At the heart of this toolkit is a particular way of working with video that avoids judgment and pushes discussion into a space where teachers can learn.
The video clip to be watched should be 3-4 minutes in duration and continuous. We leave it to the teachers in the club to choose what section of their lesson they want to share. We are also happy to engage in a discussion about what clip to show, if any teacher wants.
The teacher may need to give some context to the clip. This should be as factual as possible. It may be that you can get participants working themselves on the mathematical task that students are doing, before watching the video.
The facilitator then insists on two distinct phases of work with video, a ‘reconstruction’ phase and an ‘analysis’ phase. The discussion norms are quite different in each phase, as will hopefully be clear from the videos and text on these pages.
The reconstruction phase of working with video may last 20 or more minutes, with a 3-4 minute clip. We begin by setting up that we will be watching the clip through. For the very first meeting, we choose a clip from a video that is freely available online (e.g., from www.videomosaic.org), i.e., not one of the participants teaching.
In this clip, before Alf says anything, a participant begins with what we would see as an interpretation, which Alf interrupts. The first comment of a discussion can have a powerful effect on the kinds of things said next, so it was particularly important to establish a discussion norm at this point (and actually very useful to have the opportunity to do this).
The key to the way of working is that the first task is for participants to try to reconstruct what happened, starting at the beginning. There may be a need to slow down discussion, to focus on the chronology of events and to explore differences in what was seen and heard.
Looking back at this clip it would also have been possible, as facilitator, to comment about the contribution suggesting the teacher acts to facilitate discussion. This contribution would be seen as an interpretation. Instead, as facilitator, Alf chose to focus the group back into the detail of events without comment. There are subtle distinctions and decisions to be made as a facilitator and it is impossible to know the effect of a different decision! Staying with the detail of what we experience is hard and may be uncomfortable for participants. As facilitator, you may need to cut some contributions short if they stray into interpretation.
Particularly in early meetings, highlighting what is an interpretation and re-focusing the group on the detail may need to happen several times.
There will almost inevitably be disagreement about what was said and when; this is one of the things we look out for, as facilitators, as it can later lead to a motivation to re-watch and also implies how difficult it is to hear what is said in a classroom.
At some point, a decision needs to be made to re-watch the video. There is a delicate balance here. Continue too long without re-watching and the task turns into one of memory, which is not really the point. Re-watch too early and participants may not experience the difficulty and ambiguity involved in trying to reconstruct events. Re-watching with some questions in mind to resolve is ideal.
After a re-watching, it may well be that more questions emerge. At some point, we recognise taking the opportunity to make a comment to the group about how much this process reveals that we do NOT notice! Alf makes this kind of comment at the end of this clip.
There may be a need to re-watch small sections several times. The clip below has the discussion just after the second re-watching where the group now agree they did not hear a teacher’s voice at the start (earlier in the discussion, all but one participant said they had heard the teacher).
Once one issue has been dealt with in detail (for example, in the clips above, what was said at the start of the video) it is probably time to move to the next phase of the way of working. It would take too long to deal with all 3-4 minutes in the same intense manner.
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