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A Toolkit for Video in the Classroom

How classroom-based, teacher-controlled video can improve the observation process
BFF Toolkit

After a three-year project that showed the promise and challenges of video observation as a tool for teachers’ professional growth, the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard has released a comprehensive toolkit to help educators get a successful start with video observations in their own communities.

The toolkit offers practical guidance that grew out of CEPR’s Best Foot Forward project, which set out to discover if it was possible to improve the classroom observation process by letting teachers record videos of their lessons and submit their best efforts to administrators for evaluation. Best Foot Forward project researchers, led by Professor Thomas Kane, collected data in four states and surveyed hundreds of teachers and administrators and thousands of students on the use of video in the classroom. 

The project’s findings were promising, with video-observed teachers reporting less adversarial and more helpful feedback than their in-person observed peers, and administrators saying that they could provide more concrete advice to their staff after viewing videos than they could after an in-person observation.

But the project also made clear that schools would need assistance in moving to video — that technological and other implementation barriers would have to be overcome. The Best Foot Forward Video Observation Toolkit lays out recommendations in four areas:

  • How to use video to enhance teaching by encouraging self-reflection, peer collaboration, and coaching and evaluation, among other models;
  • How to cultivate trust and safeguard privacy; 
  • How to select the right hardware and software tools and train educators;
  • How to pilot a video observation program and implement it at scale.

Best Foot Forward’s latest research results show the effectiveness of video as a learning tool for teachers. By filming themselves and choosing which lessons to share, researchers say, teachers became collaborators in their own professional development.

“Although administrators often think teachers won’t want to be videotaped, we found that most teachers are very receptive to the idea, as long as they are in control of the footage,” said the study’s director, Miriam Greenberg. “These findings open very exciting possibilities for more effective and targeted coaching and actionable feedback for educators.”

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