November 2014 – Volume 18, Number 3
Hunter College, City University of New York, USA
LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, USA
Hunter College, City University of New York, USA
Supervisors play a critical role in fostering teacher candidates’ reflective thinking on their practice, yet too often it is the supervisor, rather than the teacher, doing most of the observation work. Video-based supervision offers a promising alternative, as teachers have an opportunity to examine their own lesson and thus engage with the supervisor in a more collaborative conference. In this paper, we explore the ways supervisors approach video in their conferencing with teachers as a vehicle for teacher reflective practice at one TESOL master’s program in the USA. We examine what supervisors find salient in video observations, how they approach teachers when reviewing a lesson using video as a means to ground observation in evidence, and the struggles they encounter when trying to foster teacher reflection. We conclude with suggestions for implementing video-based supervision.
Keywords: TESOL, Video, teacher reflection, supervision, professional development
TESOL supervisors routinely invite teacher candidates to engage in evidence-based reflection about their planning, instruction and assessment practices. For novice teachers, this process of taking note of key aspects of instruction is a skill that requires mentoring and support. Specific skills are needed for effective noticing as part of the act of reflection, such as describing rather than judging, and exploring rather than evaluating (Fanselow, 1988; Farrell, 2014). Since supervisors are the more experienced practitioners it is they who shepherd this reflective process along. When teachers and supervisors can share in the review of materials such as lesson plans and student work products, both can engage in the co-construction of meaning using these artifacts to ground discussion. However, when it comes to reflecting on the lesson that was taught, teachers are relegated to memory-based recall of events and supervisors’ interpretation of these events. Thus, the opportunity for collaborative inquiry between teacher and supervisor is vastly reduced.
Teachers’ video-recording of their lessons and reflecting on these video records on their own and then with colleagues and faculty, is a ready solution. Video affords teachers a chance to see themselves in action, to view the lesson from the ESL students’ point of view, and to stop, rewind, and replay. This iterative process in turn generates an artifact that can be utilized in co-inquiry. Although the ease, affordability, and portability of digital video have made it a tool widely available to educators, it may be underutilized in the reflection process. This underuse of video may be due to supervisors’ concerns regarding teachers’ discomfort about reviewing video-records, and the lack of training provided to supervisors, especially in the university context (Dangel & Tanguay, 2014; Danielowich & McCarthy, 2013).
At our institution, video analysis of teaching has been common practice for many years. Initially, however, how supervisors were to guide teachers in analyzing video records had not been defined. We noted that our TESOL supervisors had not experienced video-based reflection in their own teaching careers and reported uncertainty in using video as a component of their practicum supervision. In order to enhance the use of video analysis for reflection among our TESOL teachers, we sought to better understand: (1) what practices supervisors employed when engaging in post-observation conferencing with teachers and their video records, and (2) what supervisors’ internal reflective processes involved as they worked to support candidates’ reflection. By describing how our program’s TESOL supervisors have been working with video, our intention is to advance the wider use of video-enhanced supervision for the purpose of student teacher reflection. We conclude with recommendations and future directions for the role of video-based supervision for teacher development.
The Supervisor’s Role in Teacher Self-Reflection
When teachers only experience feedback on their practice via external evaluation of their performance, they unfortunately begin to find it a political enactment of supervisory control rather than a vehicle for professional development. Therefore, inviting teacher candidates to examine their own performance could encourage teachers to be active agents in the process (Towndrow & Tan, 2009). When teachers heighten their awareness of what takes place in the classroom and come to understand why it is taking place, they are in a better position to articulate their needs and determine the actions that are most likely to lead to improvement in their instructional practice (Edge, 2011). Engaging teachers in the metacognitive task of stepping back to appraise their performance stimulates self-monitoring, leading to a more active and self-reliant role in their learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). Supporting teachers’ work are the supervisors, coaches, mentors and administrators who wish to provide them with the means to develop professionally so they can succeed at fulfilling their complex, highly demanding roles. Unfortunately, because the line between formative and summative teacher evaluation is often blurred (Danielson & McGreal, 2000), supervisors may engage in practices that are more evaluative than developmental in nature. This comes at the expense of efforts towards formative supervision that could be much more effective in promoting teacher learning. Although supervisors are seen as critical actors in teacher development, especially during student teaching (Koerner, Rust, & Baumgartner, 2002; Talvitie, Peltokallio, & Mannisto, 2000), they may have no opportunity to expand their set of supervisory practices (Beck & Kosnik, 2002). Many supervisors may therefore perpetuate highly evaluative approaches in their interactions that ultimately lead teachers to resist and become defensive, rather than open to reflection.
