In Secretary Cardona’s vision to elevate the teaching profession, he highlights three priorities: improving the supply of teachers, supporting teacher growth, and investing in teacher retention.
What this shows very clearly is that the future of education directly depends on our commitment to the success of new teachers. From field placement through the critical first three years, K-12 schools and teacher preparation programs should implement proven strategies to improve the quantity and quality of support new teachers receive.
A simple strategy capable of delivering high-impact results in this regard is the targeted use of video in the classroom. This approach helps teachers think deeply and hold evidence-based discussions with coaches and their colleagues. And the effect is just as powerful when it comes to student learning. Reviewing a video in class, or what John Hattie calls “micro-teaching”, is one of the most important factors linked to student success in its list of more than 250 articles.
Improved methods of supporting new teachers
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 burdensome and disruptive for teachers, their students, and even those tasked with providing support.
Classroom visits and observations place undue stress on new teachers, eat away at preparation time, and can exacerbate existing classroom management issues. The school-wide PYP often feels disconnected from the work of a new teacher. One-on-one coaching can be a great addition to a district’s professional development plan, but it’s 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 develop the skills to avoid those challenges in the future. With video, a teacher can see the reasons for their challenges and work towards real solutions. Recording an interaction with a rowdy class, for example, gives the teacher the opportunity to first observe their response and then share the recording with a colleague, coach or administrator to reflect on 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 problems in the classroom in the future. The development of self-awareness has a positive impact on emotional intelligence, empathy, listening skills, critical thinking, 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, their entire school or district.
Districts support new teachers with reflection and video
Consider how two separate districts have used video to support teaching and learning during the pandemic.
Due to the shortage of teachers, Littleton Elementary School District had to hire many new teachers from outside Arizona. This resulted in an unfavorable ratio of mentor teachers to early career teachers and new teachers. In response, the district created a strong teacher support system based heavily on regular reflection and classroom video. New teachers get frequent support by sharing short videos with coaches via Teams by Pivot. This allows district instructional coaches to provide more personalized feedback than is possible during in-person visits.
“Now, because the directors have Rotating teams + Robotthey can help a teacher who needs support and get them to reflect on themselves,” observes Aracely Vazquez, educational technology specialist at Littleton.
“Coaches can’t be everywhere all the time giving feedback to teachers,” says Jim Verrill, director of instructional technology at Littleton. But the district realized the time-saving benefits of supporting new teachers through classroom video capture with Swivl Robots, reinforced with reflection and discussion via Teams by Swivl. This addresses several pain points for Verrill: “You don’t have to schedule a time to come to class, and teachers get lots of personalized feedback.”
Kelley Clark, professional development coordinator in Dodge City, Kansas, also leveraged reflection and classroom video to support new teachers. She believes that this combination not only saves time, but also helps teachers develop their autonomy.
“When the Swivl Robot is in the classroom, it’s an objective observer,” Kelley explains. “Teachers watch what they do and how their children react. It’s more powerful than anybody coming up and saying, “You should do this or that.”
Building an organization based on trust
Classroom video as a tool for regular reflection offers clear benefits: better, faster and more personalized support for new teachers. But when teachers get into the habit of thinking early in their careers, acting as leaders to spread the practice to their colleagues, the possibilities expand dramatically.
Video reflection can improve alignment around important initiatives. If teachers and administrators are all thinking about the same class video, it becomes much easier to set common expectations for a new curriculum or culture change.
In this way, regular brainstorming with video can foster trust between systems. First, teachers begin to have confidence in their own ability to identify challenges and improve their practice. Second, colleagues develop greater trust in each 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.