Constantly developing oneself is often high on many teachers’ priority lists. To better develop her classroom practices, a former teacher with Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) joined a study by an NIE researcher which uses videos to delve deeper into her classroom instructions and how they can be improved.
Classroom Teaching on Video
Ms Ang An Lian collaborated with a researcher from the Office of Education Research (OER) at NIE on a research project in 2017. The project, which is part of a larger research study under the CORE Research Programme, aims to study how teachers teach in classrooms and how students learn as a result of the teaching. This involves video-recording the lessons, watching the videos, and lastly, discussing about and reflecting on what happened in those videos.
While some practitioners may have reservations about watching themselves teach, An Lian feels that the benefits from watching such videos far outweigh the awkwardness that might come with it.
To fully benefit from this exercise though, An Lian shares, “It is important to watch the videos a few months after the recording instead of doing so within the next few days.” The time gap will naturally allow the teachers to view the recordings in a more objective manner due to the detachment from the lesson objectives by the time the videos are played.
“When I watch the videos a few months later, I feel more distanced and less self-conscious,” shares An Lian. “I also mentally tell myself to observe myself in the video as how I would a beginning teacher, so I take the lessons as they are, and I am less biased.”
Reflective Teaching through Video Analysis
As reflection was the main part of the research project, An Lian had worked closely with OER Research Associate Fatema Anis Hussain who conducted three conference sessions with her to analyse and discuss how she teaches through the videos.
Fatema would pause the videos at specific sections and ask An Lian targeted and meaningful questions such as “Is there a reason why you did this hand gesture?” and “Did you notice this student throwing out some questions?” This way, An Lian was also able to re-think her actions and at the same time, also observe her students’ behavior in class from a third-person perspective.
“I was able to spot certain things which I didn’t see before,” shares An Lian. “We always have blind spots as teachers so it’s always important to go back and review the lesson and see how best we can improve.” For example, she realized through the videos that she tends to overuse certain words and that her PowerPoint slides were too wordy.
Watching parts of the video instead of the full version allows for a more targeted approach and is especially useful for teachers who are typically busy with teaching and after-school activities.
“When you’re teaching it’s very different from actually sitting down and watching every single person in the video,” An Lian adds. Overall, she finds Fatema’s constructive dialogue and probing questions helpful in guiding her to go deeper into analysing and reflecting on her practice.
“We always have blind spots as teachers so it’s always important to go back and review the lesson and see how best we can improve.”
– Ang An Lian on how watching video(s) of oneself teaching can be beneficial.
A Reflective Journey
At the end of the conference sessions, Fatema also held mini focus groups with the students involved in the videos for feedback on An Lian’s lessons. To minimize any potentially biased opinions from the students, An Lian was not present at that session.
Fatema asked students questions like “How can the lesson be improved?” and “Do you think that whatever was taught was relevant?”
The information gathered was later shared with An Lian, giving her the opportunity to further better her teachings. As a result, An Lian had re-assessed the way in which she runs her lessons. For example, she now reminds herself to be more conscious of her body language and her students’ body cues such as when they need help.
“The reflections help me fine-tune the way I plan and conduct my lessons. It also made me more aware of the needs of my students as a practitioner,” she says.
But more than just improving on her practices to enhance students’ learning, An Lian also feels that it is crucial for teachers to be role models. “We have to be reflective of our teaching if we want our students to also be reflective thinkers themselves. And teaching is a craft that you improve over time with reflections and more practice.”