Classroom observation is critical for teacher professional development and school quality assurance, but is your traditional way of observing the class still relevant in today’s world?
Let’s take a look at this arduous process. Peter was assigned to observe a teacher’s 8th-grade Biology class. His office is in Headquarter, but that class is in another campus. He has to travel from his office to that classroom, which consumes time and effort. Arrived at the location, he finds himself marking all those criteria alone, without collaboration from other colleagues since there is a shortage of qualified observers. He tries to be as objective as possible; yet, the evaluation of that teacher performance can still be influenced by his internal bias or assumptions. At the end of the day, a question lingers in his head
Did I judge her fair and square? How can I be sure of that?
With ever tightening budget and increasing demand on teachers' performance, this scenario becomes the norm in even leading schools. Many find themselves lack trained observers to monitor a large number of teachers in different campuses.
To solve this, pioneering institutes worldwide are adopting video classroom observation to ensure teacher effectiveness and quality control.
Benefits of implementing video in the classroom
1. Reduce the costs of transportation
As mentioned above, if the school system has multiple locations, observers might have to spend a significant amount of time navigating between assigned classes. If we utilize videotaped classroom observation, observers can watch the class remotely in the own time, and still be able to give similar feedback. It is a great way to cut costs, especially when schools have to deal with the pandemic.
2. Increase ratio of observers/teachers
There might be a lack of qualified observers in schools with multiple grades and a large number of classrooms. This results in one observer watching numerous classes, making him/her too stretched to produce meaningful feedback. Digitalized observation can effectively solve this problem as it increases the ratio of observers to teachers. By applying this, one teachers could be judged from different graders, which lifts personal bias off the equation.
3. More transparency
With the aid of technology, people can now watch classroom observations remotely, which gives room for other teachers to be involved in the process. After the observed teachers submit class recordings, school leaders can ask few representatives from that department to watch the recording together. This activity can promote collaboration and peer review among teaching colleagues and provide more transparency.
4. Building a database for Teacher Professional Development
Before implementing videos in the classroom, observers could only note down the good and bad techniques into their handbooks. They could not record the method to analyze it further or save it into a “best practice” folder in case other teachers want to learn. With classroom recordings, schools can build a video library database and upload all observations to the cloud. Teachers who wish to hone in their skills have access to the “best practices” folder and can watch these recordings whenever they want. This can also be utilized as a convenient tool for teacher professional development.
Challenges of implementing video in the classroom
Video technology in school can expose teachers and students to multiple privacy risks. To ensure that teachers understand these recordings' purposes, the school management team must carefully go over all the details regarding future process of these videos. Let them know and fill out consent forms if their classroom recordings are used for other purposes than evaluation and professional development. Teachers need to be assured that the database will be handled and stored in a secure manner.
While we talk about teacher privacy and handling confidential information on the cloud, it is essential to mention student data privacy. As classroom recordings will show students' faces, school leaders have to maintain their privacy and be transparent about the process with parents. They might have questions and concerns about their child's safety, the video's intended purposes, who will watch and have access to their child's information, etc.
To effectively address this challenge, the school needs to invest time and money into building a safe, encrypted video database to protect its teachers and students' privacy. The level of safety varies based on which platform the school uses.
2. Lack of human interaction
Some people believe that moving lesson observation online will reduce human interaction between teachers and observers. However, we can ramp up the interaction and simultaneously promote coaching and collaboration through small-group discussions of these lesson observations. We can utilize department-wide or grade-specific meetings for professional development using these videos. Those teachers being observed can also join the conversation to receive impactful feedback and self-reflect on their performance. Through organizing these collaboration efforts, we can eliminate the lack of human interaction typically caused by digitalizing lesson observation.