Video as a Catalyst for Improved Practice

Karen Smith and David Baker, authors

One of the many purposes of Cognitive Coaching is to improve practice; teachers aspire to engaging in refined instructional practices that propel student learning. Cognitive Coaching supports this by providing a platform for deepened levels of cognition and reflection that would otherwise be absent in an “evaluation-only” environment.

Engaging in such deeper levels of cognition and reflection creates a pathway towards holonomy – one’s ability to act autonomously while working interdependently. As Garmston and Costa remind us, the ability to navigate this paradoxical task rests in three self-actualizing endeavors: capacitating the parts by elevating autonomy and self-actualization, strengthening the whole by reconnecting with one’s sense of interdependence, and creating consciousness and skill around how the parts and the whole support one another. When balance exists between all three of these endeavors, we have reached a holonomous state. This balance, however, does not come easily. Rather, it is reliant upon the energy sources that propel us towards holonomy: the five states of mind. The goal in cognitive coaching is to illuminate and elevate states of mind so that one can capacitate the parts while simultaneously strengthening the whole.

The phases of the three Cognitive Coaching maps support us as we navigate a coaching conversation that attends to the five states of mind. Further, the pause, paraphrase, pause, pose question approach provides intentional space for heightened reflection and cognition. Our next step is to explore the potential of video in deepening even further that which evolves when we support teachers, particularly as they capacitate the parts to reflect on their practice. Again, our goal in this phase is to foster autonomy and self-actualization by coaching to the five states of mind.

In a coaching conversation designed to enhance instructional practice, one approach may be to break a lesson down into its parts to either reflect on or plan for optimal effectiveness and impact on student learning. As discussed in our series of recent posts, reaching a deepened level of reflection and cognition is dependent upon objective recall and consciousness of current reality. Video provides an optimal data point for a teacher and coach to leverage as they activate objective recall and construct consciousness of current reality. The heart of video observation and coaching hinges upon the teacher seeing the lesson through his/her own eyes. Doing so enables that teacher to objectively observe and reflect upon the impact of instructional moves on student learning, implications of decisions made during the lesson, or even their presence in the classroom. If improvements in practice are to transpire, the teacher must recognize a need for improvement. Video evidence supports this recognition.

Being fully present and listening for states of mind that emerge from video observation enables a coach to bring to the forefront thoughts, reactions and even mental models underlying deep structures. A teacher’s reaction to seeing the lesson through his/her own eyes can be very telling to a coach. Lingering in this space to support a teacher as he/she makes meaning of what the video shows can be transformational. Using an objective data point as a source to activate accurate recall and consciousness of current reality creates the conditions necessary for deepened reflection and transformational learning around instructional practice. The larger outcome accomplished is a closer approximation of self-actualization. Video is not only the tool creating this opportunity, but it is the catalyst propelling this deeper reflection and transformational learning.

After breaking the finite moments of a lesson into their parts to reflect upon, the artful coach can use the phases of the coaching conversation to invite the teacher to consider how these newly refined “parts” might contribute to the overall effectiveness of the lesson – essentially, “the whole.” This coaching move represents an invitation for the teacher to consider and reflect upon the interdependence of refined instructional components of a lesson, thereby improving overall practice. With consciousness of this interdependence, we leave the teacher to explore the notion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”