The most common context for supervisor-candidate interaction is the post observation conference (POC), in which supervisor and teacher discuss an observed lesson to analyze performance while also encouraging the teacher to actively take part in that reflective process. However, research into the discourse that actually takes place during POCs suggests that instead of being a space for genuine dialogue, there is limited participation from teachers as the talk is consistently dominated by supervisors (Farr, 2010; Orland-Barak & Klein, 2005). Thus, despite a sincere desire to help teacher candidates develop reflective practices, POCs are a unique genre of interaction in which supervisors may inadvertently stifle these opportunities (Arcario, 1994). POC talk is generally controlled by supervisors because it is they who reconstruct the observed lesson based on their notes and memory of events. A clear alternative is to invite teacher candidates and supervisors to video record the lesson, thus affording candidates the opportunity to analyze their own performance. When the supervisor and the candidate have reviewed the lesson on video, both parties enter the POC with observation data to discuss. Video-review thus has the potential to disrupt typical supervisor-dominated patterns of feedback (Baecher & McCormack, 2012).
Video as a Tool in Teacher Reflection
While many teacher preparation programs may use video review as a development tool, understanding how supervisors use video in their conferencing is just beginning to emerge (Danielowich & McCarthy, 2013). Already, researchers have clearly found that video-based reflection confers a wide range of benefits for self-evaluation. Trip and Rich (2012) comment that:
Most studies reported that using video to reflect was beneficial for helping teachers to evaluate their teaching. After using video to reflect, teachers were able to: (a) identify gaps between their beliefs about good teaching and their actual teaching practices, (b) articulate their tacit assumptions and purposes about teaching and learning, (c) notice things about their teaching that they did not remember, (d) focus their reflections on multiple aspects of classroom teaching, and (e) assess the strengths and weaknesses of their teaching. (p. 729)
There continues to be increasing evidence that video provides teachers the chance to reflect on action in addition to reflecting in action (Schön, 2005). This stepping back to view oneself is a particularly powerful aspect of video review. Fuller and Manning (1973), in their seminal work with video, underscored the power of video to cause the viewer to experience a sense of dissonance in reconciling what is viewed with what is remembered or perceived. From this comes a willingness to self-reflect and explore the causes and effects of one’s actions.
To encourage reflection arising from this dissonance, it is helpful to have an outsider share in the video review. With another viewer present, the teacher’s attention may be brought to aspects of practice that still go unnoticed or are perceived uncritically. At the same time, the observer’s judgments and interpretations may be clarified through interaction with the teacher. As Golombek (2011) noted in her study of video as a tool in mediating teacher reflection in one-on-one conversations, “…memories may be muddled when reconstructing a teaching event. The video, thus, plays a crucial role in enabling the mediator and teacher-learner to share intersubjectivity” (p. 129). A number of researchers have suggested that with the guidance of a peer, facilitator (Calandra, Sun & Puvirajah, 2014; Sherin & van Es, 2005), or targeted viewing task (Nolan & Hoover, 2011), teachers are better able to harness the power of video review to “notice, revisit, and investigate” (Rosaen, Lundeberg, Cooper, Fritzen & Terpstra, 2008, p. 356).
