Practicum Supervision From a Distance in Online Teacher Education
When the University of Kansas Department of Special Education decided to offer an online master's in high incidence disabilities,* we had to discover how to perform practicum supervision from a distance.
We started with the idea of video, because the power of video as a means of examining teaching and improving teacher education was becoming more widely accepted. In an extensive review of the literature, Gaudin and Chaliès describe the reasons why educators are utilizing video more in teacher education and professional development:1 1) teachers' reaction as they view a classroom video, 2) objectives of video viewing, 3) the nature of classroom videos viewed and 4) the effects of video viewing. This reasoning is consistent with additional literature that describes improving teacher practice through video recording and constructive feedback.2 3 4
Next, we recognized the practice of virtual coaching. According to Atul Gawande, "Everyone needs a coach."5
Finally, we acknowledged the value of reflection in the process of professional growth. In the practicum courses, we unleash the power of video, coaching, and reflection to inspire professional growth as teachers demonstrate the required competencies for licensure and also build capacity as professional leaders.
Most teachers have no idea what it looks like when they teach until they see themselves on video. Our idea of what happened during a lesson can differ greatly from what we witness on a video. Video becomes the means for getting a clear picture of reality, reflecting on teaching practices and developing intentions for improving teaching behaviors.
In traditional practicum supervision, the observer writes notes about what they see happening in the classroom, and then they discuss the observation with the teacher. The teacher must trust the observer to provide an accurate account of what occurred during the lesson. Video is a powerful tool for professional learning because it gives the teacher the ability to observe themselves doing the work of teaching. With online practicum supervision, the video itself becomes the shared topic of conversation between the teacher and the practicum supervisor. In this way, both the teacher and the practicum supervisor review the same evidence and can comment on what they observe.
In our online practicum courses, the teacher uploads their teaching video to an online platform that permits both the teacher and the practicum supervisor to write time-stamped comments about the teaching practices. The practicum supervisor adopts the role of a coach rather than an evaluator. Using a partnership coaching model, the practicum coach watches the video and leaves feedback that the teacher can read. The practicum coach can also see the comments the teacher has written. The partnership coaching model creates an atmosphere of trust, where the teacher willingly explores what went well in the lesson and what needs to improve.
It can be quite intimidating to watch yourself on video, so we alleviate any apprehension by helping teachers direct their view as they watch the video. We suggest using a couple of checklists developed by Jim Knight entitled "Watch your students." and "Watch yourself."6 These surveys ask for a scaled response, based on the teacher's judgment, and they provide a springboard for conversation during the subsequent online coaching conference.
Next, we provide an observation checklist. This is what the practicum coach uses as they watch the video. This observation checklist is based on teaching behaviors that can actually be observed. These tools are our way of directing the view and constructing talking points for the online coaching conversation---the next step in the process.
After the teacher and the practicum coach have both watched the video and provided comments, they meet for a coaching conversation through Zoom, a remote video-conferencing tool. During this conference, teachers are skillfully guided to examine their own practice and behaviors rather than things beyond their control. The teacher and the coach co-construct goals related to specific teaching practices based on the comments in the video and the checklists.
Coaching provides encouragement for each teacher to grow professionally by focusing on the data provided in the video. Additionally, during these online conferences, the teacher also has the opportunity to request any assistance to solve problems that may be occurring with their students. They may also take time to get more specific directions or feedback about assignments.
The last phase of this process is reflection. The teachers use their time-stamped comments to complete a journal assignment that describes the observable teaching behaviors, the meaning they make from those behaviors and how what they see on video connects to the research they have read in the course about high-leverage or evidence-based teaching practices.
Reflection, as in a mirror, permits the viewer to scrutinize their own learning/practice. Reflective practice fuels the development of a deeper understanding about the way teachers conduct their work. In order to become skilled and effective special educators, reflection should involve connecting research to day-to-day practice, uncovering assumptions, and paying attention to the importance of continual improvement. Loughran puts it this way, "Effective reflective practice is drawn from the ability to frame and reframe our understanding through action, so that the practitioner's wisdom-inaction is enhanced, and as a particular outcome, articulation of professional knowledge is encouraged."7
Video, Coaching and Reflection Enhance Online Teacher Education
The practicum in the online master's in high incidence disabilities* program challenges teachers to exhibit competencies for licensure and build capacity as professional leaders. We have discovered that our online practicum supervision is a value-added model because video adds a multidimensional layer to reflective practice. Using video, structured coaching conversations and effective, reflective practice, teachers grow professionally.
*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) in special education with an emphasis in high incidence disabilities.
1 Gaudin, C., & Chaliès, S. (2015). Video viewing in teacher education and professional development: A literature review. Educational Research Review, 16, 41-67.
2 Ostrosky, M. M., Mouzourou, C., Danner, N., & Zaghlawan, H. Y. (2013). Improving teacher practices using microteaching: Planful video recording and constructive feedback. Young Exceptional Children, 16(1), 16-29.
3 Tripp, T. R., & Rich, P. J. (2012). The influence of video analysis on the process of teacher change. Teaching and teacher education, 28(5), 728-739.
4 West, J., & Turner, W. (2016). Enhancing the assessment experience: improving student perceptions, engagement and understanding using online video feedback. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 53(4), 400-410.
5 Retrieved on July 31, 2019, from ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_want_to_get_great_at_something_get_a_coach?language=en on July 31, 2019
6 Knight, J. (2014). Focus on teaching. Corwin Press.
7 Loughran, J. J. (2002). Effective reflective practice: In search of meaning in learning about teaching. Journal of teacher education, 53(1), 33-43