videotaping is their choice for self-reflection:

  1. Questioning: Do I utilize higher-order questioning techniques? High cognitive demand questions invite students to explain their thinking, make new connections, describe their process, or critique other ideas. This type of questioning is needed to help students make sense of mathematics. If you need some examples here are a few NCTM higher-order question stems:

What do others think about what ___________________________ said?
Do you agree? Disagree?
Does anyone have the same answer but a different way to explain it?

  1. Think-time/Wait-time: After asking a question do I give students the opportunity to think before they respond or am I offering the answers and explanations to my questions? Research and data have shown that the use of student think-time and wait-time contribute significantly to improved teaching and learning in the classroom.
  2. Student Engagement: Do I provide learning activities to maintain students’ attention and focus? Marzano states that student engagement is dependent upon our instructional decisions. Why not take a look at how students engage with the activities we design for learning? Do students find the activities interesting or relevant?

There are many instructional practices to consider when reflecting on your teaching. Think about your pattern for circulating among groups/students, your explanation of material or specific content,  or even your pattern for calling on students.  Do you consistently find yourself on one side of the room more or calling on one student more than others?

I’m curious as to what teachers do with the tape once reviewed. Is it archived or recorded over? Do you save it so that you can compare the before I recognized I did this and now here’s what I do? Here’s where I believe we can gain even more learning about our practice. Let’s take another cue specifically from football. Imagine if we exchanged our game tape with another teacher just like football teams. Now we both are growing because I am studying my colleague’s change in techniques and reflecting on my practice too. Trading videotapes requires a school culture that promotes collaboration and a sense of trust among the teachers participating. Consider being a change agent and begin the practice without waiting for an administrator to suggest it. I promise being a self-reflective practitioner will help you grow professionally.

Have you used videotaping as a practice? I would love to hear what you gained from your experience. If you have been saying you need to videotape your teaching, there’s no time like the present. I look forward to the dialogue!