Professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being

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Professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being

The importance of professional development in education cannot be overstated. In fact, according to research, when teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points.

Yet, professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being, gaps in reading and math skills, and so much more. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up professional development, encouraging schools and districts to rethink what this process looks like and how to best set their educators up for success and, in turn, their students.

At Waxahachie ISD in Texas, we’ve implemented professional development through the use of video, and lean on self-reflection and personalization that is naturally part of the video process to transform how our educators learn, collaborate and grow.

Here’s why.

Enhanced self-reflection

Self-reflection is challenging, but crucial in any career and especially in education. A report from RAND notes that collaborative professional development activities provide opportunities for teachers to engage in informal mentoring with more experienced and more effective colleagues, experiment with new instructional approaches, and co-construct understandings of policies and practices—which, in turn, can shape teaching practice.

When a teacher watches themselves teach through video, they often notice things they missed in real-time. For example, perhaps a teacher is using their hands to explain a concept, but find when re-watching their lesson that the hand movements were distracting and took away from the lesson as a whole. Video enables teachers to capture real moments in their classrooms and pick up on little things that can otherwise go unnoticed. There’s a reason sports teams dedicate so much time to watching film on their opponents and themselves. Video allows teachers, much like sports teams, to reflect on their practice and note areas of improvement. They gain a new perspective, and their craft is further enhanced.

Video also provides insight into how students learn and react. Perhaps there’s a student in the back of the classroom who raised their hand, but the teacher didn’t see it. Those little moments are visible with video and enhance a teacher’s awareness of their classroom and what, or who, to pay close attention to during their next lesson.

When a teacher uses video to review their instruction in a classroom and is made aware of habits that can be improved—such as using their hands too much, talking too fast or keeping their back turned to the class—they can correct themselves and improve their practice. That self-awareness helps teachers become stronger educators and greatly impacts the student experience for years to come.

Personalized feedback from colleagues

It’s difficult for district-level leaders to give teachers the dedicated time needed to provide actionable feedback on their instruction. Video allows teachers to share their strategies and gather valuable feedback from their colleagues.

With teachers pulled in so many different directions, dedicated time for self-reflection can fall short. However, when using video, educators can record themselves and continue teaching. Then, when teachers meet with their colleagues, it’s an engaging process, rather than a passive conversation.

Personalized feedback not only supports new teachers, but veteran educators as well, by providing an opportunity to discuss new and worn-in techniques, an avenue for authentic dialogue, and a chance for educators to truly collaborate and learn from one another. The time spent discussing and reviewing classroom video with others creates a nurturing environment where teachers build trust, share experiences and foster relationships with their colleagues,

Those interactions are key to student success and translate to tangible, real-world benefits.

Actionable next steps

Connecting, collaborating, and sharing teaching strategies strengthens instructional approaches and creates more effective teachers—which leads to more confident, successful students.

Through video, educators can see themselves in a new light, sparking self-reflection and conversations with their colleagues. Those important discussions lead to actionable next steps that can be applied the very next day in the classroom. From taking a moment to pause for questions, to learning a new instructional approach from a colleague, video helps teachers improve their craft and set students up for greater success.

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