In part 3 of this 4-part interview series for the professional development blog PLTogether, Edthena founder Adam Geller interviews San Diego State University professor and education expert Doug Fisher about the importance of using video for teacher professional learning.
Here is the transcript of that interview:
– welcome to PLtogether Lounge Talks. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena. The video observation that empowers teachers to be drivers of their own professional learning. Today, we’re talking with Doug Fisher. He is a literacy and leadership scholar. He’s also a college professor and classroom teacher, who has 22,000, Twitter followers. That might make him an inf, almost an influencer or a full-blown influencer. I don’t know what label you want. But you can go follow him on Twitter, DFisherSDSU we’ll point people to it. Doug, Thanks so much for joining us.
– Of course. Good to see you.
– So, I’m curious to talk about professional learning a little bit with you. Because of course there’s a lot of changes happening. There’s a lot of adjusting. There’s a lot of, you know, we’re we’re kind of stuck in this mode of talking about, we were this and now we’re this, but okay, here we are. How do we know if we’re doing the right thing? You know, that feels like a constant question we should be asking in education. We shouldn’t put it aside as part of the pandemic and our response to new ways of teaching. So I guess maybe let’s start by confirming. Should we still be prioritizing professional learning as educators?
– I would say more than ever before. We have so much to learn and we are learning so much. It’s amazing how much I have learned since March 13th. It’s incredible. And I hope everybody else is feeling this. And I know there are some times that learning makes us uncomfortable because change is uncomfortable. And I don’t want this. I never wanted this. Distance learning is hard. But, it’s also an opportunity to learn.
– So, you know, I think there may be, you know, let’s put a positive spin on it. How has professional learning become easier for teachers? I mean, sure we still have a lot going on. Everything’s crazy. Everything’s hectic. But is it possible to say, that professional learning is actually easier now than it was, you know, prior to March 13th as you said?
– Yeah. I think all of us, you know, book clubs are super easy now. We just log in for an hour, lunch break or after school or whatever. We can have a book club and we can talk to people all over the world. That would not have happened. Most of us did not have, you know video conferencing capability at our fingertips on March 12th. Most of us didn’t. We can have a book club. We can sign up for something with no travel. Pop in for a couple hours, learn a few things, try them out the next day. There are lots of opportunities to learn and grow. As we’re experimenting and learning as a field. How to do this well. So I think professional learning, we should all be engaged in professional learning. It helps us calm down too. When we build our own confidence, we feel better about our lessons, we feel better about our students’ responses to those lessons. So I’d like to talk for just a second about teacher agency. I believe by and large, teacher agency has decreased. Agency is your belief that when you put forth effort, work, good things happen. And buy-in before, teachers would say, I taught this lesson, they learned it, proud a, a new SEL lesson. And boy, it was cool. Now the narrative is all the things that are not working. And so our agency is decreasing. So we have to get to the place where we see some benefits from the things we try. Because if our agency keeps dropping, we burn out. And we end up leaving this profession. But we need teachers. Though kids need teachers. We can’t let people burn out. So professional learning is that investment in a skillset so that you can say, I had an impact on a learner today.
– So, I mean, maybe let’s take the, the dotted line walk between we have a lot more video conferencing tools, we’re struggling to kind of find the ways that we are having impact and having successes. I mean, how does, you know, the var, in all varieties of it, the pandemic style teaching that happens to have a lot of video. I mean, how’s that making it easier for teachers to understand how they’re doing?
– Well, just take a simple example. This idea of micro-teaching has been in the research for a really long time. And it’s a strange term, but all it means is, the teacher selects a short video clip and they share it with a colleague. And they talk about the moves, and which of those moves impacted learning. And there are, you know, discussion questions. It’s not an evaluation, it’s not even feedback. It’s what did we learn from this tiny clip? So five minutes or whatever of a clip. Most of us were not comfortable grabbing video clips. It’s a heavy lift March 12th to actually say, okay I will set up my iPad, iPhone, camera, whatever. And I will collect some video and I will bring it to my next conversation with my team. It was hard. Some people did it. Now, everybody does it. Everybody’s on video now. Everybody can grab five minutes of a class synchronous or asynchronous and talk about it. And when you have these peer conversations and you say, Oh I hadn’t thought of that. I’m gonna to do that. I watched a teacher, just recently, who said to her students, “Okay, camera’s on in three, two, one. I don’t need to see your faces. I need to see your work.” They all did it. They did it. And I said, “Well, that was easy.” Why didn’t I do that? Why don’t I begging kids turn the cameras on? Why don’t I make it like I expect it? It’s normal. Camera’s on in three, two, one, show me your work. That’s the power of these short video conversations where we look inside a classroom and we see what our colleagues are doing.
– It’s funny. I, I think what I’m connecting it to in this, you know explanation you just gave is, oftentimes the first pass of explaining the value of looking at teaching on video, does a kind of sent around for folks, you know, pedagogical moves. Right? And so we think about, I mean the one that I always go to is, okay, well you’re gonna watch this video and you’re gonna look for Chuck’s for understanding, right. You know, it’s a specific content divorced, pedagogical move. And, I think your example here, has that same quality, right? It has that purity of, it, it, it doesn’t have to be a complex you know, content, deeply, you know, like rough and big bite to bite off right at the go like, wow I mean, that example you gave of watching the other teacher, give the instructions and set the expectations to coincidentally check for understanding, it’s powerful, right? And just being able to learn from that and talk about the actual teaching and then make changes based on the actual teaching. And of course, I mean, the scholarship supports this type of learning, like actually looking at teacher practice, in order to get better. And that’s the way that’s gonna sustain changes for teachers, right?
– Yep. And I can tell you when people share those little clips and they start getting the reaction and comments and oh my gosh, I hadn’t thought of that, it’s very fulfilling for the person who shares the video clip. It feels awesome. And that’s what we need to build. We need to build that sense that, we’re doing things that matter. We are teaching in a pandemic. It may not be ideal. But we are still making a difference.
– I like that. I like that. It’s really focusing on what’s going right. You know, like you said restoring that agency, even initiating this kind of reflective conversation for the purpose of, affirming where people are having successes. So you can scale and replicate those across your, your learning community. And I, I wanna connect it to something you said at the beginning around the ease of professional learning, because you, you kind of said, it’s easier than ever to connect. And you described the connection as this vast global network, but in some ways, it may be easier to connect with your colleagues to actually show them what’s happening within your learning environment, to see what’s happening in their learning environment because you’re already using the tools just hit record right?
– Exactly. And schedule a little time with a couple of people and use protocols that are out there. Have a great conversation. There’s no perfect lesson. I’ve never taught a perfect lesson. But, I’m learning from colleagues. And I hope they’re learning from me. That’s why we do that.
– Well Doug, we need to take a short break, if you’re just joining us and wondering what we’ve talked about before this segment or what we’re gonna talk about next, head over to PLtogether.org, for this conversation as well as many others. Doug, thanks so much for being part of PLtogether.
– Yeah, of course. Thank you.