First and foremost, videotaping is a powerful tool for shaping your behavior. It’s the place to start if you need to shape students’ behavior, as well. Although a single tape can inform your instruction, especially if you’re filming a bumpy situation, videotaping on a regular basis will allow you to see and analyze patterns of interactions, responses, and much more.
You can analyze the types of questions you typically ask your kids. Are you intelligible? How rapidly or slowly do you speak? What level of questioning do you use? Are your questions prompting analysis and application? How much wait time do you allow after questions? Do you call on all students equally?
You can analyze your patterns of movement and observation in the class. Do you monitor the entire class or only focus on certain areas? Where and when do you move in relation to students? Does your proximity to students vary? In what ways? Do you move or are you glued to your “teacher” chair?
You can analyze the authenticity of your responses to students. Do you validate their answers? Do you extend or rephrase their answers? Do you notice if they answer incorrectly? Are you communicating what you intended? Are you laughing with kids or at them? Are you genuinely smiling or simply baring your teeth? Do you appear firm or ambiguous? Do you look as scared as you felt?
Analysis of your responses to behavior outbursts can be a goldmine of effective information. Flip on that camera at the first sign of trouble and enjoy the rerun later that day. Did you maintain a neutral and calm expression (including body language) as you handled the meltdown? Did you use sarcasm or any belittling remarks or body language? What kinds of directions or prompts did you use? Were you fair and kind? Did you help kids recover and save face? Did you quickly return to the classroom routine?
Make sure you have signed permission slips from parents that include specifically how these videos will be used. If you are filming for your eyes only, check with your exceptional needs director for your district policy. I always let parents know that I will videotape to improve my instruction.
I’ve mentioned before that filming can change your behavior even if you don’t watch the films. Videotaping automatically triggers self-monitoring, which is vital to effective teaching. That means I don’t need to watch everything I film. And that means I can end up looking rather silly:
I was teaching a class for kids with behavior and emotional disabilities. The Exceptional Children’s director asked me to show a typical social skills session for parents of a student new to our district. The student had an IEP that indicated placement in a self-contained setting, but his parents were naturally anxious about what that would look like. We met in my classroom to watch a 20 minute clip of social skills. As I started the recording, I realized that this was one of those films I had not actually reviewed. Duh. But I remembered the lesson and figured it would be representative, so here was an opportunity for me to analyze it, along with the parents. The recorded lesson had gone pretty well. The kids were all engaged and there were some funny and touching moments. Unfortunately, that included some touching I hadn’t noticed at all: Halfway through the lesson, Alex began picking his nose with a purposefulness that defied imagination. He was sitting on the edge of the group, digging away (oh dear, I didn’t scan the whole group continuously). He contributed comments and watched others, but by the end of the film, I was amazed that dear Alex hadn’t triggered a nose bleed. As the parents sat with me, they were chuckling and enjoying the lesson, reassured that this placement was going to be fine. All I could see was Alex. And his nose. And his fingers.
See? Videotaping is an excellent way to improve all kinds of skills.