Frameworks: Video-based reflection for teachers
This is Part 1 in a hopefully fairly simple guide to video reflection for teachers, with special attention paid to features of teacher talk. As this is Part 1, it’s a preamble. The guide itself begins in Part 2. While I am writing with myself and other language teachers and their L2 talk in mind, I hope teachers of other subjects will also find this approach intriguing, as it shines light on the differences between the social interactions of “school” and those of “most other parts of life”. Elsewhere, some aspects of this area of analysis are grouped under the heading of Classroom Discourse Analysis, but the framework I will eventually be promoting is closer to the more recent Nexus Analysis and Multimodal Discourse (later Interaction) Analysis, because most CDA that I am aware of (usually grounded in Conversation Analysis) tends to focus on the talk itself with inadequate attention paid to other elements of the context of the interaction, while the latter frameworks consider language as one of many tools influencing the construction of identities by people engaged in uniquely situated interactions.
For background, I am a 3rd culture kid like the ones in the video linked to from Rose Bard’s recent post, only 30 years on from them. Not sure exactly what that has to do with anything, but Rose’s post asks questions in the same area in which I’m interested, and the level of reflection I hope to encourage in this series of posts is designed to help any teacher uncover answers to questions of power distribution in the classroom and it’s affect on the quality of learner output.
Also for background, the first time I saw myself on video, I renamed my teaching journal “The Monster in the Mirror”. That said, monsters are necessary evils, and as all the good fables teach, once we understand them, they become our friends.
As synchronicity would have it, the day I started this post a little over a week ago, I was led by Rose Bard to Carol Goodey, who finished off a post a few months ago on classroom identities with
But, to get the best out of our learners (and for our learners to get the best out of us) we may need to understand more about how conversation works, about how what we say, how we say it, the turns we take and the ones we leave open for learners affects people’s sense of identity as learners, contributors, and speakers of English and how this, ultimately, affects their learning.
It just so happens that I had planned this post (which would be the “how to do Carol’s proposed discourse analysis”) the previous night, begun it the following morning on a day off, and then the day stopped being off, and the week became something else until more or less now, but it gave me time to be led to some published research similar to my unpublished research and current preoccupation, to which I can now say, “this why I propose the following framework for analyzing teacher discourse.” I’m proposing rock solid exploratory practice, the teacher research model originated by Dick Allwright and his entourage, in which reflection for understanding leads to action for understanding, which reveals possible action for change. The change should result in an improved quality of classroom life. For ELT teachers, Allwright and Co. assume, an example of high quality of classroom life would be one that allows for participants to most richly converse/interact (in terms of both interest and language output) during the class time (and, presumably online in “non-class time”). This objective is harmonious with virtually all the “communicative” approaches, but allows for infinite adjustments for cultural and personal differences in the context of the class.
Constructive and obstructive teacher talk
In the abstract from his seminal 2002 article on constructive and obstructive teaching practices, Walsh concludes that
teachers’ ability to control their use of language is at least as important as their ability to select appropriate methodologies, [which] has implications for both teacher education and classroom practices.
All talk is social action that must be understood in order to be controlled
As teachers we often reflect by talking/blogging/thinking about what we and our learners “did” and “do” in class, and “believe” about learning and teaching, and it’s popular to mull the contradictions between our beliefs and our teaching actions, and work to find the optimum arrangement of those beliefs and actions. All too often, we experiment in hopes the experiment pays off, but perhaps without much more than a gut feeling that it might. These days, given advances in technology in the last decade, it’s easier than ever (quite easy) for all of us to get a bottom-up look at our classroom’s social interaction through simple, minimally obtrusive video recording, and as I’ve said elsewhere (and Carol said in October (or last week if you’re late to it like I am),
it’s that ongoing sequence of verbal/visual move-counter-counter-counter that determines absolutely everything else that happens in our classrooms, not the least of which is what is learned.
Scaffolding and learning to reflect
But let’s not take my word for it. As luck would have it, the approach I arrived at independently through brainstorming with my colleagues is completely supported elsewhere. I have an article coming out this year in the proceedings of KOTESOL 2012 detailing the research and implementation of a video reflection routine in the TESOL program I work on. You can grab a manuscript here if you want, but you can just as easily visit Laura Baecher’s much better written and comprehensively researched portfolio at Hunter College. Despite researching teacher video reflection for days multiple times over the last three years, only today I discovered this open access resource of her and her colleagues’ peer-reviewed coverage of the topic (and I honestly don’t know how Google failed me before). Her lit review in Video-Based Self-Observation in Clinical Supervision covers a lot of essential ground.
To wit on training teachers to reflect (though I’m not sure all ‘experienced’ teachers see anymore than some ‘inexperienced’ ones):
No matter the purpose for which video is to be used in teacher education, the research is unequivocal that scaffolding is essential, especially with beginning teachers (Welsch & Devlin, 2007). Inexperienced teachers simply “see” less of the complexity in classroom events than do experienced ones, and can naturally only identify those teaching practices and learner behaviors they know to look for (Yadav & Koehler, 2007).\
the cognitive dissonance experienced in video analysis may be necessary to provide opportunities for change in behavior that traditional memory-based reflection does not cause (Chan & Harris, 2006).
While I take issue with the idea of “objective” below, I agree completely with the bottom line here about the unique value video affords:
Using video of one’s own practice, on the other hand, instantly provides the teacher with raw footage and an unbiased record of the lesson. While other professional development activities can be highly meaningful, such as action research, teacher diaries, or lesson study, video recording affords the only opportunity teachers will ever have to objectively view their teaching and their learners, not filtered through the notes or particular lens of a live observer. (Rosaen, Lundeberg, Cooper, Fritzen, & Terpstra, 2008).