What is Visible Learning?
As educators, we barely have enough time to use the restroom during the day let alone reflect on how we are teaching. However, research shows that self-reflection is vitally important and can help us not only improve our teaching but also see our strengths in the classroom.
Visible learning occurs when teachers record themselves teaching and then evaluate themselves. This is not just an audio recording of their teaching from the book. The best way would be to have a video capture every aspect of the classroom so authentic reflection can occur. Oftentimes, teachers do not think that reflecting on how their lesson went can act like professional development. However, the amount of information and data that they can gather from watching themselves teach is very powerful.
Once teachers decide to embark on visible learning, they have to remember to watch the video several times. Because no matter what, the first time they watch themselves on video they will be thinking about what they were wearing, how their voice sounds, and what their hair looks like. This is human nature. Therefore, true professional development will occur on the second or third time of watching their lesson.
How Visible Learning can Improve Instruction
Watching lessons back allows teachers to reflect and analyze their teaching strategies. By increasing our self-awareness, we can see if our lessons are really working for the students in front of us or not. We may realize that we spoke too fast when explaining an activity and that is why some of the students were confused at the beginning, and it was not just because they were not paying attention. We may also find patterns of successes and failures with certain strategies and decide to remove them from our teaching or include them in our daily repertoire.
Content delivery can also be analyzed. Whether a teacher is teaching basic addition or upper level calculus, we need to see how we are sharing this information with our students. Video reflection may reveal that an important step of the learning process was shown too briefly and that it needs to be taught in a more drawn out way for our students to grasp the concept. From year to year, our students’ needs change. Therefore, a concept that was not challenging for children the past two or three years may be extremely difficult for those students in your classroom this year. Video reflection will help teachers see how their content delivery was received by the students.
Student engagement can also be monitored through video recording teaching lessons. We may think that we give plenty of wait time between asking a question and choosing a student to answer. However, classroom observations can show that teachers only wait one second before calling on a student to answer. This does not give the majority of students the chance to formulate an answer in their mind and then decide to take the risk to answer it. Teachers should try to wait 3-5 seconds before selecting a student to give the answer. This can easily increase student engagement in a class.
Video reflections can also show which students may be engaged even if they do not offer to answer questions. During a lesson, we may think that students are just being lazy and not paying attention for not raising their hands to answer questions. However, we may find after analyzing ourselves teaching that these students are paying attention and we may need to find an alternate way for them to participate in class.
Finally, video reflection gives teachers the chance to see what their students are seeing every day. Having the student perspective of a lesson is paramount. We will be able to learn why students reacted a certain way during the lesson and also understand why some students may have had challenges. Additionally, teachers can see how they react in a moment and how that affects the students.
Even though video recording ourselves teaching may feel awkward or even intimidating, it is an excellent professional development technique. We have the opportunities to not only see how we can better ourselves, but we can also see our teaching strengths which we often forget about especially if we have a challenging class. Self-reflections and analyses can help us grow as teachers and find what works best in our classrooms for our students and for ourselves.