Video records of teaching have been used successfully to support reflection in pre- and in-service teacher development programs worldwide. For example, a study involving peer video-recording and group discussion of student teachers’ own classroom performance in local schools conducted in Ireland showed that these activities exposed pre-service teachers to a range of diverse teaching methodologies and led them to a deeper level of reflection (Harford & MacRuairc, 2008). In a related study by Kong (2010), student teachers in Hong Kong captured videos of their practice teaching through a web-enabled system and conducted self-reflections along the dimensions of curriculum planning and evaluation, pupils and pupil-teacher interactions, discipline and classroom management, and professional knowledge. In this case, a form containing specific items to observe in each dimension and levels of achievement was provided to guide students in their reflections. The researcher found that student teachers generated more and deeper reflective notes after watching clips of their own teaching. More recently, Eröz-Tuğa (2013) reported that pre-service English language teachers in Turkey not only gained insight into their own strengths and weaknesses after watching video records but displayed conscious efforts to make improvements. The author notes the value of repeated viewing of videos and the importance of clarifying the expectations and assessment criteria for the teaching performances.
Supervisors’ use of video in fostering teacher reflection
Extant research on video as a component of supervision among pre-service teachers suggests that reviewing video prior to conferencing accords greater benefits to candidates than conferencing without video records, and that teachers prefer to review video with supervisor input rather than self-review alone. Laycock and Bunnag (1991) found that teachers who reviewed their videos in small peer groups facilitated by supervisors using focused “looking” activities significantly increased awareness of their own and their learners’ behaviors when compared to their memory-based recall of classroom events. Akcan (2010) examined teacher candidates’ reflections on their teaching performance after watching their videotaped lessons in company with their university supervisor. Findings suggested that this co-viewing generated more specific comments about their and their learners’ behaviors and that supervisors helped candidates to be more critical about their performance. However, most studies on teacher reflection with supervisors using tools like video artifacts as components of the process leave much to be understood about the key facilitative moves that engender reflection. Gelfuso and Dennis (2014) state:
When supervisors employ the styles of telling, coaching, guiding, and inquiry, no critical discourse is present, therefore, critical reflective thinking is unlikely to occur…. It seems facilitating reflection goes beyond style. If reflection is conceived as a rigorous mode of thought that results in ‘warranted assertabilities’ about teaching and learning, as Dewey (1933) suggested, then understanding how to facilitate the process of reflection in conjunction with a supervisor’s style is imperative. (p. 10)
The likelihood of teacher’s reflections constructing “warranted assertabilities” appeared more likely with video evidence. Yet, as the authors above suggest, the supervisor’s style in using the video is certain to influence the outcomes. Like us, Danielowich and McCarthy (2013) studied the use of video from the supervisors’ perspective. They found that supervisors appreciated the ability to “anchor messages” in their feedback, referencing moments in the video to teach their candidates or to help them build their awareness. At the same time, they found that the introduction of video into the supervision process disrupted some of the norms and patterns of traditional conferencing, and that supervisors experienced some trepidation and concern as they attempted to meet the challenges of this innovation.
Building on the research literature that has emerged in recent years showing clearly positive effects on teacher learning when video review is a part of reflection, our study sought to examine the role of the supervisor in that process. In particular, we were interested in understanding more about what supervisors attended to as they viewed teacher candidates’ videos, how they approached candidates when trying to encourage their reflection on their practice, and their own reflective processes regarding their work as supervisors engaging with video as a tool in their supervision. To probe deeply into supervisors’ practice, we turned to qualitative methodologies and a participant pool of TESOL supervisors with whom we could spend extensive time and solicit reflective pieces in a safe community.
This study was conducted within a TESOL master’s program leading to P-12 state teaching certification within a school of education at a large, urban public university in the Northeast US. Permanent teaching certification in our state requires a master’s degree. Teacher candidates at our institution either have initial licensure and are currently teaching while pursuing the MA in TESOL (in-service), while others are student teachers (pre-service). During the course of their MA, teacher candidates complete 30 weeks of supervised teaching across their two final semesters in conjunction with their practicum course. Each semester, teacher candidates enroll in a practicum and are assigned a university field supervisor who observes them two times on-site at their K-12 school, and one time via video. This gives them a total of six formal observations over two semesters.
