Video For A Self-Improving School

How can video be used for self-improvement?

A self-improving school requires complex collaboration and mixes together three core features: coordination, communication and bonding (Hargreaves, 2010). It also requires ‘magnets, glue and drivers’ where professional development takes priority as this is one of the chief ways by which teaching and learning are improved (Hargreaves, 2011).

David Hargreaves argues that we need to take professional development to a new level and move beyond the “sharing of good practice” because in reality this “does not amount to practice transfer”.

Schools can still be very localised doing their own thing and are sometimes not very good at sharing at all. He says that schools need to be held accountable if practice isn’t really transferred especially in the context of alliances and teaching schools where networking is key. Sharing has to be truly collaborative, interactive, bilateral and not just one-way (Fielding et al, 2005).

Real practice transfer is the demonstrable movement of practice and engaging in Joint Practice Development (JPD) which Hargreaves defines as a process that:

“gives birth to innovation and grounds it in the routines of what teachers naturally do. Innovation is fused with and grows out of practice, and when the new practice is demonstrably superior, escape from the poorer practice is expedited. If JPD replaced sharing good practice in the professional vocabulary of teachers, we would, I believe, see much more effective practice transfer in the spirit of innovation that is at the heart of a self-improving system.”

Video observations need to be couched in the same way too. When we start to see them as JPD then we upgrade the status of video as a valuable, appropriate, cost-effective and high impact tool for learning.

Video as JPD helps teachers to explore what strategies work best and under what conditions, and what the implications might be for our own unique contexts. Unpicking the evidence is crucial to working what’s what and what’s ‘rot’. As Dylan Wiliam says, ‘everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere’ so in engaging directly with video evidence we can understand better how strategies work, and under what conditions they work best.

If we can identify what is effective in our schools, locate the best practice and share it then we all benefit but normalising a professional community of practice is still a challenge. How many teachers would be willing to share videos of their own practice not just internally but externally between colleagues elsewhere?JPD can’t take place without cooperation and effective partnerships therefore need practitioners who are willing to truly engage and video is one very powerful way of doing this.

When we help each other through JPD video sharing we begin to engage in professional enquiry and this becomes part of our action planning which when done collectively as a groups of schools allows for true development of practice. When we video share best practice we can ensure that new learning translates into the classroom, teachers learn from each other, change habits and move forward in their practice.

As Timperley et al (2007) say,” Opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning and development can have a substantial impact on student learning” and it is through JPD video sharing we can take some giant strides.

Sharing best practice isn’t new but JPD video sharing is relatively rare despite its important contribution for delivering sustainable gains in pupil achievement.Engaging in a coordinated programme of JPD video sharing would help to propel continuing improvement.

Video enables us to open up our learning spaces and share ourselves as learners, leaders and experts. Other benefits include:

  • Harnessing the energies and passions of colleagues
  • Sharing the pluses and minuses
  • Gaining support from credible peers via mentoring and coaching
  • Opportunities to access and to observe excellent practice
  • Co-constructing best practice through reflection and action
  • Sharing high quality action research
  • Opportunities to discuss with peers and to work with them on common issues
  • Expanding a community of professional learners

Engaging with JPD through video sharing helps us improve our schools, contributes to personal development, opens up opportunities for global collaboration and is of financial benefit to a school as sharing is easy.

We know that learning activities occur in a collaborative context, are project based and have a clear and relevant focus.This is what Kearsley and Schneiderman (1998) in Rhodes et al (2004) refer to as engagement theory. It draws on three components that mirror what video sharing is all about: relate, create, donate.

We can’t force video sharing on each other but we can illustrate the power of team work and communication where as colleagues we clarify and verbalise our thinking and facilitate solutions.

By encouraging video sharing as JPD we can increase the motivation to learn because we have unique opportunities to work with others from different backgrounds which gives us all multiple perspectives.Video observation projects make our learning a creative and purposeful process and can contribute to personal and whole-school goals.

Teachers working closely together to improve their practice beyond present quality is the essence of JPD, and video sharing provides a far better distribution system for helping make that happen.

Videoing as JPD is all about entering into a spirit of  ‘ubuntu‘ the southern African (specifically, Nguni) word for ‘humanness’.

Lesson study via video allows us to share our ‘humanness’ as teachers, to participate and learn. Of course video allows us to share best practice but it can also be a very powerful JPD tool for sharing our vulnerabilities, solving practical problems and showing that teaching is a connected and interdependent profession that learns from itself.

JPD through video is a way to triumph together and as Harris and West-Burnham (2018) say in Leadership Dialogues II,

“JPD can be seen as a direct alternative to traditional models of CPD….as it builds collaboration into the improvement process.”

This blog was written for Lessonbox and can be viewed here.  


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