Video playback pays back dividends

Researchers at Harvard University are conducting a study called The Best Foot Forward Project to determine the accuracy and usefulness of teacher observation using video rather than in person. A new report describes the first-year results of a randomised controlled trial of the project.
As part of the study, 162 teachers were randomly assigned to an experimental group instructed to video their classroom performance for a year. They were then asked to send five clips of their choice for feedback to 51 randomly assigned administrators, who had received training in video observation. The administrators were each assigned three teachers to evaluate. The results were then compared to 50 administrators and 185 teachers assigned to a control group who underwent in-person observation, as they had done in the past. Teachers were matched on years of experience, race/ethnicity, gender, and their schools’ test scores.
Results of the first year of implementation included:
  • Videoed teachers were more likely than controls to report that the post-observation feedback from administrators was fair.
  • Videoed teachers were more likely than controls to change classroom practice as a result of post-observation feedback.
  • Videoed teachers rated their performance as lower than control teachers. They commented that they noticed behaviours when watching themselves on video that they wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
A smaller study was completed to determine if using videos chosen by a teacher could mask their true performance. A group of external observers used the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to compare videos that teachers did not submit to videos that they did. Results showed that teachers’ strengths and weaknesses were consistent among submitted and not-submitted videos.
Researchers concluded that video observations offer several advantages over in-person observation: it reduces teacher anxiety and increases their perceptions of fairness; it promotes more congenial post-observation meetings between administrators and teachers than in-person observation; videoed teachers are more likely to make behavioural changes; and it allows administrators to perform evaluations on their schedule. The study is continuing and will examine the effects on pupil achievement of teacher behavioural changes following video observations and feedback.
Source: The Best Foot Forward Project – Substituting Teacher-Collected Video for In-person Classroom Observations: First Year Implementation Report (2015), Harvard University.