Using Video for Professional Development: The Role of the Discussion Facilitator

From Section:
Professional Development
United Kingdom
Jun. 02, 2013

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Vol. 16, No. 3, (June 2013) p. 165-184.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author argues that there is a lack of research into the role of the facilitator of discussions of video for professional development.
A key purpose of this article is to expose aspects of the role of the facilitator of teacher learning, not reported in previous research in the use of video.
Hence, the author documents research he undertook into the use of video as a tool for teacher learning.

The author reviews literature on video use for professional development, highlighting a common finding of the difficulty of generating useful discussion amongst teachers and also the lack of account taken of the role of the discussion facilitator.
Then, he sets out the enactivist methodology of this study.

Enactivism as a methodology
Enactivism entails a commitment to the inseparability of thought and action.
The enactivist thinking places significance on the role of distinction and hence categorising; the enactive view of categories is largely derived from Rosch (Varela et al. 1991).
Rosch (1999) identified three layers in our use of categories, ranging from the detailed to the abstract.
In term of research methodology, a key aspect of enactivism is the view that the most basic cognitive function is that of making distinctions.
Hence, the author's approach is to collect data over time, in a search for similarity, difference and pattern.

Practice of using video
The author draws on data collected over a five-year period (2004–2009) from one secondary mathematics department in the UK.
The teachers in the department changed over time.
Four staffs were at the school during the period 2004–2009 and attended all video observation meetings.

After watching a small (3–4 min) clip of video, the author would always insist on a period of time trying to agree the detail of what occurred before then moving to interpretation and the identification of teaching strategies.
At the school, teachers commented on finding video watching in a group more useful than lesson observation, with no evidence of this taking time to develop.
He analyses data from audio recordings of teacher discussions on video, to draw out further decision points for the facilitator and offer suggestions why the choices evident in this data seem to be effective.

Key dimensions of the role of the facilitator

In analysing empirical data from one school, he suggests five key aspects or decision points in working with teachers on video.

1. Selecting a video clip: The author's own use of video was entirely with clips from recordings of lessons of teachers who were at the meetings, that is, the recordings were taken in the school.
In choosing clips, he had an over-arching issue that staff had agreed they wanted to work on, but did not decide in advance what he thought was significant about the clip.

2. Setting up the discussion norms: Decisions about what kind of discussion norms to establish has been alluded to in past research and he reported on different practices in Sect. ‘Introduction’.

3. Re-watching the video: In running a session looking at video, there is a crucial decision about when, and how often, to replay clips.
He is looking for an excuse to slow down the reconstruction; disagreements about what is said can provide that, often prolonging discussion, the issue finally to be resolved by re-watching(s).
The decision of when and how often to replay is a significant and under-reported aspect of working with video.

4. Moving to interpretation: He had a period of time accounts of what was watched it is possible to move to accounts for whilst avoiding judgmental comments.

5. Metacommenting: Metacommenting on the discussion and naming a strategy seems to support the possibility of teachers taking on a purpose to work on in their own planning and teaching.


The author claims that the enactivist category theory of Rosch (1999) provides an explanation for why the practice of video use I describe in the study allowed for the emergence of new labels and categories, and the avoidance of evaluative talk.

Having presented key aspects of the role of the facilitator of video use, a further look at the detail of the data from discussions serves to highlight some of the complexities involved in just one of the categories (and, by implication, the others).
He concludes that this complexity is likely to be present within all aspects and, in keeping with enactivist principles, description of the role of the discussion facilitator cannot be separated from the historical context in which discussions took place.


Rosch, E. (1999). Principles of categorization. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), Concepts: Core readings (pp. 189–206). Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Updated: Jun. 08, 2022
Attitudes of teachers | Discussion | Instruction effectiveness | Mathematics education | Mathematics teachers | Professional development | Secondary education | Video technology