Have You Ever Seen Yourself in Action?

Have You Ever Seen Yourself in Action?

HoffmanJay Hoffman, Vermont State Teacher of the Year 2013

“Video will completely change the way we do professional learning.”

Jim Knight


“For me, as a teacher, the most powerful place of inspiration and learning has been in other teachers' classrooms. Through Project Shift's Video Reflective Practice, I'm able to step into many different classrooms and observe the teaching, the class environment, the student behaviors, and the learning. It's an easy way to grow very quickly.”   Christina Norland, Edmunds Elementary School, VT TOY 2015 Finalist

At our sharing session last week, my partner and I reflected on a video of her working with a group of high school actors who were developing a new play. We talked about her efforts to better position the camera to capture the classroom, the sound quality, and the challenges she was having uploading the video. But we also shared our thoughts on what would support better student reflections, and how we might encourage deeper thinking and greater collaboration with colleagues and parents on student learning. It was a wide-ranging conversation that left my partner with a better sense of her strengths, along with some ideas on how to move her work forward. We closed with the recommendation that we write down some focus questions for when we meet next to keep our sharing session from becoming too broad. This rich, professional learning dialogue took place in the span it took for us to drink a cup of coffee together.

This is not to say that high-quality professional learning can be done quickly for the cost of a cup of Joe. Just as it took a team of people, from farmers to sales executives to baristas, working together to bring the cup of coffee to the table for us to enjoy, our professional learning has taken a team, and been months in the making. We’ve worked to build a relationship of trust, we’ve spent time experimenting with technology, we’ve built a shared vocabulary together based on the InTASC Learning Progressions, and we’ve committed to making mistakes in front of the camera -- and each other -- with the intention of learning from them together. Having built our own professional learning network over time, however, we’re able now to watch each other teach asynchronously and reflect on this learning virtually and in-person in a way that is both efficient and effective.

Most of my career, I spent countless hours in professional development sessions that were scattered and disconnected. As a result, I can’t say much of that work actually increased my skill level as a teacher. In fact, it was not until I looked at and understood the Progressions for Teachers by InTASC that I actually was able to pinpoint my skill level on a continuum. It was very telling -- and scary -- to me, as I discovered for the first time in a 20-year career where I was and where I desired to be in my journey of improvement.

Video is a game changer. Simply put, we need to be able to see ourselves teach in order to see what to change, how to shift our pedagogy. Yet most educators have never seen themselves do what they do.

 Video Reflective Practice is a powerful tool in professional learning that supports teachers in their efforts to work together to strengthen their pedagogical methods. While there is a growing body of research to support use of video in professional learning, it is not yet widely adopted in schools. I believe that using videos can support significant and sustained professional learning for teacher leaders, both individually and as part of teacher-learning networks or existing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

It is this belief, coupled with a dearth of authentic professional development, that led me to launch Project Shift.

Project Shift is non-profit organization dedicated to building a cohesive network of teacher-leaders who are committed to sharing and improving their own teaching practices.

We believe that empowering teacher leaders can bring about a SHIFT in the way we design professional learning and promote educator growth.

We believe that by focusing the work of teacher learning communities on the reflective analysis of teaching practices, we can bring about a SHIFT in student achievement and transform our schools.

We believe that establishing a culture of collaborative video lesson study will result in real SHIFTS in schools and that the leadership of teachers working peer-to-peer is the most sustainable means of supporting these changes.

Jay Hoffman co-founder teacher leader Project Shift

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