Watching Classroom Video Productively

  • Watching Classroom Video Productively

    By Meg S. Bates, posted February 27, 2017 —

    In our recent TCM article, my colleagues and I outlined how educators can facilitate effective conversations around classroom video. The question we sought to answer was “How can facilitators help other educators learn from video?” For this blog post, I would like to dig into classroom video from the other side of the coin: “What can participants in professional development do to get the most out of video?”

    The best answers I have heard to this question come, not surprisingly, from teachers. Over the past few years, I’ve led a team that worked with elementary school mathematics teachers to collect classroom video and posted these videos in an online teacher learning community. Once the videos were posted, we found that some teachers struggled to connect to the videos. Some posted rich reflective comments to the videos, in which they analyzed student thinking and suggested possible instructional responses. Others posted simpler comments evaluating the teaching, such as, “The teacher was very good at questioning.” (See Bates, Phalen, and Moran [2016] for more about teacher responses to video.)

    Our team wondered how to encourage more reflective commentary and less evaluation of the videos. We asked the teachers who provided the videos for their thoughts about this. They developed a list of tips for their colleagues, which included the following:

    • Watch each video twice. It takes at least one viewing just to take in the new context.
    • Read any contextual information given about the video. Videos are a snapshot of the classroom; contextual information provides the bigger picture.
    • Ask questions about the video. Before you respond, ask yourself reflective questions such as “What is the mathematics being taught here? What misconceptions do the students have?”
    • Focus on the students’ thinking rather than the teaching. Think about what the students know now and don’t know yet, but could learn soon. Then consider how you could move their thinking forward. Focusing solely on the teacher’s given response to the students can limit your ideas.
    • Think about what the clip offers rather than what it doesn’t. Every clip, no matter how short, offers something to discuss about the video or your own practice.
    • Keep an open mind. Remember that different isn’t necessarily wrong. A lesson can be taught in different ways and still be successful.
    • Consider your purpose for watching a clip. Decide before watching the video what your intentions are, including what you want to learn and how that may influence your practice. Then, reflect on that goal afterwards.

    As I read new research in the field, I often come back to this list. So many of these tips are confirmed by emerging research and are successful in my own facilitation of video viewing.

    Your turn 

    What are your tips for getting the most out of classroom video? Share your own tips in the comments and add to the list. We want to hear from you! Post your comments below or share your thoughts on Twitter @TCM_at_NCTM using #TCMtalk.


    Bates, Meg S., Lena Phalen, and Cheryl G. Moran. 2016. “If You Build It, Will They Reflect? Examining Teachers’ Use of an Online Video-Based Learning Website.” Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (August): 17-27.

    2017_02_27_Bates_1auPic Dr. Meg Bates,, is a curriculum developer and researcher at the University of Chicago. She is interested in educational technology and novel forms of teacher professional learning.


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