Report: Teacher-Controlled Video Observations Improve Teacher Assessment Process

Report: Teacher-Controlled Video Observations Improve Teacher Assessment Process

Image from a presentation of first-year findings via Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research

Teachers who participated in a year-long study comparing video-recorded and in-person classroom observations found the video observation process fairer and more useful overall than in-person observations, according to a new report from the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University.

The report, "The Best Foot Forward Project: Substituting Teacher-Collected Video for In-Person Classroom Observations," summarizes the findings of the first year of implementation of the Best Food Forward Project. The researchers studied 347 teachers and 108 administrators at schools in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and California. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Those in the treatment group received a video camera and access to a secure site to store and view recorded lessons, and those in the control group continued to use in-person classroom observations.

Initially, teachers in the video group were reluctant to record themselves in the classroom but acquiesced when they were given the option of controlling the camera and choosing which lessons would be submitted for review. At the conclusion of the first year, the researchers found that allowing teachers to control the video observation process did not affect administrators' ability to identify stronger or weaker teachers because "teachers who were stronger (or weaker) in their submitted lessons also tended to be stronger (or weaker) in the lessons they chose not to submit."

Giving teachers control over the video observation process resulted in numerous benefits for both the teachers and the administrators, according to the report. For the teachers, it increased their perception of fairness and made them more self-critical of their classroom instruction. For the administrators, it enabled them to shift their observation work to quieter times of the day or week and resulted in reduced teacher defensiveness during post-observation conferences.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Teachers in the video group collected an average of 13 videos of their own lessons, even though they were only required to collect five videos;
  • Teachers in the video group rated themselves lower than those in the in-person observation group, particularly in the areas of time management and ability to assess student mastery during class;
  • Teachers in the video group reported they felt their supervisors were more supportive and the observation process fairer;
  • Administrators in the video group spent more time on observations and less time on paperwork than those conducting in-person observations; and
  • Although teachers had control over which videos they submitted for observations, administrators in the video group were still able to identify which teachers were struggling.

The researchers have released a freely available toolkit to help teachers and administrators who are interested in piloting video observations. The kit includes "advice and a suite of resources for leveraging video technology for teacher development, choosing the right technology for the classroom, and protecting the privacy of students and teachers," according to information from CEPR.

The Best Foot Forward Project report and the Best Foot Forward Video Observation Toolkit can be found on the CEPR site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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