George Lucas Educational Foundation

Record Yourself to Improve Your Practice

Record Yourself to Improve Your Practice

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I took a speech class one semester when I was in undergraduate school. For our first assignment we had to give a short speech that the teacher videotaped. Our extended assignment was to watch the recording and critique our performance. That proved to be a very eye-opening experience for me. If you had asked me how I did right after I gave my speech I would have told you I was pleased with my delivery. When I watched the recording, however, I realized I had said “um” consistently throughout. It became quite clear to me that when I was publicly speaking I was not completely aware of everything I was doing.

My next experience with videotaping myself came when I was working on my masters’ degree. The school where I did my student teaching was a considerable distance from my college, and it was not always possible for my advisor to make the drive to observe me. Her solution was to have me videotape my lessons. This proved to be a very insightful practice. I not only learned more about myself and how I taught, I also learned more about the students in the class.

These two experiences taught me the value of videotaping myself. Once I started teaching I made it a point to record myself at least once a year if not more. Here are some of the benefits that I have found can come from videotaping yourself in the classroom.

Who am I calling on?

During the lecture portion of my class time I tried to help keep my students engaged by moving around the room and calling on them to answer questions or respond to the comments of others. Although we may think we are being equitable in whom we call on, the video recording may reveal otherwise. Without realizing it we may be inadvertently calling on specific students more frequently than others. The video may also reveal that we tend to call on students seated on one side of the room more so that those seated on the other. Having an unbiased and unblinking eye in the back of the room to record our lecture time can help us ensure we are reaching all of our students.

Am I providing enough wait-time?

In my younger days I was a member of a rock band. When we were in the studio we would record our songs at a certain speed that was usually guided by a “click track”. One of the things we noticed whenever we watched recordings of our live performances was how much faster we played the songs when we were on stage. Much of that had to do with the excitement of playing live and the energy coming from the crowd. The same can be said for teaching. Sometimes we get caught up in what we are teaching, or we try to cover the material within a certain amount of time. This can cause us to move at a much faster pace than we may have intended. The result is that we may not be giving our students enough time to absorb what we are telling them, nor to answer our questions. Early research found that teachers typically provided .7 to 1.5 seconds of wait-time for students after asking them a question. For many students that is barely enough time to process the question, let alone formulate a thoughtful response. The research also found, however, that providing at least 3 seconds of wait-time tended to have a positive impact on both the students and the teachers. If you are not sure how much wait-time you are giving your students, the video camera can let you know.

Am I moving?

My first classroom was in a portable building that had a small window A/C unit. Unfortunately that air conditioner only cooled a portion of the room. I confess that during the hot months I tended to roam within that zone of conditioned air. Videotaping yourself may reveal that you tend to stay in a certain area of your room as well. Moving evenly throughout the classroom can help minimize discipline issues as well as maintain student engagement.

What are the students doing?

One of the things revealed by my student teaching videos was that a particular student could not remain seated for even a relatively brief period of time. My cooperating teacher was aware that this student was “busy”, but neither of us realized to what extent until we watched one of my taped sessions. The video allowed us to see just how much of an impact his inability to stay seated was having on his learning. This revelation allowed us to make more effective accommodations for both him and those around him.

Good teachers, just like good athletes, know there is always room to improve. Athletes watch videos of themselves in order to study their technique and execution. Teachers can benefit from the same practice. Give it a try. You never know what might be revealed by the camera’s eye.


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Comments (24) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Gaston_teach's picture

I would be very curious to hear what you discover. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

Nabashis Dev Misra's picture
Nabashis Dev Misra
“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever," he said. "Have you thought of going into teaching?” ― Terry Pratchett, Mort

great article !!

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture

Fantastic post! This resource just came across my transom -- Teaching Channel wrote up a new toolkit from the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard, meant to help teachers refine practice through video observations:

The Teaching Channel link is worth a click as TCH offers their own resources on how to record yourself teaching and analyze it, but if you'd like to go directly to the Harvard toolkit, here's the link:

Teacher Video Selfie PDF module from Harvard is also useful:

These resources came about because CEPR at Harvard just released new research showing how valuable video observation can be as part of the Best Foot Forward project:

I *love* the idea of reflecting on your teaching practice by using video. Happy learning!

kholahan's picture

Set up iPad to record self during principal or peer observation. Watch the video before post observation conversation. Reflect about what you actually did rather than what you think you did.

Tutor_kit's picture

Great tips in this article! Would you and others please share what tools you used to record yourself teaching? Did you use some sort of microphone? Did you make the students aware ahead of time, that you were taping the session?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hi Tutor_kit! In 2005, when I filmed my teaching for National Board Certification, it was a difficult process that included a video camera, separate microphone, and long cords. When I renewed my certification last year, I had a student use my cell phone to film! It was that much easier. Yes, I think you should let your students know you are filming -- I think that's only fair. Wouldn't we teachers want to know if we were being filmed? As far as filming strategies go, it's best to use a tripod, and if you can have someone monitor the camera, they can swivel left and right if necessary during the filming.

Tutor_kit's picture

Laura, thanks for the tip about using the cell phone and being transparent about it. I was concerned about the cell phone microphone being too weak to pick up classroom voices. The tripod and a third party helper are also good advice. I'm excited to try it!

Gaston_teach's picture

Thanks for the post, Tutor_kit. Great questions. I would always let the kids know I was filming. At the beginning of the year the students might look at the camera and make funny faces, or walk by so they could be caught on camera. It didn't take long, however, before they were used to it and paid no attention.
I would like to add that it's also important to know if any of your students can't be filmed. Schools usually require parents to indicate this information on their registration paperwork. Even if the focus of the video is on you and your teaching, you need to make sure these students are not on camera.
I typically used a tripod and just set the camera up in the back of the room. The built in microphone on the camera did a good enough job capturing the audio that I didn't need to worry about an external mic. If you want to get fancy, makes some cool products that will allow your camera to track you as you walk around the room. These items will even work with your phone or iPad. -JPG

Tutor_kit's picture

Gaston_teach, thank you for your prompt reply and advice. It is very helpful. I had not thought about the permission aspect, and will make sure I put that in the registration paperwork, even for my adult students. I look forward to getting started with this form of critique for myself.
Your response also reminded me that long ago, when I was a member of a Toastmasters club, our president filmed some of our speeches while we were at the podium. She used a small 3-inch tripod on her camera, but of course she was always at the front row table while doing so. She then put our recordings up on DropBox (the cloud) so we could download them and critique ourselves for 'ums', 'ahs' and understandable content. I'm looking forward to critiquing myself so that I can improve my teaching technique.
I'm glad you think the audio will also be fine from the rear of a normal-size classroom (less than 30 people) from a cellphone or other small camera. Before getting too ambitious, I'd like to try the most inexpensive methods first. So I'll get a tripod with whatever adapter is needed to hold the camera/cell phone on it, and see how that works.
Thanks again!

DRescigno's picture
President, Insight ADVANCE, EdTech enthusiast, Husband, Father, Musician, Sports fan, Youth sports coach, Community Volunteer

Love this post. Here's another helpful resource in addition to Harvard's Best Foot Forward project--Game Changer: Using video to achieve high performance in the classroom | Playbook for School & District Leaders.

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