Using technology to improve our craft. An introduction to micro-teaching
“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better”, said Professor Dylan Wiliam. Jon Wayth, Head of MFL at El Limonar International School Murcia in Spain shares insight into a trial of video technology to help teachers reflect and continually develop their classroom practice.
Sir Dave Brailsford has enjoyed stunning success as a coach and performance director in the world of cycling. In part, this success can be brought down to Brailsford´s relentless drive for improved performance through the aggregation of marginal gains. With Team Sky and the Great Britain cycling team, he wanted the entire team to search for the one percent margin for improvement in everything they did. This ranged from taking cyclists´ bedding on tour to getting surgeons to train all team members on how to wash their hands thoroughly to avoid unnecessary illnesses and bugs. The aggregation of these minor marginal gains lead to major sporting success, but how can we apply this to our teaching?
Teaching is such a complex and multi-faceted craft with innumerable theories, strategies and fads, but there is a myriad of micro elements that we can easily tweak or change. Where do we stand when we are addressing the class? What does our body language say? How much teacher talk is used in class? How often do we question? How long do we pause before ´pouncing? Do we accept answers given or do we probe further to ensure student understanding?
At El Limonar International School in Murcia, Spain, we are currently making use of Swivl video technology (www.swivl.com) to film ourselves teaching in order to reflect on our own practice to make marginal gains or improvements in our teaching. The equipment tracks the teacher and clearly captures video and audio, including teacher and student interactions. Additional microphones can also be used around the classroom to hear group discussion. This process of analysing one´s own teaching and reflecting on areas for improvement is known as micro-teaching.
It can also be used as a powerful method of coaching and we have also used the technology with Let´s Talk performance management observations, so that the teacher and coach can revisit elements of the lesson together in a non-judgmental fashion. I have previously used this system of self-reflection and coaching whilst working in the UK and the findings were profound.
Research has also shown the positive effect it can have; John Hattie´s Visible Learning study of different meta-analyses includes micro-teaching in the top 10 influences on student learning and achievement.
Micro-teaching is a simple process:
- Teachers choose an area or two for particular focus
- Film the lesson
- Watch the video and reflect
- Come back and watch particular elements and reflect again (you may wish to share an element with a peer for discussion at this stage)
- Re-plan, re-teach and review again
- (Micro teaching self reflection form)
This cyclical method can lead to significant marginal improvements in one´s practice, but it is vital that the video is seen as the property of the teacher concerned. It is theirs to share or delete as they wish as this non-judgmental approach encourages sharing of best practice, as well as stimulating risk taking, which can lead to continually enhancing the quality of provision.
If you are worried about how students react to the Swivl robot at the back of the class, I advise doing a quick demonstration of it tracking you. It clearly shows that you are the focus and not them and it is amazing how soon they forget about it.
Personally, I have used this system to reflect upon my own teaching and as a result I have changed my approach to questioning in the classroom. I am currently focusing on my body language when questioning, as teachers often give away answers subconsciously with small gestures or non-verbal clues. I have known teachers use the system to seek help and guidance on behaviour management.
Some experienced teachers have been surprised by how much they talk instead of getting the students to talk and reflect. Micro-teaching simplifies the process of continually improving one’s craft and even the slightest tweak could help in the endless quest of improving student outcomes, especially when findings are shared across a body of staff or even schools.
There is no such thing as a perfect teacher, but as Dylan Wiliam says, we can all be better in so many different areas.