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#HamstraHighlights

Microteaching for Macrolearning

I just got out of another district training and I can’t wait to share this one thing from our study today. While diving deeper into the PLC+ Model, we explored this concept of Microteaching:

“We believe that the day is coming in which microteaching, using clips of video to discuss the learning experiences with a colleague, will be commonplace (Shaw, 2017)” (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 110).

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Blogger’s Note: The rest of my post comes from my own practitioner reflections over the years and was not necessarily shared, discussed, or referenced in my aforementioned district training. End Blogger’s Note.

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For years, educators have requested opportunities to observe each other’s classrooms. In many cases, outright begging may or may not have occurred. Seeing each other in action has a ton of value.

In order to move learning forward, educators need each other. It’s not just a gentle plea, an interesting observation, or something we researched in a book study together. Rather, I would argue that:

The quality of our student learning ultimately depends on the quality of our professional collaboration.  

It’s interesting that there are literally thousands of educators teaching and learning the exact same things, yet we seldom get a chance to see fellow educators in action, or even to share better practices for teaching and learning those exact same standards.

These other scenarios are really interesting, too. While we rarely get to observe fellow teachers in action, we still make professional judgments about each other. It might be challenging to give and receive specific, differentiated, and meaningful feedback, for example, if we haven’t actually been in the spaces to live the experience first-hand.

Yet, we still:

  • Tell others how to improve their classroom management
  • Mandate or strongly recommend instructional strategies for others
  • Use one observation to judge the full body of work
  • Hype infrequent observations as gold standard benchmarks
  • Create next year’s classes for teachers we’ve never observed
  • Promise to mentor beginning teachers effectively
  • Pledge allegiance to the same mission, vision, and approach
  • Believe what we hear about other educators we haven’t observed
  • Vote for Teacher of the Year
  • Claim congruence in better practices with:
    • Teachers down the hall
    • Team teachers
    • PLC members
  • View teacher observations as:
    • Destinations rather than journeys
    •  Events rather than processes
    • Performance grades rather than feedback opportunities
    • Boxes to check rather than opportunities to become better

It makes me wonder…

How Well Do We Really Know:

  • How others in our own hallways and buildings teach and learn in their classrooms?
  • The quality of learning experiences throughout the school?
  • Each other as professionals?
  • How to collaborate effectively with people we don’t really know?

Sure, many have invested in efforts like Pineapple Charts, #ObserveMe, and even sharing news, best practices, and resources through common school, class, and standards-based hashtags. And those are great ideas that increase visibility, communication, and positivity.

It’s just that, most of the time, teachers observing other teachers never happens.

Let’s face it. It’s not always realistic. With limited resources in our existing structures, here are some reasons why educators may never get the opportunity to observe each other:

  • There’s no room in the schedule.
  • Our class times do or don’t overlap.
  • There’s no one to cover your class while you observe another.
  • No time to take a personal day, make sub plans, and hire a sub.
  • Others are not comfortable with visitors in their spaces.
  • That’s not the way we’ve always done it.

Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to the system. We accept that we have limitations that appear unshakable. We adhere to mandated schedules. We succumb to those four walls, our comfortable traditions, and outright isolation from fellow educators for hours at a time.

But what if it doesn’t have to be that way?

I’m wondering just how much…

The quality of our professional learning ultimately depends on the quality of our professional collaboration. 

What if we could get a glimpse into each other’s classrooms without ever leaving our own?

What if we could leverage simple technologies to help?

Video is powerful.

That Was Then

I’m recalling my early teaching days when recording myself was a really big deal, not to mention nerve-racking and awkward. It required me to:

  • Check out a VHS tape and a tripod video camera (larger than my torso).
  • Set it up in the back of the room.
  • Encourage students to be on their best behavior.
  • Start recording. Put on a dog-and-pony show with students. Stop recording.
  • Analyze myself, by myself, and share my reflection with my mentor.
  • Pray that whomever else watches the video (offline) has a huge heart capable of extending massive amounts of grace, empathy, and forgiveness.

This Is Now

While microteaching itself may not be new, it may be more feasible and potentially more meaningful than ever. The concept of microteaching is simple, as I paraphrase it here:

  1. Record a short (five minute) video from your learning space.
  2. Watch your video at a PLC meeting.
  3. Analyze the video together.
  4. Request feedback from fellow PLC members.
  5. Spark ongoing conversation to move the learning forward.

Can you imagine if we really did this?

Sure, it may require deeper amounts of:

  • Collective efficacy
  • Individual vulnerability
  • Collegial trust strong enough to give and receive feedback
  • Technology integration
  • Digital citizenship

Yet with so much potential to learn and grow, it’d be worth it, right?

Potential Implications

What if:

  • PLC members authentically recorded, shared, analyzed, and gave feedback on one microteaching video every two weeks (every other meeting)?
  • Your PLC video could double as a professional portfolio artifact?
  • The whole school warehoused all microteaching resources in one place?
  • These PLCs shared their videos, analyses, and feedback with each other?
    • Grade levels in the same school
    • Elementary, middle, high
    • Schools in the same district
    • Districts in the same state
    • Interdepartmental and intradepartmental
  • In the future, we started sharing microteaching materials as if pandemic conditions depended on it?
  • In the future, we were proactive and intentional to build a digital library like this, safely, legally, and while physically distant, together?

Prediction: This will happen in the next 2-4 years.

I’m wondering just how much…

The quality of our microteaching will ultimately depend on the quality of our macrolearning and collaboration.

What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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