Edthena Founder CEO Adam Geller speaks with author and Hunter College faculty member Laura Baecher for part 4 of a PLTogether Lounge Talk. In the conversation, Laura highlights how significant it is for educators to develop a clear and professional vision of their classroom.

 

Here is a transcript of their conversation.

– Welcome to PLtogether, this is another Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform. And today we’re talking with a video learning expert, it’s Laura Becker, she is a professor at Hunter College in New York city, and also the author of a book about using video within teacher learning. Laura, thanks so much for joining us to continue the conversation.

– Thank you.

– So I wanna move forward in your book and you talk about the idea of deepening teacher professional vision. And, you know, I’m curious of course to get the high level on, you know, what is a professional vision? What would you mean by that? But, you know, I’m a sucker for, for silly puns, like if we’re talking about vision here, do teachers need a new prescription, given all this distance learning and distance teaching that we’re adapting to?

– Well, the term professional vision comes from wonderful research by Sherin and van Es, and they’ve written a lot on video, especially in the context of math education. And the idea’s really that if I am looking at teaching in my classroom and you’re looking at teaching your classroom, and I’ve got many, many, many classrooms down the hallways, or now with the byways of the internet happening all at the same time, and as a school leader, there are certain practices I really want everyone to embrace in my community. The only way for me to do that is to help all the educators kind of create a situation where they can come together and begin to see more similarly to each other. So if I do and only through talk, if I just talk about let’s say inclusive practices in a classroom, I can read about it, I can give my teachers articles about it, but what does it really look like? I want to see it. And video is very powerful for supporting and creating that shared idea about practice. And it could be something that is more of an ethos or a value like inclusivity, or it could be something that’s much more specific, let’s say there’s a new literacy program that’s being introduced into the building, and I really want to have certain practices enacted across the curriculum. So one of the things that I find interesting is that even though video has been and is so readily available, it’s very seldom used or not used enough in professional development experiences for teachers. So they do hear a lot of talk, they get a lot of handouts, they get a lot of readings, but they don’t get to actually see each other’s classrooms, and how we’re all working towards, in very different ways, maybe at different subject areas and grade levels and personal styles, but often towards the same ends. So once I can create that shared vision that I’m seeing, it’s not that I’m paper copying you, I’m not carbon copying other people, it’s more of that I see some of these practices through the same terminology, the same understandings as colleagues. And in terms of moving online, we were talking before about how a lot of the practices that we value or embrace in face to face classrooms are the same ones that we’re embracing online. So if we want to make sure that we have inclusivity, what does inclusivity look like in the online classroom? What happens when a lot of students don’t turn their cameras on? Does that mean they’re self excluding? How do I draw them in? Do I need to have their camera on? Is it intrusive to do that? So I can start to foster some new kind of conversations as we rejoin each other and discuss some of the ways, the practices that we value can look once we’re moved online.

– You kind of created two categories there of defining that professional vision. You know, one was I think the ones that we often think about, which is what does the instruction look like, do we have that shared understanding? But there’s that other category, which I feel like even brings it into starker contrast that maybe it’s still the same things, which is the values and the ethos, you know, like you said, inclusivity, if we wanted inclusivity to be a priority before, we probably still want that now, we just need to develop a new understanding of what does that look like in this current context. One of the, the VATs, video analysis of teaching activities, trying not to substitute my own language for that, ’cause that’s the language that you’ve got in your book. So one of the VATs you suggest is the idea of lesson study, and so I think folks are familiar potentially with the lesson study model as an idea, but what does that mean suddenly when you introduce video into the

