These last few days I've been immersed in a professional experience that has shifted my direction as a teacher: how to use video as a means for facilitating my own and my colleagues' professional growth.
To use video observation successfully, one key is to look objectively at a video of classroom practice and identify critical teacher actions and student actions that are observable--and to note or record these observable actions without evaluation or judgment. Instead of watching teachers and thinking "I like how they did that" or "that is not a good assignment," my attention shifted to noticing the actions without judgment: "The teacher waited while the student revised his own incorrect verbal answer" or "The student recorded her thoughts on a continuum to self-assess."
Judgment is not forbidden, it just isn't first. By identifying the "observables"--the objective concrete details of teaching and learning--I can build a better foundation for evaluating what I can use to improve my own practice and what specific actions can do this. This all got me thinking.
As I was making the three-hour-drive home, I was thinking about how cool it will be to have great conversations with my colleagues about what we observe about effective teaching on video. I thought about what a worthwhile challenge it will be for some to have to reserve judgment and focus on observable teacher and student actions. I thought about how it would be amazing to eventually get my colleagues to be willing to videotape themselves to share with colleagues for close team observation and conversation.
But then I thought about what a culture of safety and trust must need to be in place for this to occur...and we're not quite there yet.
I'm deeply invovled in our building's shift toward the new evaluation system, and again and again I hear that in order for evaluations to actually precipitate opportunities for professional growth, there needs to be a culture of trust between teachers and their peers, and even more so between teachers and their supervisors. Some teachers harbor fears of being targeted by administrators--they worry that any shortcoming or flaw will be used against the teacher if such vulnerabilities are revealed. A teacher in my building even said that asking for help means you are an ineffective teacher because seeking help "proves" you don't know what you are doing.
Whether founded or unfounded, these perceptions shape the "culture" in which the staff operates.
When I watched those videos, I practiced recording the observables in order to use these to ground my evaluation and reflection about that practitioner as well as myself. I am wondering: what observables correspond to the successful building of trust within a school?
To observe the development of a classroom environment that facilitated student learning, I could observe the teacher stating and reinforcing routines, offering succinct directions and stated expectations, and I could observe how students are organized and indicators of engagement. The words the teachers used to frame questions, the wait time, the statements made to students: these were all observable indicators of the teacher's skill. The result of all these observables (and others too countless to list) was a classroom where students were able to demonstrate progress toward a skill...and the string of cause to effect was clear and convincing.
On those videos, the "teacher moves" were observable actions that were discrete causes whose effect was increased student learning.
In the professional culture, what kinds of "leadership moves" represent observable actions will produce the effect of increased staff trust?