Part of a study involves recording teachers and having their lessons scored by professionals.

As teacher training and evaluation take a front seat in the nation’s education reform agenda, a growing number of schools are integrating video into the process.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project notes that once-a-year teacher evaluations are not enough to help teachers improve, and that multiple observations by trained professionals should be combined with other methods such as student test scores and classroom surveys.

Preliminary results from the two-year study were posted in early January.

Part of the project involves recording teachers and having their lessons scored by professionals. Teachers are able to watch their own instruction and can identify what concepts seem particularly difficult for students to grasp and at which points during the instruction they “lose” students.

The study includes a collection of digital video from more than 13,000 classroom lessons delivered by teachers who volunteered to be studied.

Good teacher evaluations require multiple nuanced observations by trained evaluators. Those results should be combined with other measures, such as student test scores and classroom surveys, to gather enough information to evaluate teachers and help them improve, the researchers found after nationwide experiments involving thousands of teachers.

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The most common teacher evaluation method used by school districts today—a single classroom observation once every few years—has only a 33-percent chance of resulting in an accurate assessment of a teacher, the researchers found.

“This confirms what many teachers have been saying for years: that when high-stakes decisions are being made, school districts should allow for more than one observation,” said Tom Kane, deputy director of the Seattle-based foundation’s education program and leader of the research project.

The foundation is working to build a fair and reliable system of teacher evaluation and feedback to help teachers improve their craft—and video plays a key role.

“Melinda and I spent several days visiting schools in Tennessee … and sat with teachers who were watching videos of themselves teaching,” Bill Gates recently wrote in a report about the MET Project. “We heard from a number of them how they had already improved by seeing when students were losing interest and analyzing the reasons.”