Watch Jim Knight as he reveals his best practices and worst mistakes for instructional coaching with video

Using video for instructional coaching with teachers is “a revolutionary act” according to author and researcher Jim Knight. “You’re fighting against the culture by saying, ‘no we’re going to make a real thing happen.’”

Video may be the best tool for getting a “clear picture of current reality.” However, instructional coaches should still use best practices when integrating video into a coaching session.

While speaking at the 2017 Learning Forward Conference in Orlando, Fla., Jim Knight walked educators through an instructional coaching session that he facilitated with a classroom teacher.

Knight also spoke with Adam Geller, author of “Evidence of Practice,” and founder of Edthena.

An instructional coaching video clip

In this clip, Jim Knight runs through his series of eight questions to help Cat, a ninth grade social studies teacher, develop a PEERS goal:

During his conversation with Cat, Knight makes the process look easy. However, Knight makes clear during his presentation that he does not simply sit down with a teacher, watch a video, set a goal, and improve the teacher’s practice. There are several intentional steps that Knight suggests that instructional coaches take to set the right conditions for effective instructional coaching using video.

A simple shift avoids the awkward moment with classroom video

Learning to integrate video into instructional coaching takes practice. One mistake that Knight originally made in his own instructional coaching was not utilizing the video strategically and at the right time within the coaching process. Specifically, he noticed poor results when he was having teachers watching the video lesson for the first time with the coach.

“Those conversations weren’t very productive,” Jim Knight said. “In fact, they were a little awkward.”

A simple shift helps to improve the outcome: “We switched to having the teacher watch the video first, and then [I] would watch the video separately, and then we’d get together and talk about what happened in the video.”

Additionally, coaches should scaffold the process of reflection for the teacher. Again, Knight notes a common mistake: presenting teachers with the video and nothing else.  Instead, Knight suggests providing resources and checklists that guide the teacher’s viewing of the lesson and prepare the teacher to have a fruitful discussion.

Resources for instructional coaching with video

Knight offers many free resources for instructional coaches seeking to use video to help teachers improve their practice. Here are a few resources that he suggests coaches and teachers use before and during a coaching session:

For the coach:

For the teacher:

  • How teachers can get the most out of watching themselves teach – Here’s a document that provides teachers with simple reminders on the what, when, where, why and how of watching your own lesson on video.
  • Using video to observe student behavior – Teachers use this form to look for specific behaviors in their video, such as “Students interacted respectfully” and “Students rarely interrupted each other.” Teachers rate the presence of these behaviors from 1 to 7.
  • Using video to observe teacher performance – Similar to the Watch your students form, this asks teachers to examine their own behaviors. Examples include “I used a variety of learning structures effectively” and “I clearly explained expectations prior to each activity.” Again, teachers rate the presence of these behaviors from 1 to 7.

One of the primary purposes of using these resources as part of the coaching process is to facilitate effective goal setting.

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Instructional coaching goal setting

Jim Knight warns against creating a long term goal and then forgetting about it because “the first thing people try usually don’t work.” Alternatively, teachers and coaches must work to create goals that, even if long term, lend themselves to frequent monitoring.

“We set a goal that we can measure almost every week. We have to be able to keep making iterations, keep making improvements.”

Another issue with goals is when they are created. Teachers and coaches might make the mistake of setting goals before beginning the coaching cycle, which can be an inefficient practice.

“You have to know where you are first, and then set the goal,” Jim Knight explains.

For this reason, Jim Knight suggests that teachers and coaches start with no pre-planned goals. After the teacher has recorded a lesson and the discussion happens, then the teacher and coach can set a goal effectively.

(Editor’s note: In Edthena, teachers can turn comments from their coaching conversations into actionable goals using Commitments )

Coaches, if you want to model teach, don’t overdo it

Author and researcher Jim Knight warns instructional coaches not to over plan their model teaching lessons.

Once a goal has been set, coaches work to help teachers make progress towards the goal. One of the common strategies used to help teachers improve is modeling. However, there are several roadblocks that may prevent modeling from achieving its intended purpose. For one, Jim Knight suggests that coaches don’t “put on a big show.”

“If you go in there and blow the kids away, and one of the kids says ‘will you come back to our class and teach again? or will you takeover as the teacher?’ you’ll never get back in the classroom.”

Counterintuitively, Knight also suggests that coaches do little in terms of planning and preparation for a modeling session. He explains: “It’s not fair to take five hours to prepare a lesson the teacher would take fifteen minutes to prepare.”

Lastly, Jim Knight points out that coaches do not need to teach the whole period.

“We just go in and model the thing itself. If we’re learning a cooperative learning structure or questioning technique, we just do the thing itself,” Knight says.

When video is combined with best practices and useful resources, instructional coaches have the chance to radically improve student learning.

For more insights from Jim Knight, check out this post about the Impact Cycle.

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