All Articles Education Edtech Video in educator effectiveness: What it's really about -- and what it’s not

Video in educator effectiveness: What it’s really about — and what it’s not

6 min read


This post is sponsored by Insight Education Group

It’s no secret that teacher observation and evaluation have been highly debatable topics, particularly in recent years. And despite countless studies, initiatives, and reforms, there’s still little consensus on how, when, or even why teachers’ performance should be assessed. Adding the idea of filming instruction to the mix only makes things that much more touchy.

But to us, it all comes down to one thing: Every student deserves a great teacher.

In order for that to happen, every teacher needs great support. Research has confirmed that teacher quality is perhaps the single greatest determinant of student success that schools can control. We know that educator’s capacity to impact student achievement can be not only be accurately measured, but — with the right systems in place — improved.

Growth, not “gotcha”

Millions of dollars — and even more hours — are spent every year on observations and evaluations in schools. Even still, most educators don’t feel like they are getting much in return.

In a recent poll conducted by SmartBrief, nearly 70% of teachers said that they don’t receive enough meaningful feedback from observations and evaluations. And when school leaders were asked if they believe their current evaluation systems promote teacher growth, 62% said no.

But shouldn’t the point of educator effectiveness systems be to support the development of effective educators?

I certainly think so. And though it’s a pretty new idea that has raised a lot of questions already, classroom video is quickly emerging as the best way to make it all happen.

FAQs on video

Filming classroom instruction is a big concept with some significant implications for educators at every level. As a former teacher, principal and district leader, I know the doubts and fears that often plague educators.

And although I have spent most of my career exploring more effective models for support teachers, even I had a lot of questions before I could get really excited about the idea.

So I set out to learn more. I started by looking at what the research had to say. Then I listened to what teachers and school leaders thought. And after that, I studied schools that have already implemented classroom video technology.

Before long, I had some pretty powerful answers to each of my questions 00 which are the same ones I know many educators are asking.

Why video?

Just like athletes reviewing game film, educators should have instant replay and the chance to truly see instruction in action.

Video serves as a piece of common evidence, meaning accuracy in scoring and acceptance of feedback increase drastically. And because video-based observations are not bound to schedules, observers can provide more robust, actionable feedback. Videos can even be shared to ensure feedback is content-specific and meaningful.

Beyond the observation and evaluation process, classroom video technology also promotes self-reflection and peer collaboration for greater teacher growth. In fact, according to data from the Center for Education Policy Research, 88% of teachers polled indicated that watching videos of their lessons would change their practice.

Isn’t classroom video an invasion of privacy?

This is by far the most frequent question or argument I hear when talking about classroom video, though I’m certainly not surprised. The idea of having a set of eyes or “Big Brother” constantly on teachers and students sounds intimidating, not to mention a knock to their professionalism.

But in the most effective systems I’ve seen (and the recommendations set forth by research), teachers have complete control over the cameras. They decide when to turn them on, and when to turn them off. This way, the technology is a tool for teachers.

As professionals, teachers have the power to make decisions about their instruction and their classrooms, including which videos to submit for observation. Furthermore, research from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project showed no statistical significance in performance between the lessons teachers chose for formal observations and those that they did not choose.

It’s important to also note that security is a standard of practice, and videos should always only shared with appropriate and qualified stakeholders.

Are educators ready?

Just a quick look at some of the data we collected from SmartBrief readers, shows that the answer is clearly yes. Both teachers and school leaders clearly feel a sense of urgency to connect educator effectiveness systems to growth — and they see video as the way to do it.

  • 91% of teachers polled believe that filming themselves for use in self-reflection, informal observations, and professional learning communities would help them improve their practices.
  • 85% of school leaders said that classroom video would help them provide teachers with more meaningful and actionable feedback.
  • 77% of teachers said they’d even be willing to submit a video for use in a formal observation.

Does it actually work in real schools?

Findings from the MET Project, which studied 3,000 teachers from across the country, showed educator growth increased dramatically from video-based observations, compared to those conducted in-person.

Additionally, as we discussed in our SmartBrief post a few months ago, the Newton County School System in Georgia, has seen tremendous value in using the technology in the observation and evaluation process. “All of the teacher evaluation pieces require a great deal of time,” says District Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. By giving teachers the option of posting videos for evaluators to assess, she says, “Observers can now view the footage at any time during the evaluation period. They don’t have to be present in the classroom, so they’re able to maximize their time.”

NCSS has even used their camera and audio systems to support teachers and turn around low student achievement scores. Last school year, we began working with the district’s coordinate algebra teachers to provide content-specific and actionable instructional coaching with video-based lessons. At the start, the district’s coordinate algebra pass rate was only 19%. But after just six months, these same schools showed improvement levels nearly five times higher than the rest of the state.

What it’s all really about

I am confident that video has the potential to transform educator effectiveness systems. Like many educators out there, though, even I was skeptical at first. But here’s what I know now:

Classroom video is not about “spying” or invading privacy. It’s not about taking away teachers’ control of their classrooms or adding pressure.

Just like athletes have come to rely on video to improve their performance, using video in observation and evaluation is about actionable feedback and reflection. It’s about equity and open dialogue between teachers and observers. It’s about professional growth and development that makes a difference. And most importantly, it’s about making sure our students have great teachers.

Michael Moody is the Founder and CEO of Insight Education Group. His experiences as a classroom teacher, school and district administrator and consultant have given him a unique perspective on both the challenges and opportunities in education today. He tweets at @DrMichaelMoody

For more on this topic, download A game changer: Using video to achieve high performance in the classroom