Published 3rd May 2017

As teachers, we are always under pressure to maintain the quality of our teaching. In theory, on a regular basis this may mean we are observed by teacher trainers or Directors of Studies who want to ensure that our teaching is up to scratch and that we are not having a nap at the back of the classroom while our students watch Game of Thrones.

But how often does this actually happen?

Given the busy nature of schools and EFL institutes, it’s probably not surprising to hear that many teachers are not observed very regularly. As a result, they receive no feedback on their teaching and may become fixed in their ways or stuck with bad habits, with very little hope of improving because there is no awareness of their weaknesses.

Even those teachers who are proactive in their development and follow their own paths of action research and training may not be able to see past their own routines and stale teaching behaviours.

If this sounds like you and you would like to find a way to get feedback on your teaching without enlisting the help of staff at your school, then filming your lessons may be the answer.

But here’s the catch: we’re not saying film yourself, we’re saying film your lesson.

First things first, inform your students of your plan and ask them for permission before setting up your equipment. Then, when you’re ready, position the camera so the frame includes some of your students. Every now and then you should naturally move into the frame so you won’t only be watching these students, but the point is that you are not focussing on yourself standing at the front of the class.

However, watching three of your students for 60 minutes is not the most beneficial use of your time and, to make the development task more manageable, it makes more sense to record the lesson in 10-minute sessions, moving the camera to another position in the class every ten minutes. In this way, certain students won’t feel targeted and you’ll have a wider grasp of the lesson.

After the lesson, you can decide to watch the recording alone or with a colleague. Watch the recording in its ten-minute clips but for each clip decide what you are looking for. Remember, you are not watching yourself, you are watching your students and how they react to you and respond to your lesson.

In other words, there are different aspects of the lesson you can focus on:

  • interest levels – Do they look bored at any point? When are they most interested?
  • comprehension – Are there any a-ha moments? What caused them? Do they seem satisfied with the answers you give them to their questions, with your instructions?
  • motivation – When are they most engaged in the lesson? Do they ever fiddle or lose focus?

In this way, by focussing on the effects your teaching has on your students, you should get a clear picture of some of the strengths and weaknesses of your teaching. You may pick up tendencies you have that your students don’t respond well to or, conversely, that help maintain a positive learning environment.

As you can see, filming your lessons can be done without any external supervision. Watching the recording yourself should shed light on your teaching and help with your development. If you are able to do this on a regular basis, even better, as this will be proof of your progress.