When combined with meetings with a teaching consultant, videos of your teaching can be a helpful means of self-reflection. Through video, you can observe how you present course material and your interactions with students; further, it can be a means for considering the class from their perspective. At the same time, watching yourself teach can be an awkward and even a distressing experience. Watching the tape, you may think that your style is rougher than you thought and the technical quality of the video doesn’t help you look like a star either! As you watch your videotape and prepare for the follow-up consultation meeting, we offer some considerations to keep in mind and questions to help focus your viewing on important teaching issues.
Don’t let the technical quality of the video get in the way of observing the interaction! Classroom videos are typically lower image quality. They can have bad lighting that can make you look tired and even change skin tones. The sound from the camera microphone can make you and your students’ voices sound distant or have an echo. As you watch, remember that these visual and aural qualities are not conspicuous off camera.
Plan on viewing the video within a few days of the class while your ideas about it are still fresh. Also, take the time for at least two viewings. In the first, you’ll likely notice a lot about your mannerisms, your voice, dress, and gestures as well as your mood and style of interacting with students.
Use the first viewing to get an overview of the organization and sequence of the material covered in class:
- Do you engage with students as you begin your class?
- Do you appear organized? Enthusiastic?
- In what topics were students most interested? What motivated them?
- When were you most engaged in interacting with students? Do you make regular eye contact with them or do you look at your notes and the board or a screen most of the time? Do you use students’ names? Do you move around the room? Do you invite questions?
- How do you end your class? Do you summarize a main point? Look forward the next class?
In your second viewing, focus on more specific aspects of teaching and learning processes:
- Do you give an overview of what you’ll do in class that day? Do you identify the goals for your students that day?
- Do you introduce the material you’ll cover in class and relate it to previous topics, or explain what’s at stake in that day’s work?
- Do you connect ideas and make their relevance clear? Do you give concrete examples?
- Do you ask questions to get a sense of student understanding of a topic?
- Do you give specific opportunities for students to do the work of learning in class, whether in answering questions or working out problems? Or do you generally tell them what they should know?
- Do students respond to each others’ comments or are students’ remarks mostly directed toward you?
- Do you open opportunities for quiet students to speak or are the same students always involved?
- Do you change gears every so often (10-15 mins.) to maintain student attention?
- Do you get a sense of a community of learners from watching your class on tape? Are there uncomfortable moments in class? If so, how did you handle them?
As you watch your video, keep a list of elements of your class that you think worked well and other aspects that you’d like to improve. As you discuss these issues with the consultant who observed your class, think about specific ways to develop what you see as strong points and ways of addressing the areas you want to improve.
Now that you’ve braved – and survived – viewing yourself teach on video, consider getting another recording later in the semester to check back on issues you’ve been working on.