Instructional coaches offer teachers feedback in multiple ways: observations, demonstration lessons, co-teaching, professional learning sessions and more. While I love all aspects of coaching, there is something powerful about observing classroom instruction with a lens on what is going well. And while many of us might be back to coaching in person, there’s something even more powerful in using video observation as part of an in-person or virtual coaching cycle.Video tools are a powerful way to provide feedback on classroom practices and, as you know, I have been using video in my in-person literacy coaching for years, not just during the pandemic. As part of my virtual coaching cycles, teachers record clips of their teaching and choose what to send me for observation and feedback. Since teachers are in full control over what they send me to observe, this can lessen the angst some feel when inviting coaches into their live classrooms.

As I view, I post time-stamped comments on the videos so teachers can get immediate feedback before we are able to meet for our coaching conversation. Since that feedback is in print and without lengthy explanation, I take great care in how and when I provide it, tending to both quality, quantity and the tone of the comments. Here are a few guidelines when giving video feedback to teachers:
  • Comment frequently. It can feel risky to record and share a part of your teaching self with others. Earn teachers’ trust by commenting frequently to clearly show you appreciate their efforts and are invested in their learning.
  • Use the time-stamp feature. The beauty of virtual feedback is that we can literally freeze time. If possible, insert your feedback in time-stamped comments to directly connect your comments to instruction.
  • Tag your comments. Tagging not only provides feedback for teachers, but helps you learn about yourself as a coach. By tagging your comments with labels such as celebration, wonderings, student engagement, materials, etc. teachers can easily identify the purpose of your comment. As a coach, you can easily see patterns in your feedback and can set goals for your own coaching.
  • Remain positive at all times. Coaching is just as much about teachers’ spirits as it is their expertise. Comment freely on each positive element you see, from instructional techniques and language choices to student engagement and wall decor. Teachers need to notice what they are doing well, something often overlooked in their busy days.
  • Keep the goal in mind. As a coach, you might feel pressed to comment on as much as possible to give teachers the most out of the coaching cycle. But it is important to keep the teachers’ coaching goals in mind and focus constructive comments on those goals only. This will help focus your feedback and ensure the teacher is getting what he/she hoped for out of the coaching cycle.
  • Make it interactive. While comments are important, be sure to ask questions, wonder and hypothesize and generate a conversation. Coaching is not a one-way street where coaches only coach teachers. Coaches also learn from each coaching partnership as co-learners for the sake of students.
So, how do I remind myself of these important guidelines when giving feedback? I used to list them on a piece of paper and tack it to the bulletin board next to my laptop, but I would often forget to refer to them. I wrote them on sticky notes adhered to my laptop, but they’d fall off.

Enter the table tent.

Table tents are pieces of paper folded into a shape that makes it stand up on the table alone. Think of a piece of paper folded in half and then stood on the table so it is propped up on its own. Why table tents? I was inspired by the table tents Jennifer Serravallo uses in her conferences with students and knew it could be a helpful conferencing tool for working with teachers, too.

Now, when it’s time for me to provide feedback on teachers’ videos in a coaching cycle, I prop the table tent on my desk as an instant, tangible reminder of what’s most important when providing feedback. Does this sound like something that would work for you, too? Download it here and let me know how you might create your own table tent perfectly suited to your coaching needs.
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  1. I love this idea, Stephanie! I've been on the other end as a teacher -- sending video to a mentor and receiving feedback in response. I remember feeling a sense of control I didn't feel when someone was sitting beside me watching me confer or teach a mini-lesson or whatever the focus might be. With video, I chose when to record, how much to record, and what to send. It almost felt like a bit of "risk scaffolding" -- adding a layer of safety as I stretched myself to places of discomfort. Love it!

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    1. Yes! It really does make a difference, especially when first getting started. Glad you love it!

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