This is Part 2 of a guide for video-reflection for teachers (d’uh) begun in Part 1 with some background info and sources. In this part, we begin a (ever in complete) list of reflective activities that make use of teaching videos. In later posts, and based on feedback on these first two, I expect to place some of my own research here, and the list below is biased towards my own interests, with particular emphasis on situated teacher talk. That said, I hope it is broad enough to serve as a starter for anyone. I hope some readers will add to it in the comments.
In Part 1 I referred to some research on video-reflection and teacher talk, and some frameworks for teacher research, and a couple of blogs describing the same, and the need to understand our actions (especially our talk) in the classroom. Yet I still haven’t seen much in writing outside the (well-intentioned but unsustainable by full-time working teachers) CDA camp that identifies features of teacher talk for teachers to notice. Several items in the list below address this shortcoming.
1. Get a camera that can shoot video, either a smartphone or a small point and shoot. Make sure there’s enough memory for a lesson, or however much you hope to record.
2. Position it so it catches mostly you, unless you’re analyzing groupwork and have your students’ permission. One of my students recently (and hilariously) proved that a wad of blu-tack is the perfect smartphone wall-anchor.
3. Reassure your students that you’re trying to improve your teaching, not focusing on them. Turn it on and forget about it.
1. Jot down lesson impressions before doing anything with the video – things that went well, interesting stuff that happened, objectives accomplished/missed, things that could have gone better.
2. Sit back and steel oneself to look at bits of it. I usually wind up jumping around the video as my thoughts wander around the memory of the lesson playing before me.
Tip: If you’re a virgin in this regard, it might help to watch this first: Jeremy’s really very reassuring…
In no particular order: ways to exploit teaching video for reflection and development
1. Post a bit or the whole thing privately on a video-hosting service (e.g. www.youtube.com) and invite a trusted colleague or two to comment on it (nb: youtube has sufficient, basic, and pretty straightforward editing/splicing capabilities) . Feedback could be about anything, and perhaps lead to an exploratory practice project, or there might already be a project for which feedback is being sought. The long-term yield both for oneself and in promoting trusted collaborative teacher development in the workplace is huge.
2. Replace “colleague” above with “student” or “students”. Perhaps tricky, but it yields truly juicy developmental fruit when handled well with the right student. Last semester I got a student to help me identify potentially culturally jarring moments in this way. Who else can tell us how our actions and words are perceived by our students?
3. Caption a 10-minute segment of fairly teacher-fronted class time with classroom interaction labels, then replay the segment and watch/count the discursive strategies and length of teacher utterances. Could anything be done differently with alternate techniques? Again, simple on Youtube.
I’m based in Korea, which might explain why I am particularly partial to the approach to t-talk analysis by Xie. Xie summarizes findings about teacher talk in (mostly) Chinese and Asian classroom research, and in so doing provides the rest of us with a taxonomy for captioning our teaching videos. The full doctoral thesis is at this link; the lit review is near the front. I summarized it a bit more visually here for a teacher-development task.
Xie provides us with: monologic and dialogic IRF varieties; evaluative or communicative follow-up moves; display, referential, closed, and open question-types; eliciting and turn-taking techniques; 3 Discourse patterns; types of student-initiated interaction; wait-time; techniques for making input comprehensible; teacher intent; scaffolding; error correction types; non-question moves; mother-tongue use; affective dimensions; and teacher identity/beliefs.
The same ten-minutes can be mined repeatedly for different discourse jewels. Just as a good book doesn’t read the same way twice, rewatching a teaching video yields a different slant/perspective/story.
4. Map the teacher’s movement in the class. Draw a classroom plan and trace the teacher’s route (making note of time or duration) around the class. Devise symbols for sitting and other postures/positions. Does the result suggest anything about… power? inclusiveness? favoritism? appropriate proximity for communicativeness? Anything else?
5. Map the linguistic communication opportunities for each student. Did everyone interact/get a chance to interact in the L2? In pairwork and groups? Meaningfully or mechanically? With the whole class listening? Other? How many student moves were left at one or two words, or at otherwise ‘not terribly real-worldish’ responses? Was this desired, or was more desired? How? How dominant were the dominant students? How engaged were the weaker students?
6. Humor – count the humor exchanges. Categorize them by purpose, agent, ‘victim’, response, and then consider the cultural appropriateness of each item. During my Master’s research several years ago I found a surprising amount of humor at the students’ expense in the teaching videos I viewed.
7. Body language — track teacher motion: look for stances that students can perceive (remembering that a lot of posturing is culturally/institutionally specific) as: open/closed, mixed-message (too much hand/arm motion), aggressive, domineering, permissive, apathetic/disinterested. Where the camera allows, look for individual student reactions to teacher’s body language.
8. Teacher’s vocal quality — volume, pace, consistency. What’s the goal — conversational tone? How consistent with this goal is the teacher talk? This is an area I blow on a regular basis. I frequently have to readjust my vocal intensity to subdue my passion and excitement so students have emotional space to participate in the classroom conversation.
9. Transcribe and analyze a segment if we have tons of time on our hands… #3 above could be the more realistic way to go here, but there’s no question that SEEING all the words, perhaps in different colors or columns for teacher and students, marked for timings, sheds a clinical light on the obstructive or constructive nature of that particular moment of classroom discourse.
10. Your idea goes here… What would you like to do (constructive ideas) with your teaching videos?