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4 reasons why instructional leaders avoid using video to grow teachers

By Allyson Burnett

I have been working with an increasing number of schools that are using video to enhance the professional learning of their teachers.  These innovative leaders of schools hold some common beliefs around the use of video:

  • Teachers are self-reflective and when given the opportunity to film and watch themselves teaching, they will learn and improve through self-coaching
  • Teachers are collaborative and when given the opportunity, they will learn from watching videos of one another teaching
  • Coaches are objective and goal-focused and when they have the opportunity to film a teacher and review the film with the teacher, the coaching conversation is based on the objective evidence related to teacher growth
  • Administrators are advocates for teacher growth and when teachers, like athletes, are filmed and coached multiple times over the course of several months, the evidence of growth is objectively documented in the video

Unfortunately, while I work with an increasing number of leaders who are using video to enhance teacher learning—and with great results—there are still some who are reluctant to move in that direction. Why?  Here are the 4 reasons I hear most frequently:

Reason #1 – “Why rock the boat?” leaders

I read a sign once that said, “Change is fun!  You go first.” Whoever coined that expression recognized that the call for us to change usually comes from someone else. One area of change that those who are not “boat rockers” want others to “go first” in is with using video as a tool for enhancing the professional learning of teachers.  It is much safer to continue to write checks to send teachers to conferences where their professional development is the hands of experts outside of the building.  Hopefully, the teachers who return from these experiences will be part of what research has identified as the 10% of participants who actually return and implement what they learned—Vs. the 90% who do no implementation.

Reason #2 – “Technology is way too complicated” leaders

The reality is that every leader is not “techno savvy.” Those who aren’t savvy feel incapable of leading a school-wide innovation that requires the use of technology as a tool. After all, don’t we all try to stay in our comfort zones? When I talk with leaders who are “tech-NO-savvy,” I hear them referring to the complications associated with yesterday’s technology.  Today’s technology for coaching and collaborating with video starts with pressing a record button in the app we downloaded to the smart phone we carry in our pockets.

Reason #3 – “My teachers won’t like it” leaders

Some leaders are more concerned with “keeping the peace” than “keeping the pace” with what’s best for growing teachers. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to have a culture of continuous improvement when the school’s leaders are focusing on keeping teachers happy rather than focusing on what’s best for students.  What’s best for students is having a faculty of highly effective teachers.  Leaders who ask teachers to use video as a tool for self-reflection, collaboration, and coaching are “working on the work” required to continuously improve.

Reason #4 – “Not one more thing this year” leader

Schools are filled with time-consuming initiatives—it’s true. I had the opportunity to work with a great instructional leader several years ago who looked at each initiative in the district and in his building as a piece of a puzzle.  He thought that part of his job as leader was to show his faculty how those puzzle pieces fit together to create a unified picture.  While doing this, he realized that video wasn’t “one more thing.”  He saw video-enhanced professional learning as a timesaving way of making all initiatives on going, classroom-focused, collaborative, and job-embedded—in other words, successful.

The” Right Stuff” leaders

These are leaders who understand that improved classroom instruction is the prime factor to improve student achievement gains. These leaders want to be responsible for guiding the professional growth of teachers in their building. They make decisions based on what is best for students. And, they understand how to integrate initiatives to make them successful and on going.


Allyson Burnett is an author, educational consultant, and adjunct professor in the Urban Education Department of a university in the Houston area.  You may contact her at


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