Improving teacher effectiveness with an in-classroom camera system

VIEWpath allows teachers to reflect on and improve their instructional methods
By: | Issue: September, 2015 | Case Study
July 22, 2015

Like most districts, increasing the graduation rate is a top priority in the School District of Palm Beach County. And with 187 schools and 183,000 students, the Florida district has a large challenge.

The key to tackling this issue is improving the quality of teaching, says Karen Whetsell, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for Palm Beach.

Teachers in Palm Beach use the Marzano Deliberate Practice method, wherein they work to achieve mastery through receiving feedback and using coaching to improve areas of weakness. Self-assessment is also a critical part of this method. “Not all teachers are comfortable with engaging in self-reflection,” says Whetsell. “We wanted to find a way to make it easy, meaningful and safe.”

The VIEWpath camera system by Audio Enhancement was selected to record and store teachers’ lessons. Through this professional development platform, teachers can examine how they gave a particular lesson and determine areas in which they are effective and areas in which they could improve their skills. VIEWpath recordings allow for the precise examination of voice inflection, rate of speech and student engagement levels.

The system consists of a simple interface and teacher-controlled camera. It also includes the option for schools to build up libraries of pre-recorded lessons for use by substitute teachers and homebound students.

“VIEWpath is easy to use, and the videos are easy to review at a time that is convenient for the teacher,” says Whetsell. “It provides meaningful information in context for teacher learning.”

And in Palm Beach’s highly collaborative schools, teachers enjoy sharing videos with each other and receiving peer feedback.

“Teachers feel safe with VIEWpath because they have complete control over when they will be recorded and who will have access to their recordings,” says Whetsell.

Whetsell’s past experience with Audio Enhancement as a middle school principal made VIEWpath an easy choice. “Their attention to detail and ability to adjust implementation based on vision is such a value,” she says. “The support they have provided has been a perfect blend of standard training on how to operate the system, and customized training to meet the needs of teachers.”

The system was initially implemented in Palm Beach in spring 2014 at five Marzano demonstration sites. In August, teachers and principals met with administrators to set goals, criteria for evaluation and measurements for success.

Teachers have been enthusiastic about VIEWpath. “Some teachers even came in on their own time over the summer to practice with the system so they knew how to use it the first week of school,” says Whetsell.

VIEWpath facilitates the ultimate goal of increasing student achievement through enhancing teachers’ ability to be self-reflective. “They learn to identify more effective and less effective practices, and articulate why the practice is more or less effective. Then the discussion leads to ways to improve a lesson,” says Whetsell. “If there is anything I can do to help teachers improve their practice, I’m going to try to make it happen.”

The team at Audio Enhancement has the same desire to support teachers. “They understand teachers and the needs in their classrooms,” says Whetsell. “They use educator insights to inform their practices and recommendations.”

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