In part 2 of this 4-part PLtogether Lounge Talk with Zaretta Hammond, Zaretta talks about how teachers support students’ cognitive development. She also calls out video observation as an effective tool and critical friend in service of teaching for equity.

– Welcome to another PLtogether Lounge Talk, I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform for teacher self-reflection and peer collaboration. Today, we’re talking with Zaretta Hammond about culturally responsive teaching. She is the author of the book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, and she’s also a speaker as well as professional developer herself who spends a lot of time in the field with educators doing this work. Zaretta thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you for having me.

– So let’s maybe talk a little bit about, for lack of a better word, doing the work, if you’re an educator, and I think that is in the zone of learning how to examine what is happening inside of our classrooms. And so I think knowing a little bit about your work, the place that we start is by examining what our students are doing inside of our classrooms, right?

– Yeah, I think it’s a combination. And so one of the things that I say, particularly when we’re talking about being culturally responsive educators is, we have to learn to be the personal trainer of students’ cognitive development, cognitive mediators, looking at the content, being able to translate it in a way that helps students leverage and and understand it, by using their background knowledge and their schema, right? Dr. Richard Elmore talked about that instructional core, the teacher, the student, and the content, always being in a dynamic dance. So when we look in the classroom that dance, goes pretty fast. So we need tools to pause ourselves and step back, because in our mind we are you know, oh, I did that, I’m letting my kids talk. You know, we have these practices, but when we step back and use something like video, audio clips, low inference transcripts, when we do those things we get a better snapshot of what’s really happening in our class. And it’s when we understand what’s going on, that we actually can make the changes, the small tweaks, the big shifts, that are really necessary to move students toward that place where they’re being the leaders of their own learning. Not because they’re being compliant, but because they’re having their own aha moments, and so it’s an interaction, right? It’s a dance. And so we wanna see at any point, how each dancer is executing their moves. And this is why when I’m working with educators, we always have a collaborative inquiry component. And as part of that collaborative inquiry component, we are videotaping, we are doing peer observations, where someone is just gonna kind of script what’s happening, who’s talking, who gets to talk when, so that we get a real understanding, if indeed we’re moving toward the kind of conditions that help students build that capacity, so they can carry more of the cognitive load, because that instructional piece is really, really important, particularly if we wanna accelerate learning, we have to get kids into productive struggle. And again, sometimes we are so in it as teachers, because you know things going fast and furious in a classroom our own instructional decision making, requires us to step back at times, and particularly when this kind of stuff is new, right? Trying to do it in a way that doesn’t fall into, simple social justice or over you know, emphasizing multicultural education, right? Because the diversity and inclusion is important but that’s social, social justice is important, but that’s just kind of talking to think about issues, but that doesn’t help the student learn how to learn more effectively. So being able to use these techniques so that you know yourself as an instructor, right, s the personal trainer of that students’ cognition, becomes really critical.

– One of the things as someone who works a lot with video myself, that I think can be so powerful is, you know the video is this neutral observer, right? The video isn’t expressing an opinion, the video isn’t distorting memory, it is, you know, that mirror on what really happened, and, you know, I guess I would anticipate in a lot of the kind of work that you’re doing, like helping teachers confront that gap between what they believe is happening, and what is really happening, as evidenced by the interaction between them and the students, and what’s, you’re hearing back from students. Like that potentially feels like a big place for a lot of value to be created, and kind of this area of of kind of enhancing what’s happening in classrooms.

– Absolutely and it’s a twofold thing, right? First you have to internalize an understanding of what should be happening, so that when you look at the video, you can do your own gap analysis. And so let’s take for example, talking, we know, you know too often teachers are talking, the majority of the time, and we know that is one of those things we want and need to shift that, whoever’s doing the talking, is doing the learning, and we want kids to do more of that. So if we’re videotaping to actually track who’s doing the majority of the talking, then we can check to see if our own sense, of how much we’re talking is, you know in line with what’s happening. And I have done this with teachers, and over the years and there’s always a moment in which you’re like, why don’t I shut up? We haven’t like, hmm, did I go on that long? ‘Cause in our own mind, it never seems that way, right? So again, this now gives us the tools, the powerful tools to move closer to being that equity focused educator, that oh now I’m gonna actually start to shift, how to do that. So I’m actually gonna pay attention in a way, that I can actually change the dynamics. And maybe that’s, I put a timer on my phone, like I will not talk more than six minutes before I give it back to the students, or I’ll look at where I know they have a stretch of time, and we’ve put in talk structures like protocols, or other processes and you can even videotape those. What are the students talking about in those, you know protocols? So that you can start to see, is the quality of their interaction, their ability to use academic language, or their ability to really engage with complex ideas, evolving so that now you can know where adjustments are necessary. So it’s so important to be able to step back, and have the tools to step back, because that video will, you know it will be your critical friend, and tell you the truth, in ways that our brains selectively won’t all the time.