– The idea, just really briefly, of lesson study, it’s, of course comes from Japan, and it was used a lot in math classrooms. And the idea is that we’re teaching the same lesson, but to our own separate classes and we co-plan, and we sit together, we talk about what we’re going to do in that lesson, we create a plan that’s the same, basically, for both of our classes, we go off and teach it and we come back and share how it went. And we might refine that lesson and keep it, you know, for next year. The process of the teacher to teacher talking through the planning is really powerful for that. And adding video is a really useful element because it’s often very hard, let’s say you and I co-plan that lesson, for me to actually be free at the same time that you’re actually teaching it and go and watch it and be released from my classroom, almost impossible, so I never really get to see you do that lesson. So with video, we could both record it and then we could come together and look at some of the aspects of the lesson, and we’re generally amazed at how different they are, even though we taught this from the same lesson plan, because there’s that group dynamic, there’s us, who we are, we teach who we are, we bring ourselves into the situation, and we get nuances that we didn’t even realize we did and we can learn from each other, because we have that common base of the same plan, it’s really easy then to just look at instructional techniques. And linking that to what we were just talking about in terms of shared vision, what I co-planned with another teacher, that is a real, coming up against that boundary of our different professional visions, and that’s why there’s a lot of conflict often in co-planning, because we’ve never had a chance to really unpack those. But as we co-plan next to each other, we sense what each other values, what’re our priorities, what are our styles. And so with the virtual situation, it could be done exactly in the same way, you know, you and I are both going to teach maybe some kind of intro to paragraph writing, we brainstorm, we say, we hate the hamburger, we’re not doing the hamburger. we’re going to do a different technique to teach paragraph structure, you try it, you try it, let’s video it. We can just hit record in our Zoom session or Google Meet and then we can actually watch a little bit of each others. And it’s a trust-building exercise because the co-planning is a certain amount of, I’m revealing my thinking to you and I have to listen to what you say, take some of your input and you have to be willing to take my feedback, but now to actually watch each other, teachers feel very, we feel very vulnerable when we watch teaching, while having, especially a peer, watch us teach. But we’re in it together and we can choose what parts we want to share, so we might decide, hey, let’s just share a part that we didn’t think went so well and let’s watch each other’s, you know, and maybe we’ll feel really uplifted afterwards, cause we’ll go through a lot of things that were very effective that were going on. So it’s a very tangible teacher to teacher, teacher-driven type of activity where you could easily bring that into distance learning, and obviously the video adds a lot of richness to it.

– And in some ways, you know, that tension that you’re describing that existed before it kind of, you know, maybe someone walks in the room wanting to in some ways defend or justify the way they have done it before. And maybe there’s a new opportunity now that the context has changed, you know, the educators in the room can all just say, hey, we’re going to try this for the first time, hey, we’re going to lead a, you know, group discussion in this way for the first time, we’re going, whatever it might be, there’s a lot of first times here where really this idea of co-planning, yes, it could be driving the lesson study, but it could also just be like, wow, there’s a lot of big problems to solve, let’s just work on them together, and it gives teachers a structure for doing that.

– Absolutely. And if I could just add on in terms of the English as a second language or English as a new language teacher, who’s often in a co-teaching situation and there can be a lot of stress in that relationship because the classroom teacher may be very focused on the content that they want to have brought out and may feel that, that you know, that the ESL or the ENL teacher is there just to kind of serve just the ESL students, et cetera. And there’s a case recently of, cause I work with English as a second language teachers, where, because as you said, everything’s been shifted, so where the dynamic before was, well, you know, I’m a social studies teacher and you’re the ESL teacher, so, therefore, you have to kind of listen to what I have to say, or I’ve been teaching 20 years, you’ve only been teaching five years, so we had a lot of those kinds of dynamics at schools. Well, the teacher who was only teaching five years is like an expert on Google Classroom, can run circles around Google Classroom, knows millions of apps and techniques, so now the social studies teacher is like, ooh, so the playing field now has shifted. And that social studies teacher is like, okay, I’ll let you teach, I’ll let you lead teach this, which they wouldn’t have normally done in the face to face classroom, and they’re actually really eager to learn from this ESL teacher. So it’s really interesting how this is obviously extremely disruptive and very challenging for all of us moving to distance teaching, and yet it can create some new opportunities for those kinds of lesson study or lesson planning interactions.

– Well, Laura, we will talk more about ESL teachers in just a moment, but we’re going to take a break here. If you’re listening to this or watching it somewhere on the internet and you want to hear and watch more, then head to PLtogether.org, we’ve got the rest of our conversation with Laura, as well as conversations with other education experts. Laura, thanks so much for joining us and we’ll be back in just a moment.

– All right.

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