Source: Action in Teacher Education, 43:3, 250-267
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Researchers and practitioners have long agreed when teachers reflect on their own practice, they are able to grow as practitioners (Cardetti & Orgnero, 2013; Noormohammadi, 2014).
However, in the last few decades, the field of education has also recognized that teacher reflection deepens when coupled with self-observation through video technology (Danielowich & McCarthy, 2013).
This information leads to the research question for this study: What affect does video reflection have on preservice teachers’ planning and instruction, classroom management strategies, and ability to engage learners?
Findings are derived from a pilot study designed to examine the use of video technology and external teacher observation ratings at three public, university-based teacher preparation programs within one Mountain West state.
The pilot took place in a single semester for student teaching candidates at each university, and it ran concurrently at each site.
Liaisons from each university participated in an ongoing community of practice to share their observations and lessons from the pilot project over the course of the preceding semester, the semester of the pilot project, and the following semester.
Being a pilot, the authors approached data collection as a formative process, whereby the team—including representatives from all three universities—met monthly and discussed new insights and changes to future interview protocols in light of the information they gathered early in the semester.
Because each site consisted of its own case study, the pilot study used a multiple case study methodology.
As Stake (2005) suggests, in multiple case study research, each case study is treated as an individual study and later combined and analyzed as a collection of studies.
At this point, data can be analyzed for common themes.
In the case of this study, the common issue is preservice teacher and supervisor use of video for reflection purposes.
Throughout the pilot project, the authors integrated the use of video observations into traditional student teaching experiences to allow preservice teachers to freely record their teaching experiences and rewatch lessons at their own discretion.
The extent of use varied significantly across preservice teachers engaged in the pilot:
On average, preservice teachers uploaded 17 videos, although many preservice teachers uploaded more than 20.
One participating preservice teacher uploaded over 100 videos.
In addition to videos for their own use and reflection, participating preservice teachers were also expected to share at least four of those recorded lessons with their university supervisor and a set of external raters.
For each of those shared videos, university supervisors and preservice teachers debriefed each, and, in some instances, watched recorded observations jointly and discussed the video in real time.
The authors relied on interviews from a subset of participating preservice teachers and university supervisors to examine the effects of video recording on preservice teacher reflection, paying particular attention to the way video reflection enabled shifts in practice related to classroom management, student engagement, and pedagogy.
Additionally, they examined how video reflection affected preservice teachers’ understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in each area.
Participating preservice teachers and university supervisors hailed from three different universities in the Mountain West region of the United States.
In total, 57 preservice teachers across the three universities participated in the pilot, while the other approximately 200 preservice teachers across the three universities utilized the existing observation and reflection system at each institution.
From the population of participating teachers, the director of field experiences and university supervisors at each institution selected a subset of preservice teachers to voluntarily participate in a deeper qualitative case study.
These preservice teachers were purposefully sampled to include both elementary and secondary teachers and a range of university supervisors.
The research team followed these eight preservice teachers throughout the piloted project and triangulated their data by incorporating the perspectives of their six university supervisors.
Data Sources and Data Collection
The primary data sources for this study included transcribed participant interviews.
The interviews were designed to address the research questions through a series of pre- and post-interviews focusing on preservice teachers’ and supervisors’ reflection strategies.
The authors aimed to interview each of the eight preservice teachers twice:
Once early in the student teaching experience and then again at the end of the semester.
To obtain a more robust account of the coaching process and the preservice teachers’ growth, they also conducted pre- and post-interviews with the six university supervisors working with these eight preservice teachers.
Researchers conducted initial interviews within the first month of a preservice teacher’s student teaching semester and again within the final month of a preservice teacher’s service.
Results and discussion
Perhaps the most compelling finding speaks to how preservice teachers used the video-technology in innovative ways to shift their practice, beyond the original scope of the pilot.
Rather than simply suggest that video observation and reflection provides a suitable and generally well-received replacement for traditional observation, the findings suggest video observation enabled particular kinds of reflection that ultimately led to specific shifts to practice.
While the general literature around teacher reflection suggests it is largely helpful in improvement (Jaeger, 2013; Nagro et al., 2017), this research also indicates that reflection using video software may serve a unique function because it is both time-efficient and effective in engaging practitioners in the reflection process.
Videos have the ability to transport teachers back in time and place to review their class and make accurate observations and adjustments (Kong, 2010).
Using sophisticated video technology that tracked the preservice teachers in the classroom, preservice teachers in this study were able to relive the class by watching it, and then write notes later.
Few preservice teachers have time to take notes while teaching (Jaeger, 2013), but having the opportunity to analyze video to identify reasons for a lesson’s success or an activity’s failure proved powerful among the preservice teachers in our sample.
The methodical approach to the way preservice teachers in this study reflected on their practice highlights Rodgers’s (2002) second criterion of systematic thinking because preservice teachers taught a lesson, watched the video, uploaded the video for review, and then met with their supervisor to discuss the video.
This study helps show that the practice of reflecting alone and then again, with a knowledgeable other, helps to solidify the preservice teacher’s growth mind-set leading to systematic changes to their instruction and classroom management.
Preservice teachers in the study also used video to closely observe their teaching tendencies, such as focusing too much attention on specific students:
This was seen in various data, ranging from a recognition of the importance of where one stands in the classroom (e.g., behind a podium or without a good sight line to all corners of the room) to the ability to observe more than one group during a particular lesson.
These types of observations were typical but also transformative; further, despite other preservice teachers receiving similar feedback from coaches, many did not recognize these behaviors until they witnessed it themselves on video—something that was particularly cited as a benefit by the university supervisors.
Other benefits of video reflection included the ability for preservice teachers to identify gaps in their teaching, focus on key aspects of their practice, and identify their strengths and weaknesses (Tripp & Rich, 2012).
Video reflection can also serve as an opportunity for teachers to workshop a real-world classroom management scenario with peers or mentors to solve problems as a team, as Rodgers’s (2002) third criterion indicates that critical growth takes place in community with others.
Video reflection also allowed the preservice teachers in this study to address more complex pedagogical issues, including lesson design and teaching strategies that better met individual student needs.
This combination of major and minor instructional adjustments then allowed preservice teachers to focus on an even greater challenge, and that is getting students to engage with the content of their instruction.
Video reflection also provided a tool to improve student engagement, which is extremely important to ensure mastery over content (Sweigart et al., 2015).
Preservice teachers were able to view teaching techniques that promote student engagement and analyze why students were engaged in a given lesson.
This reflective work took more effort and planning than shifts to management or instructional design, because preservice teachers had to analyze their videos to develop ideas about why some students were engaged and others were not within a particular lesson or activity.
The time and effort preservice teachers put into the analysis and eventual growth in their pedagogy ties to Rodgers’s (2002) fourth criterion because the preservice teachers had to value their personal and intellectual growth in order to make meaningful changes to their practice.
Not only did video observation enable the preservice teachers in this pilot to reflect on their practice, but it also empowered them as learners and professionals.
This finding builds upon prior research suggesting teacher reflection can build self-efficacy, which can then increase preservice teachers’ confidence in their instruction and support them in revising or evolving instructional approaches (Noormohammadi, 2014).
In this study, the use of video technology enabled similar kinds of reflection, but also put our participants in charge of their own learning and development:
They largely determined how often they recorded themselves, in what contexts, and who had access to their footage.
This allowed them to innovate and try new strategies on their own terms, something that likely contributed to their growing sense of self-efficacy.
As a result, many of the preservice teachers in this study improved their ability to identify areas for growth and make the necessary changes to become more effective educators.
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