All Articles Education Voice of the Educator 6 keys to improving teacher growth and retention with video coaching

6 keys to improving teacher growth and retention with video coaching

A study found that video coaching is most helpful for teachers early in their careers. Here’s how to put new teachers on the path to success.

6 min read

EducationVoice of the Educator

Modern work remotely. Cheerful african american woman tutor explains rules of english for article on video coaching

(Viktor Cvetkovic/Getty Images)

The Institute of Education Sciences recently released the results of a study into the efficacy of video coaching at approximately 100 elementary schools in 14 different districts. It found that five cycles of video coaching improved both teacher practice and student achievement. Those effects were most pronounced, on average, among teachers with five years of experience or fewer.

Teachers who feel supported in the classroom tend to stay in the profession longer and have more success, and at Roanoke City Public Schools, one of the ways we’ve been providing that support is through video coaching. Here are a few keys to helping your teachers have long and successful careers in education.

1. Use exemplar videos for new teachers

A big part of video coaching is having teachers record themselves so peers and colleagues can offer feedback, but another important piece is using video to show them examples of excellent teaching. That is most often how our new teachers are introduced to the concept.

When teachers join our district, they go through orientation and training processes focused on policies and procedures. They need to know all kinds of new logistical details, right down to how to take and record proper attendance. As they’re mastering classroom routines, they are also learning from our video coaching platform, Teaching Channel’s Empower Platform, which has a library of about 1,700 exemplar videos. This provides them with teacher-in-action examples in areas such as classroom management, transitions, attention-getters and anything else they need support with as they’re getting settled.

2. Don’t be afraid of mistakes in videos

One of our new teachers asked me if she could record something that she wasn’t sure would work because she was just trying it out. I said, “Absolutely” and pointed out that even in exemplar videos, there are hiccups because classrooms are dynamic and messy. 

For example, in one exemplar video, a student crawls under the table while the teacher is talking. It’s an excellent opening for a coaching conversation because the teacher does not disrupt what she is doing, even as she is bringing that student back to engagement with the rest of the class.

Excellent teaching doesn’t mean nothing ever goes wrong in the classroom. Things go wrong in the classroom all the time! However, excellent teachers know how to get individual students and the whole class back on track when challenges do arise.

When teachers record their classrooms without fear of showing some of those teachable moments, they also capture those aha moments that many teachers will tell you are the best part of the job. Sometimes when I’m reviewing a video with a teacher, we’ll zoom in on a student at work and see the moment when their mind shifts and they suddenly get it.

Showing teachers what success looks like, whether it’s students growing before their eyes or veteran teachers expertly managing a challenging situation, helps build their capacity and makes them want to stay in our district.

3. Create community and collaboration with home-brewed exemplar videos

We also have a library of exemplar videos created by teachers in our district. This fosters a real sense of community within the district because teachers are building relationships with each other through their feedback and collaboration. 

The other day I was in one of our exemplar teachers’ classrooms and decided to record some small-group work she was doing to share with our second-grade professional learning community. I recorded a three-minute clip and shared it the next day in the PLC. I asked everyone to reflect on it and come back later to leave a time-stamped comment on the video identifying something they could implement from the video immediately.

Being able to time-stamp comments and have asynchronous dialogue about teacher practice has really enhanced our problem-solving ability because we can identify examples within the video and add observations, reflections, suggestions,or questions. Once teachers start responding to each other’s comments, these often become rich sites of collaboration.

4. Give teachers space to reflect first

Our teachers have let us know that they find it less intimidating to record themselves than to have someone in the room watching them. We also ask them to watch and reflect on their own videos before sharing them with others, and they’ve told us that encourages them to be more honest.

Being able to decide who they share it with, whether that be coaches, peers or administrators, fosters a sense of collaboration and encourages them to share videos focused on areas they actually want to improve with the people they believe can help them the most.

Often, a teacher’s comment on a video is as simple as, “They didn’t quite follow my direction because I didn’t say what I had planned to.” In that case, it’s just a question of being more mindful as they speak the next time. It’s a simple change, but it wouldn’t be possible without the profound shift in focus from what the students were doing wrong to what the teacher could do differently. In cases like this, the teacher’s own reflection leads to an immediate improvement in their practice. 

5. Keep videos short and focused

I emphasize the importance of keeping videos short and focused on the practices teachers are recording and reflecting on. Even a minute and a half is enough time to learn to replicate many positive practices or identify areas of improvement. I’ve found that 11 to 12 minutes is probably the longest most of these videos should run.

6. Keep evaluation separate from video coaching

In all of my video coaching conversations, the focus is on support, not evaluation. Focusing on support encourages the kind of vulnerability required for true self-reflection and gives teachers the opportunity to improve in areas where they see the most need for growth. The goal is for them to identify those areas and work diligently with their coaches and peers to improve them, not to hide their perceived weaknesses because they’re afraid they’ll be punished before they’ve had a chance to improve.

Teachers who have come to Roanoke from neighboring districts have told me they’ve never seen this level of support before. I’m confident that our investment in video coaching for our teachers will be returned many times over in the form of improved teaching practices and teacher retention.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 


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