After each observation, the supervisor evaluates the lesson according to an internally-developed rubric that covers eight domains of teaching, one of which is TESOL-specific. Performance is evaluated by the supervisor and a grade is given for the observed lesson once the post-observation conference has taken place. Candidates join their supervisor for the individual POC to debrief shortly after the observation, The supervisor schedules individual POC meetings soon after the lesson, during which time candidates join the supervisor to debrief.
Since 2006, all of the teacher candidates at our school of education have been required to create video recordings of their teaching as part of their practica requirements. Teacher candidates capture and review a video of a complete classroom lesson and upload it to a password-protected, web-based video server. Once online, the video is viewed by the supervisor, who then discusses the lesson with the teacher candidate in a subsequent POC. For the video-observation, the supervisor can opt to only see the lesson via video, or to see the lesson in person while it is being video-recorded, and later hold the POC after the teacher has watched the video.
Participants in this study were twenty TESOL supervisors, all part-time faculty who were assigned between two and eight TESOL teacher candidates to observe at various K-12 school sites. Supervisory experience among these faculty members ranged from between 1-25 years, and all had at least eight years of teaching experience. Their backgrounds included either a degree in TESOL, English education, or foreign language instruction, and consisted of six males and fourteen females. Over the past three years, the TESOL supervisors have been engaged in regular on-campus and online training sessions, and have formed an online group to share questions and post supervision-related dilemmas they face. This has developed into a community of practice that has reduced some of the isolation that takes place in this line of work which is carried out individually at multiple school sites, and without direct interaction with peers. The TESOL supervisor group members, while necessarily ever-changing, has about ten long term supervisors (individuals who have worked with our MA program for more than five years) and about ten relatively newer members (supervisors who have worked with our MA program for four or fewer years).
The current study is part of a larger initiative to deepen our supervisors’ skills in supervising for ESL classrooms. After several training sessions devoted to pre-observation feedback we provided two additional training sessions on post-observation feedback. Our focus on promoting candidates’ autonomy and accuracy in reflecting on their teaching practice was the goal of the latter part of this series, and is the focus of the research presented in this paper. As part of this phase, we provided our cadre of TESOL supervisors with two video clips from the same teacher, taken at different points in a mini-unit of study he was carrying out on literary elements in a self-contained, ESL high school class. Supervisors watched these clips at home, and wrote notes regarding their observations. Prompts were purposefully open to capture what was “jumping out” at supervisors. Next, supervisors met over the course of two face-to-face sessions to discuss their observations, and to examine what the candidate had written as reflection around those two clips. Supervisors then brainstormed ways in which carefully structured prompts could lead the candidate toward greater depth and specificity in reflecting on the video records of teaching. Following this professional development, supervisors engaged in conferencing with their own candidates about their videos, and examined their reflections. We asked supervisors to report on the practices they employed when engaging their own candidates in video conferencing that they felt were effective in promoting candidate reflection, and to share the challenges of the work–this constitutes data set 1. To illustrate their personal experiences acting as mediators in the video post-observation conferencing, we asked supervisors to describe a recent episode with a candidate in the form of a vignette, as a way of recalling their inner reflections as supervisors regarding how they promoted their candidates’ reflection. This constitutes data set 2.
Procedures for Data Collection
Data collection occurred during one semester of TESOL practicum over a five-month period. During this period of time, the supervisors participated in the PD focused on POCs and the role of video in their conferencing, responded to questionnaires, and constructed written vignettes of their video-based supervision conferences. We examined two sources of data to explore our research questions, which included TESOL practicum supervisors’: (1) responses to questionnaires regarding their practices with video supervision and the challenges and benefits they saw in using video in their supervision; and (2) written constructed vignettes of a recent episode with a teacher when conferring about a video-recorded lesson. Vignettes are used in qualitative research to illuminate and tap into complex processes, and when combined with mixed-methods approaches can provide insights into participants’ beliefs and actions (Schoenberg & Ravdal, 2000). These data sources were coded thematically and supervisors (N=20) were involved in member-checking throughout the data analysis process. Two of the authors are also TESOL supervisors, so were able to capitalize on their emic perspectives in the development of the data collection tools and in the identification of initial codes.
