Monday / June 17

Video Analysis of Teaching:  Why are we still talking about teaching based on memory?

Right now, in schools around the world, teachers are being observed by administrators, coaches, and peers.  They are provided time to talk about the lesson and reflect on their practice in these feedback sessions.  Most of these conversations will begin with the observer (coach, school leader, mentor) asking the teacher what they thought of the lesson—what went “well” and what needs to be improved.  The teacher will likely respond and then the observer will put forth their observations.  The feedback session will conclude with the observer giving suggestions for growth. We may also recognize it as the “compliment sandwich” event—“I really liked it when…” followed by observations and critiques, and ending with “It was great getting to observe your lesson”.  Why is this type of observation and feedback cycle limited?


#1.  Teachers cannot see themselves teach.

While the teacher and observer have the best intentions for learning and growth, if the teacher cannot see themselves teaching, they are forced to rely on the observer’s interpretations of what took place.  This increases the tension that already exists for observation—it is really developmental or is it actually evaluative?  How can the observer know what the teacher really thinks unless they are able to examine the artifacts of their practice?  Who “owns” the observation—the teacher or the observer?

When discussions about teaching are based solely on memory, the teacher and observer cannot explore together.

#2. Observers are biased.

Yes, observers may have been well-trained to take low-inference notes during observations.  But we all know that what we notice is a result of the lenses we take up, often without our awareness.  Observers also have discipline-area expertise, certain predilections, that will color what they notice.  Taking notes involves choosing certain moments to capture while ignoring or not seeing others.  We also know that bias about what is “good” or “bad” teaching practice will influence what we observe.

When discussions about teaching are based solely on memory, bias cannot be challenged.

#3 Classrooms are fast-paced and complex environments.

None of us can “see” everything that occurs in the busy and complicated setting of a classroom.  As soon as a moment has taken place, it has vanished.  Video can capture the whole scene and it also can be stopped, rewound, and replayed to check our initial perceptions.  A group in the corner seemingly “off-task” might be truly engaged and our emotional reactions to learners can be slowed down and examined with the evidence within the video recording.

When discussions about teaching are based solely on memory, we miss many moments of classroom interactions.

Video Analysis of Teaching is a Powerful Antidote to Memory-Based Recall

Since the invention of video recording, it has been used for teacher learning to:

  • demonstrate teaching methods, usually presenting exemplary teachers
  • present professional dilemmas that trigger discussion
  • evaluate teaching competency, often used in with a particular assessment framework
  • provide an opportunity to observe and analyze classroom interaction and behavior
  • foster a shared vision of teaching within a community of practice, and
  • offer teachers a realistic picture of their own performance.

Video records of teaching have been used successfully to support reflection in pre-and in-service teacher development programs worldwide (Kong, Shroff & Hung, 2009; Rosaen, Lundeberg, Cooper, Fritzen & Terpstra, 2008; Sherin & van Es, 2005; Welsch & Devlin, 2007). Kong (2010), found that teachers generated more and deeper reflective notes after watching clips of their own teaching than when just recalling the lesson. Furthermore, when teachers have an opportunity to watch and analyze video of their own teaching, they may experience greater motivation and engagement in the activity, further enriching the reflective process (Mercado & Baecher, 2014).  Video analysis is well-suited for professional development because the process provides teachers with a concrete means to learn from themselves and their own classrooms.


#1 Teachers see themselves in action.

Teaching is a full-body, full-mind activity.  Just like great tennis players, golfers, actors or musicians, who need to see video footage to get a true sense of their skills and how they look from the outsider point of view, teachers need to see themselves in action.  Imagine discussing a student’s essay when the student has to remember what was written, and cannot see the writing during the feedback session? This is what we do routinely when we allow only the observer access to the viewing.

When discussions about teaching include video review, teachers can see their own performance from an outsider’s point of view.

#2 Teachers and observers view the lesson together.

Usually observation feedback sessions occur close after the lesson has taken place.  The observer has come to some conclusions and done a lot of noticing and thinking about what was seen.  What might happen if the teacher had access to this observation experience—and could view the lesson right alongside the observer?  Watching the lesson together creates the conditions for a more collaborative and interactive discussion about the lesson.

When discussions about teaching include video review, teachers can deconstruct the events on equal footing with the observer.

#3 Observation conversations are teacher-led.

The only way to move away from the usual feedback conversation patterns is by shifting something within the substance of the observation itself.  Introducing video analysis into the mix is that catalyst.  In Baecher and McCormack (2015), teacher talk shifted dramatically in post-observation conversations when the teacher had viewed the lesson on video prior to the session.  Instead of the observer doing the analyzing, describing, and suggesting—with the teacher mostly agreeing—in the video-based conversation the teacher was the one actively analyzing.

When discussions about teaching include video review, teachers can deconstruct the events on equal footing with the observer.

Instead of the usual conversations and the usual results, try introducing video review into the teacher observation process.  When done gradually, with teachers leading the process by recording small segments of their lessons on their own devices, it can lead to transformative learning for the teachers and their observers.


Baecher, L. & McCormack, B.  (2015). The impact of video review on supervisory conferencing.  Language and Education, 29(2), 153-173.

Kong, S. C. (2010). Using a web-enabled video system to support student–teachers’ self-reflection in teaching practice. Computers & Education, 55(4),


Kong, S. C., Shroff, R. H., & Hung, H. K. (2009). A web enabled video system for self reflection by student teachers using a guiding framework. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(4), 544-558.

Mercado, L. & Baecher, L.  (2014). Video-based self-observation as a component of developmental teacher evaluation.  Global Education Review, 1(3), 63-77.

Rosaen, C. L., Lundeberg, M., Cooper, M., Fritzen, A., & Terpstra, M. (2008). Noticing noticing: How does investigation of video records change how teachers reflect on their experiences? Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 347-360.

Sherin, M., & van Es, E. (2005). Using video to support teachers’ ability to notice classroom interactions. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,13(3), 475-491.

Welsch, R., & Devlin, P. (2007). Developing preservice teachers’ reflection: Examining the use of video. Action in Teacher Education, 28(4), 53-61.

Written by

Laura Baecher is a professor at the School of Education at Hunter College, City University of New York and has worked with K-12 schools and institutions of teacher education in the US and abroad to support video analysis of teaching. Her book Video in Teacher Learning is available through Corwin.

No comments

leave a comment