Building Bridges between Classroom Practices and Professional Development: Let’s Video-Coach, Shall We?

Meral Güçeri & Meltem Bizim, School of Languages, Sabancı University, Istanbul, Turkey


MMAlthough it is common practice in ESL for teachers to video-record their teaching and get feedback from teacher-trainers, we propose that video coaching, which is done between peers, is equally valuable in the process of professional development. In our study, we investigated the impact of video coaching on teachers’ professional development. We also analyzed whether teachers find video coaching more applicable as it not only creates less anxiety for the observed but also requires less time to complete.


As ESL/EFL teachers of English who have been involved in classroom observations for more than 20 years, we wondered whether there were alternatives to live classroom observations that would reduce anxiety and create more interest among teachers. We decided to carry out this study on video coaching to find out whether it is more user-friendly.

We conducted this study at Sabanci University where teachers are responsible for 16 hours of teaching and 4 hours of tutorials in a week. Teachers are provided with the opportunity to attend in-house or international workshops for professional development. In addition, specialists are invited from different parts of the world to enhance quality teaching. Moreover, teachers are regularly observed by the director to ensure quality tuition. As one can see, teacher training is an indispensable component of academic studies in the School of Languages at Sabanci University.

Literature Review

Writing about inventive methods that maintain ongoing professional development for teachers, Day and Shapson (1996) that “becoming a highly effective teacher is not a result of one-time investment, but rather an ever evolving process” (p. 122). They continued their argument by reviewing the recent research indicating teacher development is “a life-long process, and the importance of collective or interactive professionalism” (p. 122). It is not surprising to see that peer coaching has recently gained importance in many educational institutions and has been accepted as “one key approach to professional development” (Belisle, 1999). Belisle put forward three key terms that could be related to peer coaching: self-directed learning, sustained development of expertise, and collaborative professionalism.

Bailey, Curtis, and Nunan, (2001) suggested that all teachers should keep a journal of their own teaching; however, they underlined the difficulty of recording everything if several hours of teaching are concerned. In such cases they proposed focusing on some particular aspects of teaching experience that interest them. In contrast, video coaching gives teachers a chance not only to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their own teaching but also to check improvements in their areas of concern. Teachers who are planning to start video coaching are also advised about the effective use of the camera in their classrooms, including camera placement and angle (Bailey, Curtis, and Nunan, 2001). Tanner (2007) summarized the steps followed in peer coaching supported by video as follows:

• The teacher should watch his or her recorded lesson alone to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson.

• Then, the teacher should decide about which chunk(s) of the video he or she wants to get feedback on, bearing in mind his or her concern. It is important that not the whole video but only the chunk(s) chosen by the teacher be shared with the co teacher.

• After watching a chunk together, the co teacher gives feedback on it.

Bailey, Curtis, and Nunan, (2001) pointed out that, depending on the requirement of institution or the desire of the person observed, a reflective critical analysis paper could be written.

O’Rorke (1997) suggested some advantages of video coaching:

• Often provides a certain level of shock: Sometimes what a teacher is actually doing in class is different from what he or she thought he or she was doing. Such a situation could create a certain level of shock on the part of the teacher.

• Adds a significant measure of objectivity to the evaluation of one’s own teaching: The importance of keeping a journal of one’s own teaching was mentioned previously. Supports the idea that  quiet investigation with the visual recordings of the experience and a feedback session held with a peer can add a significant objectivity to the evaluation of one’s own performance.

• Helps teachers more fully evolve their reflective capabilities: This kind of study could suggest directions for action research that a teacher might not have thought of beforehand.

• Provides something concrete to refer to: When something is unclear, questionable, or insightful, video observation provides something concrete to refer to.

• Affords a truly collaborative and nonthreatening opportunity for teachers to be responsible for their own long-term professional development.

• Is less time consuming: Most of the time it is difficult for teachers and teacher-trainers to arrange time for class observations. With video recording, recording is done during any class time and the feedback session involves looking at only certain part(s) of the video at a time convenient for both partners.

• Offers effective debriefing: The dialogue that takes place in debriefing has real focus and allows more detailed analysis.

• Facilitates a more natural and honest dialogue: The dialogue between the partners is more natural and honest because there is less visitor effect and there is no need to perform.

For making the system work properly, Belisle (1999) offered some suggestions:

• Teachers should choose to participate. They should also be allowed to choose their partners and the focus of their collegial interaction.

• Teachers should commit to a weekly observation of their partner and a weekly discussion time. Therefore, institutions should be ready to provide this time by reducing their workload (i.e., reduction in teaching time).

• Teachers should record more than one class and choose examples to analyze. There should always be room for trial and error. A lot of recording also provides the possibility for comparison and seeing the improvements in the instructor’s teaching effectiveness.

Data Collection

Data Collection Instruments and Procedure

MM2We carried out this study at Sabanci University where we are ESL/EFL teachers. Both of us video-recorded several of our lessons in our language classrooms during the semester. Then, we each watched our recording and identified areas that needed reconsideration. One of us identified student attitude to learning as an area to be dealt with, whereas the other focused on teaching behavior to enhance professional growth.


Through this qualitative case study, we aimed to explore the perceptions of peer teachers in the identified area of concern. We explored the attitude of teachers to video coaching as an alternative to live observations to maintain their professional growth. The qualitative research method is preferred as it enables the researcher to gain an in-depth understanding of the issue by communicating with colleagues on a one-to-one basis in order to identify how teachers perceive student attitude (Frankeal & Wallen, 2000).