The supervisors’ questionnaire responses and written vignettes were coded inductively using a grounded theory analytic approach (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). An initial list of codes was developed based on the responses by supervisors. The researchers then looked across this initial code list and began to collapse and condense codes as they returned to the data set to confirm and disconfirm their understanding of the findings. After returning once again to the data, the researchers further condensed the focused codes into themes that structured the findings.
Supervisors discussed a number of practices they have begun to employ when using the video-observation that differed from how they approach a POC after a live observation. Although many of the same techniques were used in both conferencing contexts, some supervisors had gone further in requiring teachers to deeply analyze their own practice prior to engaging in the POC. This was reported to be an essential step for these supervisors in not only transferring more of the work of observation over to the teachers, but also served as an assessment of their views on their teaching. Many commented that they were surprised at how much the teachers seemed to miss in their own review of their videos, and were concerned about what is lost when video review is not accompanied by live observation. In Table 1 below, we outline some of the ways supervisors engaged their candidates in self-reflection in the video POCs.
Table 1. Supervisor practices in live and video conferencing
|In live observation,||In both live and video observation,||In video observation,|
|Supervisors reported that they:|
Supervisor Perspectives on Video in Supervision
In their examination of using video for observing teacher candidates, supervisors identified both drawbacks and opportunities of working with video. In general, they saw a combination of both video and live observations as having merit, and felt more confident about their supervision in the traditional contexts. These mixed perceptions emerged as themes from an analysis of the supervisors’ responses to the questionnaires and observation vignettes, and are organized here as challenges and affordances of working with video.
Challenge 1. Video limits the opportunity for supervisor observation
One constraint of using video noted by all supervisors is the inability to see the whole classroom. One TESOL supervisor indicated that “it is usually impossible to see what is happening in the classroom—we cannot see students’ actions and reactions unless they are directly in front of the recording device.” When viewing a clip, supervisors often see teacher presentations but may not be able to hear interactions between students and interactions between teacher and small groups. Supervisors may also be limited in seeing materials provided and student work.
Another constraint mentioned by several supervisors is the abbreviated nature of the video clips. Some supervisors are concerned that inexperienced teachers may not know which segment of the whole class to preserve that “may result in us, as the observers, missing an important component of the lesson that might have been seen in an on-site observation.”
A related concern is that the video segments are deliberately cut in ways that present an image to the supervisor that the teacher wishes them to see. Conversely, as one supervisor put it, “if the candidate is not savvy in producing the clip, it may show him/her in a less-than-advantageous light where he/she might be actually better than it seems in the video.” These constraints may result in candidates feeling frustrated by not being able to include clear examples of all their strong points and lead them to feel they need to justify things in POCs. Supervisors speculate that candidates feel vulnerable and get defensive during conferences, especially in instances where there is a disconnect between what the candidate thought the supervisor would also see and what the supervisor really notices. The technical aspects of the video observation coupled with the lack of expertise on the teachers’ side in selecting important sections of the video to review led many supervisors to suggest combining video with live observation. In this way, they thought the technical and limited viewing issues would be resolved while preserving the possibilities of teacher reflection.
Challenge 2. Teachers appear disconnected to the teaching in video
Teachers are new to classroom observation, new to the observation process in the supervisory cycle, and are also new to being observed via video. These factors appear to play a role in how supervisors then experience video-based conferencing. Many of them found that among their teachers, there was a sense of disembodiment when discussing the video, as if it were of someone else’s practice. A supervisor shared:
I find more meaningful and more engaged reflections after a live observation. I feel like they find it less in their hands with the video – they’re more inclined, I find, to ‘own it’ when it’s real. It’s as if the lesson is not as ‘real’ if videorecorded when compared with an onsite observation. I’m not sure why I have this impression, but maybe it doesn’t feel as “serious” to them when compared with a live person sitting in their classroom and watching them teach; they don’t seem as invested.
