Using Video to Make Classroom Observations More Fair, More Helpful, and Less Burdensome

June 11, 2015

CEPR Faculty Director Thomas Kane shares recent findings from the Best Foot Forward Project about using video for classroom observations in the following Brookings Institution paper.

The Best Foot Forward project at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard has been investigating the use of digital video to make classroom observations more helpful and fair to teachers and less burdensome for supervisors. In a randomized field trial involving 347 teachers and 108 administrators in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and Los Angeles, teachers were given a special video camera and invited to collect multiple lessons. They could then choose a subset of their lesson videos to submit for their classroom observations. A secure software platform allowed administrators as well as external observers (selected for their expertise in a teacher’s discipline) to watch the videos and provide time-stamped comments aligned to specific moments in the videos.

In addition to giving teachers a reason and an opportunity to watch multiple instances of their own teaching, the videos served as the basis for one-on-one discussions between teachers and administrators and between teachers and the external content experts. The comparison teachers and schools continued to do in-person classroom observations. Although we’re awaiting data from a second year of implementation, we can report five preliminary findings so far:

Despite teachers’ initial discomfort with collecting and watching video of their own instruction, the intervention did shift the mode of classroom observations, from in-person to video. Treatment teachers collected an average of 13 videos of their lessons. The average treatment teacher had 2.85 formal observations based on their submitted videos as well as two no-stakes observations by external observations. Treatment teachers also reported 1.06 fewer in-person classroom observations.


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