Data Collection

Video recording and note-taking were used as data collection instruments. Data were collected in three phases. In the first phase, we video-recorded several lessons in the spring of 2008. In the second phase we watched each recording to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our teaching and our students’ learning behavior. In the third phase, we shared certain parts of the recordings with a coach/coach with the aim of getting feedback from a colleague who had similar teaching experience. Each time, both the researcher and the coach/coach sat together and watched the chunks of the recorded lessons, keeping in mind the identified areas of concern so that remedies could be suggested. The third phase was also recorded so that it could be used to evaluate data.

Validity and Reliability Issues

The first step of this research study was validated according to the co teacher’s feedback. To resolve other validity and reliability issues, however, we approached not only other teachers but also students and teacher-trainers. We gathered the feedback from co teachers, teachers, teacher-trainers, and other students and triangulated the data to ensure reliability. The data gathered from these sources are still being evaluated and so conclusions cannot yet be drawn.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is a process that requires systematic inquiry. First data are systematically searched, then strengths and weaknesses are analyzed, and finally they are shared with relevant parties. As Bogdan and Biklen (1998) suggested, we followed these steps in the data analysis:

o Working with data

o Organizing the data

o Breaking them into the manageable units

o Synthesizing them

o Searching for patterns

o Discovering what is important and what is to be learned

o Deciding what to tell others (p. 157)

Having watched the chunks of recorded lessons with the co teacher and recorded the comments, we gathered data from several hours’ video to collate. We then reduced the data according to the following themes and tried to give answers to these questions:

1. Does video coaching lower observation anxiety?

2. Is video coaching less time consuming than live class observations?

3. Is video coaching a better and more objective method of identifying one’s weaknesses and strengths?

4. Does it help professional development?

After identifying the above themes, we synthesized data into an explanatory framework.

Limitations of the Study

The sample of this study is limited to two researchers’ video lessons. Our experience and the experience of the colleagues who gave feedback on the chosen part of the recorded documents formed the base of this research paper. In addition to this, in many cases, colleagues who were not involved in the process were debriefed about the subject and their feedback was recorded. However, the results would be better validated if more teachers practiced video coaching at Sabanci University. The numbers are possibly too small to reach a conclusion. Still, results can be used to gain greater perspective and insight from a specific sample.


The purpose of the study was to investigate the effectiveness of video coaching, as an alternative to live classroom observation, in the professional development of teachers. A qualitative case study method was used to find answers to the research question. Data collection was held in three phases: in phase 1, data were collected from video-recorded lessons of the researchers; in phase 2, recorded data were analyzed to identify strengths and weaknesses in the recorded lessons; and in phase 3, chunks chosen by the researchers were watched with the co teachers and later with other colleagues, teacher-trainers, and students to get peer feedback.

Data gained from the feedback led us to determine the following advantages of video coaching:

o Lower level of anxiety: Teachers like the idea of recording as many lessons as they like and choosing the chunks they want to get feedback on. If anything goes wrong, they know that they can record another lesson. In addition, teachers are given the freedom to choose their coach. As a result, teachers become responsible for their own professional development, which not only lowers anxiety but also increases their enthusiasm to get feedback on their teaching.

o Less time spent: Instead of watching the whole lesson and writing feedback on it, the coach/coach watches certain parts of a recorded document and gives feedback only on the mentioned concern. This method is definitely less time consuming and less stressful for both of the participants.

o More objective method of identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses: Sometimes it can be shocking for teachers to see what they did in class. Visuals are more effective, clearer, and less open to question than are words. This method is especially beneficial in identifying repeated behavior.

o Enhanced continuous professional development: This method helps teachers to be more aware of their own teaching. Once aware of their own capabilities, they can begin to envision new ways of carrying out action research. Video coaching also enhances collaborative learning, which helps institutional growth.

Overall, the idea behind video coaching is to raise teacher awareness on the issues related to their teaching. We conducted this study to find out whether the areas we identified would be raised by our peers as well. We also wanted to see whether observing chunks of lessons would lend itself to effective feedback. We found out that we could share the same video chunks with more than one teacher and get more feedback. This method happened to be less stressful for all parties involved. A teacher, for example, can make several recordings and watch them on her own, identifying strengths and weaknesses of her lesson. Then, she can share the chunks of the lesson she wants feedback on. This means peer teachers do not have to spend more than 10 minutes watching the video chunk and can dedicate more time to giving feedback. This is more practical than classroom observations as classroom observation requires three 50-minute sessions including pre- and post-observation conferences. As Wallace (1991) discussed, the more teachers teach, the more knowledgeable they become in their teaching. The more they raise awareness of their practical applications the more reflective they become. Therefore, they seek further development opportunities such as self-observation, peer observation, peer teaching, classroom research, or video coaching. Reflective practitioners are those who keep developing their professional expertise by interacting with situations of practice to try to solve problems and have a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

The data on video coaching that we collected proved to be beneficial in terms of freeing the teachers from observation anxiety and giving them control of their own professional development.


Bailey, K., Curtis, A., & Nunan, D. (2001). Pursuing professional development: The self as source. Boston: Heinle.

Belisle, T. (1999, May). Peer coaching: Partnership for professional practitioners. The ACIE Newsletter, 2(3).

Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (1998). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Day, E. M., & Shapson, S. (1996). Studies in immersion education. Philadelphia: Matters, Ltd.

Frankeal, J. R., & Wallen, N. E. (2000). How to design and evaluate research in education. New York: McGraw Hill.

O’Rorke, L. (1997). Using video to assess classroom competence. Elted, 3(1), 36-44.

Tanner, R. (2007). 41st IATEFL Annual Conference. Presentation: The power of seeing using video coaching with… Aberdeen, UK.

Wallace, M. (1991). Training foreign language teachers. A reflective approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

[First published in:  TESOL MIWS Newsletter, 2008, Volume 21, Number 2,  pp.13-19]