Secrets of Teacher Ed Part 2: Training Out-of-State Student Teachers

Have you ever needed to coach a student teacher working out of state? So have I.

Each semester at Utah Valley University, we have preservice teachers who request to student teach out of state or out of our service area. Sometimes it’s so they can be with a spouse who’s taken a job, or sometimes it’s to be close to family to save money on housing.

Our School of Education has a previously established procedure that allows student teachers to work out of state as long as they pay an additional fee. This fee exists to pay for the university supervisor to fly out two times and observe the student teacher, including air travel, car rental, hotel, and food reimbursement. This has always been a very expensive way to go through our program.

As I worked with these out-of-state student teachers, I always felt uncomfortable with the cost, the large amount of time required for the professor to travel, and having only two observations. In my mind, all of these factors made out-of-state teaching less than effective. And for years I was actively searching for a better and easier way to observe these teachers from afar.

Brooke’s Story

In the fall of 2016, one of our art student teachers, Brooke, wanted to teach in Michigan. She was aware of the cost to teach out of our service area, but with her husband’s job being in Michigan, she obviously wanted to be there. Go figure!

I approached her in the spring of 2016 and asked her if she would be willing to be a guinea pig. She was the perfect candidate to try out a brand new observation approach that would save her a little money and hopefully give her much better instruction from me, her university supervisor. She was agreeable, so I approached my department chair with a proposal.

I shared my research of Harvard’s Best Foot Forward project and presented a plan on using video feedback to supervise Brooke from afar. But as I shared in Part 1 of this series, GoReact can be an effective tool for supervising. It made sense that using video evaluations for our out-of-area student teachers could save the student money, save the professor time, and provide more frequent and meaningful observations. Once our School of Education leadership council discussed the issue, they agreed to allow me to supervise Brooke through GoReact video observations. They also wanted me to visit and observe her one time in Michigan. We then embarked on this new approach.

I flew out and spent a day in her classroom. Of course it was very enjoyable and beneficial to see her teaching for a full day as compared to the traditional one period observation that I had previously done with other student teachers. But the real benefit came through GoReact over the course of many months.

Where GoReact and InTASC Meet

I assigned Brooke specific weeks to record a lesson. Before I would observe her video and provide my feedback, she was required to provide feedback on her own teaching. She then analyzed her teaching using the GoReact software. Brooke reflected on strengths in her teaching, areas of lessons that didn’t go as well, and teaching strategies that she was working to improve. She then recorded her efforts in those areas in the context of a whole teaching lesson.

This self-reflection proved to be very successful and helped this student teacher achieve the following InTASC standards:

Standard 9a: The candidate engages in ongoing learning opportunities to develop knowledge and skills in order to provide all learners with engaging curriculum and learning experiences based on local and state standards.

Standard 9b: The candidate engages in meaningful and appropriate professional learning experiences aligned with his/her own needs and the needs of the learners, school, and system.

Standard 9g: The candidate understands and knows how to use a variety of self -assessment and problem-solving strategies to analyze and reflect on his/her practice and to plan for adaptations/adjustments.

Standard 9k: The candidate knows how to build and implement a plan for professional growth directly aligned with his/her needs as a growing professional using feedback from candidate evaluations and observations, data on learner performance, and school- and system-wide priorities.

I found it most successful when I provided specific prompts of what Brooke was to observe and self-assess in her videos. The first prompt was simply, “In your recorded teaching session, identify 2 strategies that worked well. Analyze why you felt they were successful in helping the students meet the desired objectives. Second, from your recording, identify one area that was not as successful as you had planned. Analyze why it was not as effective as you had hoped and what your plan is to improve this part of your teaching.”

Identify 2 strategies that worked well. Analyze why you felt they were successful. Click To Tweet

I gave another prompt for her to select an area from a previous evaluation that she wanted to improve in her teaching. This focused approach to her evaluation helped her improve her teaching by bringing her attention to one specific component of teaching at a time.

Brooke and I also experimented by scheduling a “live” observation through GoReact so I could observe her class in real time. I was in Utah and she was in Michigan. This setup was similar to a Skype session but allowed me to use the GoReact platform to record her teaching and record my comments on her teaching right as it was happening. This proved to be an effective observation tool by creating the live, real-time component of evaluation while also saving the cost of travel.

What GoReact and edTPA Have in Common: Video

Our School of Education is also in the process of implementing edTPA as our exit assessment for our student teachers. I had Brooke experiment by recording and focusing on some of the clips that are required in an edTPA video submission. From the edTPA handbook, here are some of the videos that need to be submitted. I allowed her to select two of these from a recorded class that she taught and explain them to me through GoReact comments at the appropriate part of the lesson.

1. Promoting a Positive Learning Environment

Refer to scenes in the video clips where you provided a positive learning environment.

How did you demonstrate mutual respect for, rapport with, and responsiveness to students with varied needs and backgrounds and challenge students to engage in learning?

2. Engaging Students in Learning

Refer to examples from the video clips in your responses to the prompts.

Explain how your instruction engaged students in:
–  Use of functional art knowledge.
–  Demonstration of art-related skills.
–  Development of personal beliefs and analysis of group norms.

Describe how your instruction linked students’ prior academic learning and personal, cultural, and community assets with new learning.

3. Deepening Student Learning during Instruction

Refer to examples from the video clips in your explanations. Explain how you elicited and built on student responses to develop understandings.

4. Analyzing Teaching

Refer to examples from the video clips in your response to the prompts.

What changes would you make to your instruction—for the whole class and/or for students who need greater support or challenge—to better support student learning of the central focus (e.g., missed opportunities)?

Why do you think these changes would improve student learning? Support your explanation with evidence of student learning and principles from theory and/or research.

A Whole New Take on Student Teaching Observations

I followed up Brooke’s experience by using a similar approach with two of our secondary education students. They were spending the first few weeks of their student teaching experience in Navajo Nation, Arizona, and then finishing up in local high schools. Instead of visiting their classrooms in Arizona, I simply observed their teaching through submitted videos.

When they returned to complete their student teaching in local schools, I observed them teaching live and used the traditional method of observation. One of the conclusions that I made was that GoReact truly did give me an accurate assessment of their teaching. Everything I saw in person, I had also seen in their videos. That was reassuring to me as I thought about the reliability of using video in place of real-time traditional observations.

Although my experience is limited to these three student teachers, I feel that using video for remote evaluation can be a very effective tool to save travel expenses and time while still providing an accurate assessment of teaching ability. The real benefit came to the student teachers who were able to see for themselves what they were doing. GoReact provided their first critical evaluation of what kind of teachers they were and how to get even better.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll be taking a deep dive into Harvard’s Best Foot Forward Project and how it’s changed the entire way I teach and critique my student teachers. Stay tuned . . .