St. Vrain Valley School District using video coaching to mentor new teachers

Originally posted in The Times-Call >>

The St. Vrain Valley School District is using video coaching to make it easier for more experienced teachers and district-level coaches to mentor those who are new to the profession.

Diane Lauer, St. Vrain Valley's assistant superintendent of priority programs and academic support, said scheduling observations, especially given the distance among schools, can be tricky. 

Much easier is asking new teachers to record themselves teaching, then have their mentors view the videos and provide feedback — or send the new teachers videos of how they teach certain lessons as an example, she said.

"For new teachers, it's a great way to accelerate their growth," she said. "Seeing yourself with your own eyes, you can get a good perspective and see which strategies are effective. It's been really successful."

The district's video coaching work recently was featured in a report by Learning Forward, a professional learning association.

Teachers can use any device to record videos, then privately post and view them using the Edthena app.

St. Vrain Valley started using video coaching four years ago with 50 new teachers, pairing groups of 10 new teachers with one coach. The new teachers were asked to upload six videos, taken with iPads, in their first year for feedback.

The district then expanded to include video coaching to support new curriculum implementation. 

Two third-grade teachers — at the same school or different schools — could record themselves teaching a lesson using the new language arts program, then give each other feedback, Lauer said.

"Teachers have to make 1,000 decisions a day," she said. "On video, it helps you to slow things down."

She said more college teacher education programs are using video coaching, with novice teachers often already familiar with the benefits. For others, she said, "it can be a little scary at first." 

"Nobody really likes watching themselves on video, but it's surprising because it really helps you increase your ability to notice things," she said. 

Andrea Eriksen, who teaches first grade at Erie's Red Hawk Elementary, said her first-grade team uses video coaching as a lesson study.

"We watch ourselves and post comments or questions we may have for our team, then our team watches the video and posts comments, suggestions or questions," she said. "We can watch the video on our own time, which is great because finding someone to cover your class to observe another teacher can be very difficult."

Eriksen, who has taught since 2002 and is her third year teaching in St. Vrain Valley, added that it helps her to reflect on her teaching. 

"You may not quite remember what went on in the hustle and bustle of the lesson," she said. "The video is great because you can notice your behavior during instruction and observe student engagement from a different point of view."