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Disrupting by Imagining: Rethinking Early Childhood Research
Early Childhood Research
This research highlights four teachers who work in early childhood classrooms who have chosen to implement the use of video-observations of their teaching in conjunction with the reflective process. Each teacher profile will include discussions and interviews about their teaching and change implementation. The ideas for change will be based upon their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions along with evidence from the recorded and observed videotapes. After viewing their own instruction, practitioners began the process of implementing change for individual students as well as for their class overall. Teachers shared this experience with others in their school and provided information regarding their results based on the following three areas: 1) Analysis: individuals and/or groups in the process of reflection (grade level teams); 2) Strategies: offers other teachers and/or programs ways to introduce concepts to a group of teachers and/or school; and, 3) Images & Ideas in Practice: offers ways that this can be replicated to help other programs to begin using videos and reflection as a way to guide instructional change.
Images & Ideas:
Using Videos and Reflections to Guide Instructional Change in Early Childhood Classrooms
Teachers face a multitude of responsibilities in their daily work; the complexity of the teaching profession seems to deepen with each passing decade. The cycle of federal educational reform roughly follows the duration of Presidential administrations. In addition to the fluctuations that can be attributed to federal mandates, there has been a gradually strengthening undercurrent of educational reform in the U.S. since the 1950s "Sputnik" anxieties. At the center of this trend for increased rigor in schools are two fundamental drivers: 1) As a nation, the U.S. is alarmed that American students don't seem to be on par with students in other countries with respect to academic achievement -- particularly in STEM courses of study; and, 2) For students to successfully compete for future employment that pays decent wages, new highly technical skillsets and knowledge must be mastered.
Educators experience a full court press to upgrade their skills, create robust lessons, and bring students to proficient levels of academic achievement. Perhaps, long ago, teachers could accomplish their jobs through lectures, lock-step lessons, and passive testing, placing the onus of learning squarely on the shoulders of students. However, years of education research have shown that the most critical element for student academic success is a great teacher (Strong, 2007). With the introduction of Common Core State Standards and statewide performance improvement initiatives in the U.S., the bar for academic achievement has been irrevocably raised. Teachers are expected to be highly skilled professionals, and principals are charged with seeing that their faculty is capable of helping students reach those new high standards.
Educators have long understood that when desired behavior is modeled, learning is facilitated. The old adage about showing how to do something, rather than telling, is as relevant with adult learners as it is with children (Cross, 2011; Miller, 2006). A video industry has developed using just that idea: show teachers exactly what instructional behaviors are desirable (Brophy, 2004; Sherin & van Es, 2002). Typically, teacher behaviors have been taught through professional development exercises that are geared specifically to a certain curriculum or instructional method (Richardson & Kile, 1999). Some approaches are so rigid that teacher behaviors are scripted, with little to no professional discretion tolerated. The most substantive difficulty with this approach is that teachers receiving this training may not fully understand the rationale behind what they are being asked to do -- and so they drift away from the protocol.
New approaches for using video are showing up in the market place. For example, the Teaching Channel provides teacher-made videos for sharing great ideas about classroom management, instructional strategies, and lesson planning. To showcase teachers whose practice is considered exemplary, a number of vendors with deep pockets provide sophisticated support with production of the videos. A number of these teaching video series include segments in which teachers engage in reflection, as individual teachers or as part of a team (Tochon, 1999). Some programs combine videotapes of teacher practice with reflective supervision in an effort to support changes in individual professional practice and organization development (Norman-Murch, 1996). This is the best of all worlds for teaching videos as clips of excellent teaching is paired with candid and compelling talk about the craft of teaching (Lundeberg, et al. 2008; Zhang, et al., 2010). Just as athletes view footage of games to help improve their performance and actors review and critique films, educators can tap into the capacity of videotaping their own teaching as an effective qualitative tool to drive instructional change?
The use of videos as a strategy to improve self-efficacy has a long history within the field of child psychology and can be helpful in allowing teachers to observe themselves engaging in successful instruction (Bandura, 1997). In the current educational ecosystem, teacher performance has taken on increased importance -- some educators refer to high-stakes performance evaluation. Student academic performance is measured through a constellation of metrics, and teacher evaluation is inextricably linked to these numbers. Daunting as the entire new system may seem, Common Core State Standards provide a way for teachers to focus on the unique and individual needs of their students -- which, ironically, is one of the primary arguments teachers give for rejecting scripted programs or one-size-fits all instructional methodology. Assessment of student performance is an integral component of approaches that emphasize rigorous standards. And from these assessment outcomes, teachers are able to reflect on their instruction and brainstorm ways to reteach content to students who are struggling. As teachers embrace this idea of assessment driving instruction, student performance is typically raised. To this end, video can be used to strengthen instructional methodologies and bring about improved student achievement.
The approach proposed in this paper couples practitioner videotape critique with reflective practice. The process of reflecting about one's own professional practice paves the way for acceptance of the need for change and constructive problem solving (Copa, et al., 1999; Shoon, 1984). Motivation to continually assess and drive change internally has been shown to support by the process of reflective thinking, and these relationships hold true for early childhood education teachers, as well (Gilkerson & Shaamoon-Shanok, 2011). Reflective thinking is a critical skill set that is associated with highly effective teachers (Lyons, 2010). Teachers who have the ability to reflect on how they teach are far more likely to make changes in instruction that will increase student achievement.
The research illustrates how a hybrid approach using videotaping and reflective practice together can be used to good effect by Early Childhood Education teachers. As with any endeavor that seeks to change the craft behavior, the outcomes are highly dependent upon the receptivity of the professionals to considering change -- and how comfortable -- safe, if you will -- they feel with respect to the approach, how the outcomes will be used, and how much credibility they attribute to the process and its "evangelists."
The structure of this research employed a three-prong approach that is believed to encourage acceptance of the process outcomes, and act as a catalyst to proactive analysis and action. The three prongs consisted of these elements:
1. Analyzing certain areas in craft practice by both individuals and grade level teams / groups through reflection.
2. Strategies selection by identifying other teachers and programs that are successfully using the hybrid approach, thereby paving the way to an introduction of the concepts to educators and schools.
3. Elicit ideas from participating educators about how the Images and Ideas in Practice hybrid approach using videos and reflection as a way to guide instructional change can be replicated in other schools and programs.
The fact that ideas for change are based…[continue]
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