Teachers Finally See Diverse Classrooms When They Virtually Observe Peers

As educators, we often think of video as a tool to conduct observations and coaching sessions with teachers inside their classrooms. At Western Colorado University, they have implemented video as a way for teachers to collaborate and observe each other. The end-result is that these teachers in training are developing a stronger professional vision about the real-world meaning of diverse classrooms and student populations. 

Cori Woytek and Caroline Forest, clinical coaches at Western Colorado University, presented their ideas around using video to promote reflective conversations across diverse settings.

Their presentation detailed the main benefits of implementing the Edthena video platform with their remote teacher residents. Among the benefits are coaching residents asynchronously, promoting teaching resident reflection through video, and developing an understanding of diversity within classrooms. The full presentation is shown above, and below are some of the details highlighted during their session.

Video reflection supports remote teacher residents’ growth and provides an opportunity to explore the perspectives of others through feedback

Western Colorado University adopted the Edthena platform because clinical coaches were beginning to feel disconnected from resident experiences. Although coaches were able to review lesson plans and feedback provided by mentor teachers, video delivered the ultimate opportunity to become a more active part in supporting residents through their journeys.

Caroline discussed the immediate shift that she experienced in the program after implementing video with their remote teacher residents to support students.

“We saw a huge opportunity, not only for us to become more of a coach for our teacher candidates but also for us to give teacher candidates a chance to look into each other’s classrooms and experience education in many different facets and the way we’ve done that is through the video platform Edthena,” Caroline said.

As clinical coaches, Caroline and Cori highlighted using the commenting tool in Edthena that they frequently optimized to offer feedback for residents throughout their lesson. They also mentioned that being able to look back at a particular timestamp in the lesson that the comment is referencing has been extremely beneficial in promoting residents’ self-reflection.

“We’ve used Edthena for three years, this is our fourth year, and each year we realize how else we can use it,” Caroline stated. “When we ask our teachers to watch themselves teach, their reflections become so much richer and so much deeper.”

Teachers can’t help but self reflect when using video

WCU uses video observation to help teacher candidates see diverse classroomsAt Western Colorado University, the staff sets a continuous goal to grow self-reflection for teachers; however, Caroline mentions that the levels of reflection that they were receiving from residents through the use of video were incomparable to their previous methods.

Another focus for the remote residency program is to develop a cohort among teaching residents to support one another through the country-wide program. The Edthena platform provides a space for collaboration, feedback, and suggestions based on resident teaching practices to strengthen peer relationships, regardless of their geographical location.

“Not only does the tool help our students reflect, but also it gives us an opportunity for somebody who is teaching kindergarten in a small town on the western slope to look into a 5th-grade classroom in downtown Phoenix and see what that’s like. [Edthena] gives them an opportunity to talk with one another, share ideas, and gives them an opportunity to experience the diversity of education in America through their computer. And because they’re in a cohort, they know each other, so we’ve noticed that their comments, suggestions, and support are very real. They’ve opened up over the year, giving each other encouragement and suggestions,” Caroline said.  

Virtual visits via video provide teachers an opportunity to experience diverse classrooms across the country

The instructors at Western Colorado University took the use of video one step further and integrated it into a diversity course that they offer in the program.  

Cori and Caroline shared how the use of video has built upon concepts around diverse classrooms during the course. The student teachers share their experiences via video to compare the differences in their placement classrooms with peers who are teaching in different settings.

It has always possible to imagine the differences across communities and populations and hypothesize how this might change the teaching dynamics. Seeing diverse classrooms makes it real for a teacher.

Importantly, the conversation goes well beyond the “expected” versions of diversity drawn on racial differences or socio-economic status.

During the presentation, Cori shared a video example of a resident who was gaining the knowledge and experience that she needs to support ELL students. Being able to share that with other teachers in training helped them build awareness for adapting instruction based on English proficiency.

Cori also played a video of a resident teaching in Hawaii, where she discovered most of her students had a Filipino background. In that particular scenario, the resident shared how she has been able to modify her content to align with her student’s cultural background. In this way, culturally responsive teaching was not a textbook idea… it was something that the teachers could see in their colleague’s classroom.

With each video, peers and instructors can comment and build a conversation around the diversity residents experience in their classrooms.

“Each year that we’ve had [Edthena], we have planned to use it in more extensive ways, and in this class, we were very excited because we think it’s made it much richer. Not only are [residents] reading about diversity in American schools, they actually see it, and they’re also seeing their peers work through the challenges that there can be for a student-teacher. So, the conversations have been really rich,” said Caroline.

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