As a result of the novelty of the experience, and insufficient expertise for the demands of the self-observation task, some teachers withdraw. It may be that due to the vulnerability arising from sharing one’s teaching on video with a supervisor, self-consciousness results in self-protection, and the teacher distances him/herself from the person “on the screen”. For some of our supervisors, it appeared that their physical presence and participation during the live observation may have been of value to teachers when compared with the separateness of the experience in video observation.
Challenge 3. Supervisors were unsure how to use the video to foster teacher reflection
Many supervisors expressed a lack of confidence in how to best move teacher reflection forward when using the video artifacts as part of the process. The vignette below captures the concerns of one supervisor who is speaking with a teacher after the teacher has sent along the video of the lesson.
Vignette 1. There is uncomfortable silence. I had just asked what changes to the activity might help address the classroom management issue that she had raised as a concern. She thought that “the lesson could work with a different group of students.” Well what could make it work with this group of students? And I waited. Wait time in the classroom never felt this long. Finally a quiet voice noted “the warm-up activity had gone well.” Okay, let’s work with that. What about it went well? What about the warm-up lent itself to success with this group of students? We rewind and replay. Silence. Then, haltingly, “The task was clear.”Together, we come to: The task was challenging but achievable. The instructions were clear and were modeled. There was low risk, but there was accountability. Yes, the warm-up had gone well and we think we know why. So, back to the main activity. How could we bring some of that to the main activity? It was group work. Did it need to be? Was the task for each group member clear? Errr…. Maybe pairwork would be better. Or change it to a jigsaw? Yeah, a jigsaw might have worked. Was there accountability? No, not for each student. What could each student do? What was the language objective? Maybe it needed scaffolding. Now an enthusiastic voice responded – Ahhh yes! If I had provided each student a role! Yes! This could be good. I silently breathe a sigh of relief.
In this vignette, the supervisor has inadvertently pulled together a number of the concerns about how video can make a difference in the reflective process. He provides insight into the struggle of how to remain patient as the teacher does the uncomfortable work of looking at their practice and articulating what they are seeing, in real time. This involved a witnessing of the reflective act as well as deciding when to prompt and to probe as he facilitated the process. Although it feels like a laborious process, his vignette also suggests that if this conversation had taken place after a live observation, he might have done more of that noticing and describing than the candidate. It also conveys how much expertise is needed to provide a rich interpretation of classroom events. Many supervisors noted that they did not feel their teachers could adequately notice key moments during the lesson–this may always be true but that fact stays unrevealed when supervisors talk about the lesson after a live observation. When interacting with teachers’ pre-selected clips, supervisors are perhaps finding out that what they thought the teachers were noticing is not the same as what they are noticing. This again creates an opportunity for supervisors to assess teachers’ noticing skills and ESL teaching knowledge.
Among the same supervisors, there were also abundant comments in their questionnaire responses and embedded in their vignettes that identified the kinds of opportunities for teacher reflection that video review afforded.
Affordance 1. Video promoted greater specificity in teacher reflection
A resounding theme among supervisors was that, with the video observation, teachers were better able to point to concrete instances of their instruction or of student actions during their reflection. As one TESOL supervisor stated, “it is easier for them to make direct references to specific aspects of the lesson. This is less accurate when discussing an in-person observation.” Another supervisor wrote that, after seeing video recordings, discussions can “contrast with our conversations directly after live observations, in which candidates initially refer only broadly to the overall effectiveness of the lesson plan and delivery and are less likely to hone in on specific issues.”