– That’s right, that’s right. I did the same when I review the videos of my interviews and think, why was my question so long? You mentioned something else that’s I feel like video might be really powerful for which is kind of identifying productive struggle as you called it. It really brought back to mind a kind of teacher education contexts, you know that I had been told about where on a video, a teacher educator, Deborah Ball I should name her, give her credit for this story. She was talking about how, you know, two different teachers one said oh yeah, the students all knew it, the dividing fractions, and the other one’s like, I don’t think the students got it at all. And it turned out that in the second case the video revealed that productive struggle to use your phrase there. So, you know is that like, this is a hunch that I’m getting from what you’re telling, like is that, should we be looking for those moments? Can we start to learn to say like, oh yeah like when I felt a discomfort or uncomfortable as the teacher, cause it didn’t feel like it was going well actually that was, you know, productive struggle?

– There are a variety of things we can videotape, that is one of them, right? Students interaction and how you’re coaching students, so there are different parts of that, right? So there’s the productive struggle where you’ve set it up, and now you’ve released it to the students, and you’re videotaping their ability to actually engage in this in a way that they don’t fall back into patterns of compliance, looking to you, you know expecting to you to come in and kind of rescue them, or move them to the next stage. So you can actually see those behaviors and how do you move them away from the compliance oriented behaviors, because here’s the rub, even though you might set things up to be more rigorous, and so that they engage in these conversations, the older students are, and the more they have been underperforming academically, you know, they’re in the lower in end of that learning, then the more they have gotten used to, or habituated to over scaffolding. So part of what we need to be able to do is to understand where do we release students and release that scaffold, and we can’t do that until we build their capacity. So being able to have that video, that allows you to look at it, and start to see that is struggle destructive, meaning kids are just in confusion or is it productive? Now here’s the thing to say, you have to teach students how to engage in struggle productively. So it’s not like just turn it on, you know videotape it, right? That’s just chaos, that when I’m working with educators to be more culturally responsive, one of the techniques we actually do is to learn how to set students up to engage in productive struggle, protocols, cognitive tools, routines, so that when the teacher’s facilitating releases them in there, she’s coaching them to engage with complex ideas beyond discussion, right? This is the way you can be making things, taking things apart, I mean, there are a variety of ways to do that, making art but you’re still thinking in this way. So video is really good for actually having that, and you can look at it for yourself, understanding what you’re feeling, like it felt like chaos, it felt like I was losing control, I hear teachers saying that a lot. So the video does two things for us, it allows you to desensitize yourself to this feels chaotic, when it’s actually productive, this is actually what I’m looking for. And it allows even if you share it with students for them to see how you guys engaged in that, because there is a point at which instructional conversation helping students see themselves in that becomes powerful. So all video doesn’t have to just be for the teacher, it can actually be for students to be stepping back. Just like a football players, and baseball players look at their game tape. Why are we getting kids to look at their game tape, right? So when I conference and did a writing it was a composition teacher, we’d always have to stop and step back, let’s look at this essay, you know, what’s going right in it? What’s going wrong with it? How are you gonna change this thing based on you know, what we learned before? That’s called being metastrategic, not just metacognitive, but literally what new strategy or move will I employ to actually change this and get better. So video really gives us the opportunity to say, okay how will I improve getting kids to engage in productive struggle, if I can’t see how they’re currently doing it. Just like football players, how do I actually improve, making sure the team is gaining yards? I’m not a football person. So I don’t know if I’m even saying that right, but the idea that that reflective part is important in terms of doing that. Here’s the last thing I’ll say about it, probably not the last thing, but I’ll say this Paulo Freire talks about practice, right? Conceptual understanding, that leads and guides informed action, that is supported by critical analysis and reflection. So I always like to think of video as being part of practice, which, you know in a social justice context, is really what a lot of people are talking about. But if you don’t have that reflection, then you can’t be informing your actions in a way that’s moving students toward liberatory education. So I feel like video and those sorts of resources where we really can get a snapshot to make sure that we’re not reproducing the kinds of inequity and the kinds of instructional moves that lead to deceleration. You know, video there is no more powerful tool that we could be using in the service of equity.

– The light bulb went off for me here with the idea that if teachers are using video to find, you know we were asking about the productive struggle, right? To become in a way convinced that yes that struggle was productive, that then they could use that same video to convince the students that feeling that they had yesterday or last week, no, that was the right feeling. That was a really, that was a new one for me, and thinking about how video can be useful for advancing teacher practice. So thank you for that. Zaretta we’re gonna take a quick break, more to share I’m sure, but if you’re finding this video, somewhere out there shared on a blog, on social media, in an email from your colleague down the hall, make sure to head to PLtogether.org for the rest of this conversation, as well as many others. Zaretta thanks so much for joining us to be part of PLtogether.

– Thank you for having me.

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