All Articles Education Edtech What school leaders see in video for observation and evaluation

What school leaders see in video for observation and evaluation

5 min read


This post is sponsored by Insight Education Group.

This blog series explores new ways classroom video technology can accelerate educator growth – and compelling evidence that both teachers and school leaders are ready to try it. Part 1 focused on teachers’ perceptions about filming their instruction to develop practices. In this post, we share school leaders’ views on classroom video, and how it can improve their ability to provide teachers with high quality feedback and support.

School leaders know that teachers drive student achievement. And in order to be effective, teachers need the right support with feedback that is relevant and actionable. But do school leaders have what they need to help teachers?

After our last post, which showed nearly 70% of teachers don’t feel they receive enough meaningful feedback on their instructional practices, we decided to dig a little deeper into this question.

And according to a poll of school leaders conducted by SmartBrief and Insight Education Group last month, the answer is no. In fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents — 62% — acknowledged that the evaluation system in place at their school or district does not improve instruction or support teacher growth.

Though unsettling, this data shouldn’t be too surprising. Traditional observation and evaluation systems have been notoriously controversial and difficult to effectively implement – and the reasons are clear.

  • The demands on school leaders are greater than ever, leaving less time for observations and high quality feedback and follow-up with teachers. In Leverage Leadership, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo suggests that school leaders spend 25% of their time on observation and feedback. Though research shows this is ideal, it can feel unrealistic and overwhelming for school leaders without the right support.
  • Observers often lack the content-area expertise needed to provide relevant, practical feedback to teachers. An observer with a background in English, for example, is not likely prepared and able to provide meaningful feedback to a statistics teacher.
  • Research from Harvard’s Center for Education Policy research suggests that many teachers believe classroom-based observations are inherently subjective and biased. As a result, teachers may dismiss the feedback they do receive and fail to grow from the process.

Still, a report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings earlier this year shows that if these challenges can be overcome, observations can in fact improve the efficacy of evaluations and significantly accelerate educator growth. But how?

Using video to make observations and evaluations work

As we saw in the last post, teachers are ready to try something different when it comes to observations and evaluations. And it looks like school leaders are ready, too.

When we asked school leaders if they thought classroom video would help them provide teachers with better feedback and support, an overwhelming 85% said yes.

“This is really promising data,” says Insight’s President, Jason Stricker. “There is a cyclical nature to observation. When observers are able to provide better support, teachers can grow in their practices. And when teachers facilitate high quality instruction, student achievement soars.”

Research has shown a great deal about not only the challenges school leaders face in implementing effective observation and evaluation systems, but the potential of video to mitigate them:

  1. Time. Video recordings can allow for flexibility in scheduling. Because observations can take place on any schedule and from any location, school leaders will likely be able to provide teachers with the frequent and timely feedback they need.
  2. Fairness and teacher acceptance. In another survey from the Center for Education Policy Research, 93% of teachers said that classroom videos present an equal or more accurate version of their teaching. With the ability to pause and rewind, video technology provides common evidence and a reference point for both teachers and observers. Therefore feedback can be thoughtful, specific and objective, enabling teachers to accept feedback and grow from it.
  3. Content-area expertise. With video, it’s possible for subject-matter experts to review instruction for more relevant and actionable support. Observations can be assigned based on background, or school leaders could simply seek additional input from qualified observers.
  4. Talent recognition and retention. As many as 74% of high-performing teachers leave teaching because they feel unsupported or unrecognized for their skill and effort, according to a report from The New Teacher Project. By providing the support and acknowledgement teachers are seeking, video can help schools distinguish and retain talented teachers.

It’s clear that video has the ability to help school leaders hone their observation practices and provide better support to teachers. With so much evidence in support of video technology, it’s only a matter of time before it’s part of every educators’ professional learning. In the meantime, look our for our next post, which will feature one district that is paving the way by putting cameras into every classroom – and getting remarkable results.

Insight Education Group is an educational consulting and product development firm that supports the growth of teachers and school leaders.

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.