Remote Instruction & Professional Development

Teaching from Home: How Distanced Teaching Creates PD Needs and Opportunities

Teaching from Home: How Distanced Teaching Creates PD Needs and Opportunities

Most K-12 educators are still not ready to teach online. It would be foolhardy to overlook this reality.

In order for students to have successful learning experiences online, their teachers need support for teaching online.

In order for teachers to be successful with this new model of teaching, they need immediate and ongoing professional development for facilitating high-quality distanced learning experiences.

With a plan, it’s easy to gather the evidence of distanced teaching

No matter the particular set of tools or process your district uses for distanced learning, it is almost certain there will be instruction from teachers and feedback to students. Online video in various forms is central to this process.

Everyone should capture and save these learning episodes. Only with artifacts in-hand can we help teachers assess how they’re doing with this new style of teaching.

If your teachers use synchronous virtual learning spaces, record the sessions.

If your teachers pre-record flipped lessons, save the videos.

If your teachers host online office hours for students via web meeting software, record the meetings.

If your teachers are holding conference calls with students, record the calls.

Waiting till the end of the year to see if this rapid switch to distanced learning impacted instructional quality is unfair to students. It’s a post mortem on the learning opportunities they need from their schools today in order to stay on track for becoming career and college-ready.

Use videos to reflect about distanced teaching to drive continuous professional learning

You may be worried that this feels like too much change at once. But is our alternative to do nothing to support teachers with this new challenge?

In good news, using video reflection as a tool for teacher learning is a well established practice. Decades of academic research underpin the idea that teachers watching videos of their teaching episodes can help them implement and sustain changes.

And just as teaching online requires a shift, providing feedback on videos of learning episodes requires different skills than in-person observation, too.

In my book Evidence of Practice, I synthesize existing research about modes of interacting with video evidence as the five focusing techniques:

  • Spot helps the observer discern a moment, an interaction, or a pattern of behavior as meaningful

  • Break Down supports the observer to decompose teaching and learning into component parts

  • Interpret focuses the observer on why something has happened in order to uncover underlying causes

  • Compare encourages the observer to highlight the similarities and differences between two moments in time or two representations of the same learning

  • Discuss is the technique that encourages analyzing teaching with others to elicit new insights

These techniques are similar to the five-step lesson plan for sharing understanding about what should be happening. The five focusing techniques provide a shared set of vocabulary for how to interact with video episodes in order to drive professional learning.

This is all to say that there is a proven way to provide professional learning to teachers during this transition. The toolsets are potentially the same as “video coaching” or “video analysis” structures your district may have already considered or have in place.

Whether you’re analyzing video of in-person teaching or online facilitation, the benefits are the same.

About the Author

Adam Geller is the author of Evidence of Practice and the founder of Edthena, a video-powered professional learning platform for analyzing video evidence with timestamped comments and streamlining video content management. Adam began his education career as a science teacher in St. Louis, Mo.


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