After working with teachers and schools for 18 years, I’ve had extensive experience coaching teachers in their classrooms. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to find that video coaching provided me with a whole new set of tools to support teachers—in particular, the ability to watch and review teachers’ videos allowed both of us to reflect more deeply on specific moments of instruction.
In May 2015, I had the opportunity to introduce the Shared Inquiry method of learning to Lutz Preparatory Academy in Lutz, Florida. After much research, the principal at Lutz, Bonnie Guertin, came to the conclusion that the school’s curriculum would be enriched by implementing Junior Great Books and using the Shared Inquiry method of learning. She was confident that this academically rigorous method of teaching and learning was well aligned with Florida standards and assessments, while providing teachers with questioning strategies to develop students’ critical-thinking skills across the curriculum.
Following a year of training and on-site coaching, Junior Great Books had taken root at Lutz, and Principal Guertin decided to further enhance professional development efforts with the addition of virtual coaching. She soon found that the combination of on-site visits and virtual coaching through Insight ADVANCE was invaluable:
“When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that aptitude can be developed. Video coaching with Junior Great Books has allowed our staff to focus on improvement instead of worrying about evaluation of current skill sets. The video coaching gives teachers the ability to reflect and adjust instructional practices while gaining feedback with productive dialogue. We are also able to target beneficial professional development that moves the whole school forward. My leadership team embraces the value that video coaching provides our teachers.”
The success of the virtual coaching was a result of the collaboration between myself, the teachers, and school administrators. Before beginning video coaching we agreed on two clear parameters:
- In my role as coach, I was the only one who could comment on the videos. (The principal had “read only” access, should she choose to use it, but she chose not to use it for the first year.)
- The videos were not to be used in relation to formal teacher evaluations during the first year, giving teachers a chance to get comfortable with the process.
In a final survey, one fourth-grade teacher commented, “I appreciate the feedback given through filming. I am able to return to the film and read through the feedback prior to classroom discussions for a refresher on what I should continue to do and areas in which I can work to improve.” Most teachers agreed that virtual coaching improved their use of the Shared Inquiry method.
Here’s how the video coaching process worked: Once teachers learned to use the ADVANCEfeedback platform, they recorded, uploaded, and tagged 20-minute videos of themselves conducting Shared Inquiry Discussions. This process gave them the opportunity to reflect on the content, identify many of their own strengths and weaknesses, and recognize some of the next steps they needed to take.
I responded to each tag, and added my own comments and suggestions. For example, I might identify a moment when a teacher had the opportunity to draw quieter students into discussion. I then completed reports with detailed suggestions for next steps. This gave me the opportunity to hone in on exact moments in a Shared Inquiry discussion and provide feedback. This means that each teacher received specific and differentiated support.
I was excited to see how readily the staff at Lutz adopted virtual coaching as an extension to their professional learning. The support staff at Insight ADVANCE worked closely with me to make sure virtual coaching was a success.
For 2017–2018, Great Books Virtual Coaching will focus on Lutz’s early elementary and middle-school grades. Lutz plans to expand its implementation by using ADVANCEfeedback for its own internal PD and coaching around Shared Inquiry. I look forward to supporting teachers and administrators as they continue inspiring their students to think critically.