Small Washington District Enhances Staff Development with Videos

Nestled at the base of a towering mountainside,the Mount Vernon School District in Washingtonencompasses approximately 5,000 students. Similar to many other smalldistricts across the nation, Mount Vernon lacks adequate funding andresources for staff development. When Dr. Pauline Cline became theAssistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at MountVernon, she realized that a successful staff development programwould have to be accessible, interesting andcost-effective.

Workshops for All

Two years ago at a state educational conference,she came across a series of videos designed to help schools createsuch a program. Cline viewed a video titled "Site-BasedDecision Making" and was impressed by the suggestions made onthe tape by experienced educators as well as the depictions ofclassroom situations that demonstrated how the ideas wererealistically implemented.

When Cline returned to Mount Vernon, she developeda staff development program based on that video and others by TheVideo Journal of Education, of Salt Lake City, Utah.Cline's program offers a series of eight three-session workshops oncurrent developments in education. The workshops are available to alldistrict employees. Topics include "Behavior in the Classroom,""Authentic Assessment -- How to Know if They Know," "Higher LevelThinking" and "Creating an Environment of Success forAll Students."

Each staff development session takes place in aninformal, relaxed setting. Teachers view videos together and exchangeideas about the topics. Sometimes participants are so interested inexploring the ideas from the first video, they don't move on to thesecond video until the next session. In addition, many teachers checkout the videos to share them with colleagues.

Of course, one cannot watch an hour-long video andbecome an expert on a subject. What the videos have done is to sparkconversation, to stimulate people to think differently and pursuetheir ideas in greater depth. Overall, Mount Vernon's video-basedstaff development program has realized great success. Participatingeducators have enjoyed the videos and the stress-free atmosphere ofeach session.

Sharing Experiences

Through discussion, teachers have becomecomfortable with new concepts by questioning them and having othersrespond and exchange ideas. Those already using the concepts oftenspeak up and relate their own experiences in the classroom. Theseexperienced educators then act as personal contacts for otherteachers in the district. Through this process, new ideas are nolonger just theories; they become reality -- something that othershave tried and proven.

Cline's objective was to help school faculty tobecome interested in a given subject and take related videos back totheir schools for continued in-depth training. For example, one ofthe video sessions focused on multi-aged classrooms, and severalteachers have since established these types of classrooms in thedistrict.

Videos move along quickly and contain numerousvisuals, eliminating boredom created by endless "talking heads."Moreover, teachers can receive an overview of a concept withouthaving to read an entire book. Cline points out that videos are alsoextremely user friendly. They can be used nearly anytime, anyplace.One can take tapes home to view. Plus, they can be used withindividuals, groups or entire staffs. Of course, videos may be shownagain and again -- all for the same price.

For most teachers, who can't attend distantconferences, educational videos are one of the only ways they willever be able to hear from leaders in their profession. UtilizingThe Video Journal of Education's training videos allows staffat the Mount Vernon School District to access thenation's top educators and discover the latest ideas that will helpto improve teaching methods. As a result, discussion among teachersincreases, and new enthusiasm sparks improvement and updating of thecurrent school system.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.