How Using Teacher Collected Videos Instead of In-Classroom Observation Leads To Better Outcomes

Emir Plicanic
Emir Plicanic

September 25, 2017

We originally posted this article on EdTech Digest.

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard found in their “Best Foot Forward” study that using video observation instead of in-classroom observation, improved several dimensions of the classroom observation process:

  • Increased teachers perception of fairness

  • Reduced defensiveness in post-observation discussions

  • Led to greater self-criticism by teachers

  • Allowed supervisors and administrators to shift observation duties to non-instructional school hours

The study involved 347 teachers and 108 administrators in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and Los Angeles. A secure software platform like Vosaic was used to watch the videos and provide time-stamped comments aligned to specific moments in the videos. The videos were used in one-on-one discussions between teachers and principals and between teachers and the external content experts.

Here are some highlights of the study. You can find the link to the full report at the bottom of this post.

Were teachers willing to record and watch their lessons?

Yes. Giving control of the cameras to teachers successfully shifted the mode of classroom observations from in-person to video. Nearly all (96 percent) treatment teachers completed all three observations by submitting videos to their administrator. Nearly all (96 percent) also completed at least one observation with their virtual coach and 85 percent completed two observations with a virtual coach. Treatment teachers collected an average of 13 videos of their own lessons, though they were only required to collect five videos.

How did the use of video change teacher perceptions of their own teaching and their classroom?

The opportunity to watch their own lessons resulted in teachers being more self-critical. Of teachers in the treatment group, 42 percent reported that while watching the videos, they noticed previously unnoticed student behaviors or their own behaviors “quite often” or “extremely often.”

How did the use of video change the conversations between teachers and supervisors?

Teachers perceived their supervisors to be more supportive and their observations to be fairer. They reported fewer disagreements on the ratings they received and were more likely to describe a specific change in their practice resulting from their post-observation conference.

How did the use of video affect supervisors’ time?

Administrators reported spending more time observing and less time on paperwork. Moreover, the ability to watch video allowed supervisors to time-shift their observation duties: two-thirds of log-ins occurred during non-instructional school hours (lunch hour, the two hours immediately after school, evenings, weekends, and holidays).

Would teachers and administrators support the use of video in the future?

Because both treatment and control teachers volunteered to be part of the project, we would expect them to be supportive of the use of video in classroom observations. Still, after having been through one year of actual video use, the teachers who used video were even more likely than teachers in the comparison group to support use of video as a replacement for some or all of their in-person classroom observations.

The study concludes that giving teachers control of the video collection and submission process improved several dimensions of the classroom observation process. It boosted teachers’ perception of fairness, reduced teacher defensiveness during post-observation conferences, led to greater self-criticism by teachers and allowed administrators to shift observation duties to quieter times of the day or week. 

You can download the full study here

How schools use Vosaic as their classroom observation software

With it's flexibility, ease of use, and support Vosaic is becoming the new standard for observing and coaching teachers with video. Here're just some examples of how other schools use Vosaic:

If you’re looking for a secure platform to implement teacher observation video software in your classroom please contact us for a personalized demo, or start a free 14 day trial of Vosaic.

Getting Started With Video Toolkit (PDF).

PDF Download


  • Sample Letter To School Leaders
  • Common Answers to Video Questions
  • Walkthrough Sample
  • Observation Sample
  • and more.
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