In Secretary Cardona’s vision to elevate the teaching profession, he highlights three priorities: improving teacher pipeline, supporting teacher growth and investing in teacher retention.
What this makes abundantly clear is that the future of education depends directly on our commitment to the success of new teachers. From field placement to the critical first three years, K-12 schools and teacher prep programs must implement proven strategies to improve the quantity and quality of support that new teachers receive.
One simple strategy capable of delivering high-impact results in this regard is the targeted use of classroom video. This approach helps teachers reflect deeply and hold evidence-based discussions with coaches and colleagues. And the effect is just as powerful when it comes to student learning. Reviewing classroom video, or what John Hattie calls “micro-teaching,” is one of the strongest factors related to student achievement in his list of 250+ items.
Improved methods of new teacher support
Providing adequate support for new teachers has long been a top priority for schools. Yet, many of the traditional strategies employed, while absolutely essential to professional growth, can be cumbersome and disruptive for teachers, their students and even those responsible for offering support.
Classroom walk-throughs and observations place undue stress on new teachers, eat into prep time and can exacerbate existing classroom management issues. School-wide PD often feels disconnected from a new teacher’s work. Individual coaching can be a great addition to a district’s PD plan, but this is a resource-intensive approach.
Each of these concerns presents an opportunity for more efficient, practical and effective professional learning for new teachers.
New teachers need to reflect on their practice
Reflection with video gives new teachers clear evidence to address their challenges, get help when needed and build the competencies required to avoid those challenges in the future. With video, a teacher can see the reasons behind their challenges and work toward real solutions. Recording an interaction with a rowdy class, for example, gives the teacher a chance to first observe their response and then share the recording with a colleague, coach or administrator to brainstorm ways to improve their classroom management skills.
The act of regular reflection, on its own, also helps new teachers develop the mental skills that can prevent classroom issues down the line. Building self-awareness positively impacts emotional intelligence, empathy, listening skills, critical-thinking skills, decision making, communication and leadership. When new teachers develop a strategic routine of self-reflection, they become drivers of positive change in their own classroom and, eventually, throughout their school or district.
Districts support new teachers through reflection and video
Consider how two separate districts have used video to support teaching and learning during the pandemic.
Facing a teacher shortage, Littleton Elementary School District had to hire many new teachers from outside of Arizona. This resulted in an unfavorable ratio of mentor teachers to early-career and new teachers. In response, the district created a robust system of teacher support based heavily on regular reflection and classroom video. New teachers get frequent support by sharing short videos with coaches through Teams by Swivl. This empowers district instructional coaches to provide more personalized feedback than may be possible when conducting in-person walkthroughs.
“Now, because principals have Swivl Teams + Robot, they can help a teacher who needs support and have them work on self-reflection,” observes Aracely Vazquez, Littleton Educational Technology Specialist.
“Coaches can’t be everywhere all the time to give teachers feedback,” explains Littleton Director of Instructional Technology Jim Verrill. But the district has realized the time-saving benefits of supporting new teachers through classroom video capture with Swivl Robots, enhanced by reflection and discussion through Teams by Swivl. This addresses multiple pain points for Verrill: “There’s no need to schedule a time to come into the classroom, and teachers receive lots of personalized feedback.”
Kelley Clark, Professional Development Coordinator in Dodge City, Kansas, has also leveraged reflection and classroom video to support new teachers. She believes that this combination is not only time-saving, but also helps teachers develop autonomy.
“When the Swivl Robot is in the classroom, it’s an objective observer,” Kelley says. “Teachers look at what they’re doing and how their kids are responding. That’s more powerful than anyone coming in and saying, ‘You should be doing this or that.’”
Building a trust-based organization
Classroom video as a tool for regular reflection provides some clear benefits: better, faster, more personalized support for new teachers. But when teachers gain the habit of reflection early in their career, acting as leaders to spread the practice to their colleagues, the possibilities expand dramatically.
Reflection through video can improve alignment around important initiatives. If teachers and administrators all reflect on the same classroom video, it becomes much easier to establish shared expectations for a new curriculum or culture shift.
In this way, regular reflection with video can promote trust across systems. First, teachers begin to trust in their own ability to identify challenges and improve their practices. Then, colleagues develop more trust in one other as they share their work and help each other improve. Ultimately, an entire organization can develop a culture of trust as everyone becomes more committed to shared goals and visions for success.
It all starts with giving new teachers the tools and support they need from day one.