Affordance 2. Video promoted greater focus on the lesson
In addition to providing more specificity in teacher reflection, video also served to make reflection more concretely tied to the observed lesson. A TESOL supervisor noted that “after an in-person observation (which almost always happens right after the lesson), candidates are often still nervous or just coming down from nervousness, and it takes a while for them to be able to talk about the lesson itself.” Another supervisor wrote, “In my experience, video reflection often focuses the conversation more quickly than live observation and also eliminates potentially unnecessary emotions in post-observation conferences.” Supervisors found that after the live observation, talk often turned to the teacher’s general welfare and ongoing challenges in their practice, whereas the video POC was more keyed to the events of the particular lesson.
Affordance 3. Video promoted greater autonomy in teacher reflection
Viewing videos of oneself in action motivated more self-reliance and autonomy in teacher candidates’ self-reflection. In the words of one TESOL supervisor, “During the post-conferences after the live observations I often had to remind them of aspects of the lesson and probe them for their reflections. During the post-conferences from the video observations, the candidates did much more of the sharing.” Rather than waiting for supervisors to tell them what to notice, candidates brought up issues they wanted to discuss. “They’ve had a chance to see themselves teaching in their own video, so candidates sometimes have noticed more moments/issues that they want to talk about – and sometimes, but not always, what they notice after the video self-observation is more in line with what I notice.” Another supervisor summarized this idea best when s/he noted:
The biggest benefit is the teachers seemed less reliant on my opinion of their teaching quality… Through the video observation and instructional commentary, they had to examine up close their practices and their students’ work — independently, but still grounded in evidence. Their reflections were more closely anchored to concrete scenarios that we could view and review as many times as we needed. They were more active (less passive) in the process of reconstructing and making sense of the teaching and learning that unfolded in their classrooms.
The following vignette of a video post-observation conference demonstrates the active role teachers can assume. Here we see the supervisor cite evidence in the video as a means ofgetting the teacher to recognize and assert how her actions might have marginalized certain students. The teacher is beginning a new book with her third grade class. The book is Stellaluna, a fantasy story about a mother bat and her baby.
Vignette 2. “Okay, Elaine, why don’t you describe how you used the book in the video we saw and how the boys and girls reacted to it.”
“Well, I showed them the picture on the cover and asked them what a bat is. I know it’s el murciélago in Spanish, so I could tell the Spanish-speaking kids.”
“Are there other language speakers in the class?
“Oh yea, there’s some Chinese kids, a Russian girl, I think there’s one boy from Yemen, too.”
“Did they get it?
“I thought they did, but I’m not sure.”
“Lets watch that part of the video.”
I start the video and we watch together. We watch Elaine in the video get the children seated on the rug and display the book to them.
“OK, boys and girls, today we’re going to begin a new book called ‘Stellaluna’. Elaine points to the picture on the cover and asks “Does anyone know what this is? One or two students raise their hands to volunteer, Elaine calls on a girl. “Okay, Carolina, do you know?”
Carolina replies “‘murciélago!’”
Elaine praises with “Very good, Carolina! Does anyone else know ‘murciélago’?” Several others raise their hands and call out “murciélago!” “murciélago!” and make flying movements with their hands. She praises and moves on, preparing to read. Several other children point to the screen and whisper to each other (inaudible), heads nod, shake, shoulders shrug.
Elaine reaches over and stops the video. “Uhm, I guess I should have checked with the other kids if they knew “bat.””
“And how would you have done that?”
“Maybe have other pictures of bats, a video, even. Maybe I could even learn it in the other languages! And, oh, maybe I could compare bats to birds with pictures and video. That would be fun!”
Rather than relying on both their memories to make a point, the video evidence allows Elaine to self-identify the problem of using some students’ L1 to explain vocabulary in a heterogeneous ESL classroom. On her own, she quickly sees why this is problematic and offers creative, effective alternatives for explaining the vocab.
