By: Matt Rhoads, Ed.D
Dr. Matt Rhoads is a Tech and Instructional Leader and Innovator with hands in Adult Ed, K-12, and Higher Education. He is the author of several books and is the host of Navigating Education – The Podcast.
Teacher feedback, self-efficacy, and collective self-efficacy is critical towards creating and refining 21st-century learning learning environments for students (Hattie, 2012). Teachers learn best from watching other teachers. Teachers also learn best from receiving feedback and coaching from their colleagues and school leaders. Furthermore, as we progress through a toggled term, we want to help our colleagues by providing and receiving feedback as well as emulating specific practices and strategies into to our instruction. However, teaching in online and blended learning settings (which may even include HyFlex instruction), observing teachers and providing feedback in traditional ways is almost impossible. Therefore, we have to be inventive and innovative on how we provide feedback for informal and formal observations.
There are a few ways to make observations in online and blended learning settings easy to access for all teachers and school leaders. We will be focusing on how to do this so that teachers can receive feedback from their colleagues efficiently and transparently. Our first focus will be observing classrooms in an online or blended setting. Then, we will focus on why feedback is needed and can be utilized as we navigate these educational settings. Last, three edtech tools and strategies will be unveiled on how teachers and school leaders can create lesson videos of an online or blended classroom to receive instructional feedback. Several of the tools are free, which is game changing. Also, we will shortly discuss how we can make online repositories of recorded lessons that are private so teachers and school leaders can view throughout the year without compromising student privacy.
Lesson Observation in Distance and Blended Learning Settings
For online learning, there are a multitude of different ways to observe a synchronous and asynchronous lessons. There are three ways this can take place. First, there is an option of attending a live synchronous lesson as a student or observer. Second, the observer can view student activity on an application like ClassRelay or Blocksi, in addition to, being an observer in the synchronous class. Third, an observer can review a recorded synchronous class session from either the students interface, teachers interface, or both. Each form of observation provides the observer with several different perspectives of how the lesson is going, student engagement/participation, and the effectiveness of the integration of edtech tools and instructional strategies has on student learning.
Live Synchronous Sessions
Entering a Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams and observing a live synchronous class is one option for teachers and school leaders wanting to observe an online class. In this first scenario the observer plays the role as a student and participates as much as they can in the lesson. If there are interactive edtech tools, the observer, if possible, should try and engage in the lesson to see how the teacher utilizes instructional strategies while observing how students interact with each other and the edtech during the lesson.
Another methodology of observing an online synchronous class session is observing as a non-participant in the learning. Ensure the teacher is sharing their screen so that you can observe what tools they are utilizing during the lesson. Observe the student video visuals (if applicable), the chat box conversation, and breakout room conversations utilized in the lesson for student conversation. Observers can also see how the teacher interacts with students during direct instruction, modeling, and how they facilitate collaborative conversations (teacher vs. student and student vs. student).
Observing Two Interfaces for a Live Synchronous Session
The third method of observing a live synchronous class is through a recording of the teacher’s interface, the students interface, or both. Having one or both interfaces recorded can show the observer how the teacher is managing their interface to create an engaging lesson for their students. On the other hand, if the opportunity presents itself to record a students screen (which could be the observer participating in the lesson), then there could be the ability to see what teacher actions are leading to student engagement and learning opportunities. Thus, when providing feedback to the teacher, the observer can see from the teacher’s and student’s perspective in relation to the technology interfaces they are using for the lesson. Feedback can be given regarding their lesson design, tool use, opportunities to engage students in learning, real-time feedback, and monitoring and adjusting the lesson based on student data.
The last method is to observe a teacher in a blended in-person synchronous class session, but also have the teacher record their screen. Therefore, we can see instruction not only in-person, but also digitally, which can be viewed later after the lesson. Or, the observer can log into the edtech tools being utilized for the lesson and participate as a student while observing the in-person non-virtual instruction while also observing the edtech integration with instructional strategies take place. As a result, we have the opportunity to see instruction and student engagement take place in-person and digitally simultaneously. We can provide feedback for their in-person instruction, use of digital interfaces, integration of instructional strategies with edtech, classroom climate, and assessing student engagement during the lesson with the edtech being used.
Tools to Use for Lesson Observations in Online and Blended Learning Settings
SIBME + Huddle
SIBME is a coaching application where a user records or uploads a live recording to a collaborative Huddle where the observee and observe interact. Inside the Huddle, the observer can comment on the video recorded or uploaded by the observee. They can comment via text or voice throughout the video so that the observee can review their feedback and coaching. The observee can also provide feedback on the video and respond to the comments provided by the observer, which gives each the opportunity for dialogue back and forth regarding the lesson.
SIBME is a great tool because of its ease of use. All one must do is open up the application a web browser, log in, and either record a lesson or provide feedback on one stored within a Huddle. Within two to three minutes, videos can be created, uploaded, and feedback can be given. Although, the major draw back that it is not free. However, our second option of Loom/Edpuzzle is free, which is a game-changer for conducting observations and providing feedback.
How to Use SIBME
With the combination of Edpuzzle and Loom, schools and districts can use two free tools to as a means to providing teacher feedback and using both as a coaching platform. There are a number of steps that need to be done to make this happen. First, a private YouTube or Edpuzzle lesson observation page for the school or district needs to be created. Videos that are created on Loom can be uploaded to directly to Edpuzzle itself, which then can be edited by Edpuzzle editing and commenting features. Loom essentially allows teachers to screen cast their screen for free for up to 45 minutes. Then, it can be downloaded and then uploaded to Edpuzzle.
As a result of integrating Loom and Edpuzzle, teachers, school leaders, and district leaders can create, observe, provide feedback, and assess teacher understanding. This can help facilitate coaching, mentoring, professional learning, and also act as a repository for teachers and school leaders to observe lessons.
How to Use Loom
How to Use Edpuzzle
Private YouTube Channel and Wakelet Collections
Besides using tools like SIBME, Loom, and Edpuzzle, we can also use YouTube and Wakelet Collections as mechanisms to create private channels teachers and school leaders can view lessons. On Edpuzzle, schools and districts can create repositories of videos that have been uploaded and edited. However, for lessons to be categorized and accessible to a broader audience within the school, creating a private YouTube and Wakelet Collection can be a solution. Videos can be uploaded to a private YouTube and then hyperlinked to private collaborative Wakelet Collection where other important professional development information can be placed. Therefore, over time, large repositories of lessons selected by teachers and school leaders can be always available to view. Ultimately, this can help with coaching, mentoring, and providing teachers an opportunity to observe their colleagues.
We now have more tools than ever before to help facilitate providing teacher feedback relating to their instruction. These tools can be collaborative in nature, which can help with teachers developing individual self-efficacy to improve their practice. Additionally, it will help school and teacher leaders build repositories of best practice lessons for their colleagues to review throughout the year. This can help build collective self-efficacy over time as teachers will be able to observe, refine their instruction, seek feedback, and reflect. As a result, instruction will likely improve. Also, two of the major tools to do this are free for use, which is game-changing. Ultimately, we want continuous feedback and coaching to amplify and improve our instruction. Regardless of our classroom setting, it is now doable. Additionally, we can see the various interfaces teachers and students view and interact with, which can now be reviewed and assessed to improve instruction.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning.