St. Columba is a PreK-8 school with about 250 students. They have one section per grade level, 15 teachers, three aides and a very limited, but dedicated support staff. The principal at St. Columba must serve in all capacities — ranging from counselor to finance director, facilities management, C&I leader, development and discipline, substitute teacher and sanitation.
Just recently, the school started using Vosaic, a video-based observation tool, and we asked their principal, Kevin Chick, to share his thoughts on it.
How do you use Vosaic at your school?
I use Vosaic for performance discovery in the classroom, for documenting observations, and to support instructional coaching efforts. I currently use it to offer feedback regarding classroom management and student engagement. This offers great opportunities to recognize teachers’ strengths and to “catch” them at their best.
I am present in the room while taking a 20-30 minute video. I don’t go beyond 30 minutes. The Vosaic app allows you to use two iOS devices for observation — one as a camera and the other as the markup device. I set up my iPhone as a camera, and use my iPad to mark important moments while observing. The app uploads the video and my markup to the cloud as it’s being recorded.
After the observation, I go back to my office and view my markup on a computer, add comments, and finally send it to the teacher for review. We set a meeting date and time to discuss the observation comments.
What insights have you gained from Vosaic?
I learned that even with positive relationships with teachers, with all the regular meetings, preparation, and high levels of teacher engagement in the coaching process, there were still flaws in the observation and feedback process.
When we used text documentation during an observation, the observer was often distracted and occupied by filling in forms and note taking. When I observed, I was often focused on producing complete and clear documentation. If I didn’t document, or didn’t do it well, the observation and the time spent was a waste. As such, I never gave myself permission to “just observe.”
With Vosaic — using buttons I created — I’m able to spend more time watching everything going on in the classroom. All I do is push a button to mark the video while I remain focused on the class activities.
In addition, watching the video in my office allows for more effective processing time to make more thoughtful and meaningful comments. The video only shows the truth about what is happening in the classroom. Combining Vosaic’s video functions with quality feedback has helped strengthen my professional relationships with the teachers I coach.
What’s the biggest advantage of using video in teacher observations?
I learned that without video, my critique and observations were consistently focused on the same issues or biases. I only documented when I saw the things I was looking for, and I missed many activities while documenting.
Missing a variety of activities made for inaccurate or incomplete observation documentation dominated by my biases.
What would you say to other principals considering video for professional growth?
Video is a very powerful tool to use with new and developing teachers. The little bit of extra time it takes to observe and review video is well worth it. The teachers see themselves and get the benefit of professional feedback. There are no questions as to what happened in the classroom, because it’s on the video. This keeps the observation discussion focused on improvement and growth.
It also helps validate highly effective and quality teachers. People like to see themselves doing well.
What are your favorite Vosaic features?
I like the flexibility of making my own forms with buttons and tags that are specific to our teacher goals and professional standards. They help me bookmark important moments as they’re happening without losing focus on activities in the classroom.
Once I’m done, I like that I can share the videos with teachers for review prior to our follow-up meetings. This gives teachers time to digest my feedback along with the video.
Finally, I like the ability to download a spreadsheet report summarizing my observations. I can then use that data to track the progress my teachers are making.
Video, combined with notes and markup collected using Vosaic, helps me provide objective feedback to my teachers, and holds me — the observer — accountable for commenting only on what was actually observed.
You can download Vosaic’s “Getting Started With Video” toolkit for free.
FACTS is a partner with Vosaic. This article was originally posted in its full format at Vosaic.com.