Discussion and Implications
Based on our findings, video clearly holds great potential for use as a tool in the kind of supervision that moves teacher reflection forward, yet its potential is not fully being tapped. Because familiarity with ways to observe classroom practice resides primarily in the expertise of supervisors rather than teachers, the process still feels burdensome to supervisors, and they begin to then question the usefulness and efficiency of video in the supervision cycle. However, our findings also illuminate several exciting ways forward in teacher reflection. Supervisors all agreed that the video review enabled them to direct teachers to specific moments in the lesson, provided teachers more time to think over their lesson prior to entering into the POC, and gave supervisors insight into what teachers were noticing.
Several possibilities generated by this study for unlocking the potential of video for supervisor-supported teacher reflection include:
- Teachers and supervisors could be provided with a common set of lesson plans, videos, and reflection commentary to which they would respond. They could then receive guidance on the “look-fors” in accurate, perceptive reflection on practice. This type of professional development could simultaneously support teacher and supervisor learning, and set expectations for video-based reflection across the program.
- Teacher candidates could be provided with a series of prompts to complete prior to engaging in the POC with the supervisor. These could be generic across the TESOL program, and also include prompts the supervisor designs based on prior live observation of the teacher. Responses to these could serve as an additional source of data as the supervisor works to support and extend teacher thinking. This would also support teachers in being aware of what the supervisor wants them to examine in advance of the POC.
- Teachers and supervisors could independently view the video-recorded lesson, and each mark out sections of the lesson that interested them and warranted further reflection. Each would prepare these observations prior to the POC, at which time they could compare and contrast their findings. In this way, the exchange would be more collaborative, alleviate supervisors’ concerns about allowing teachers to select their own clips, and again serve to provide insight into the teachers’ thinking.
- Teachers and supervisors could mutually agree on the type of student activities both would like to see occurring in the teacher’s class. This would drive their planning, assessment, and instruction as the teacher would have to very intentionally set up a situation in the lesson that the video would capture as evidence of their having attempted the targeted practice. In this manner, video would propel the teacher towards trying out certain practices, and tie together the planning and instruction more tightly. Often, pre-observations and post-observations focus on very different things since one is pro-active and the latter re-active. The more they are aligned from the outset, the more coherent the supervisory cycle might be.
Each of the moments that constitute the supervision of teachers provides room for interpretation, improvement, and challenge. By investigating the attitudes towards and practices of using video, our research seeks to surface the dilemmas and opportunities that arise from the multifaceted work of supervising teacher candidates with video review. And despite some degree of reluctance to engage in video observation, the results of the research show that the inclusion of video review in the observation cycle can augment in-person, live observations by prompting both supervisors and candidates to focus on candidate and student classroom behaviors that might otherwise go unnoticed. Given the ubiquity of supervision as a lever in teacher reflection, developing a deeper understanding of the complex and nuanced work of supervisors and the ways in which supervisors can facilitate teacher learning, is a timely and needed endeavor.
About the Authors
Laura Baecher, Ed.D. is Associate Professor of TESOL at Hunter College, City University of New York. She has been an ESL teacher and teacher educator for the past twenty years. Her research interests relate to the connection between teacher preparation and teacher practice including teacher language awareness, the use of video in clinical supervision, and collaborative teaching for ELLs.
Bede McCormack holds a Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition from the University of Durham, UK. He has worked as a teacher educator in Algeria, Japan, Libya, the USA, and Vietnam. He currently teaches ESL, Linguistics, and Teacher Education courses at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. His research interests include examining how teacher candidate learning outcomes may be determined by the interface between supervisor-candidate discourse patterns. He also researches the impact of teacher feedback on student writing assignments.
Shiao-Chuan Kung holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Media from Teachers College, Columbia University. Before joining Hunter, she was Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Language Instruction at the Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages in Taiwan. Shiao-Chuan’s main role at Hunter College is to help faculty find technical solutions to pedagogical problems. She facilitates teaching and learning with technology workshops and professional development events. Her most recent work has been with professors creating electronic textbooks, integrating videos into teaching and designing blended and online courses.
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