Tag Archives | whole school improvement

The benefits of video on classroom practice

By Ryan Zeedyk

In 2016, Douglas ESD decided to invest in the IRIS Connect platform because our county in Oregon is pretty rural. We have a lot of teachers that are the only one in their grade level, or the entire science department and it gave us a platform to be able to capture and share our classroom practice over distance. 

Most teachers long to collaborate with like-minded educators, and learn quickly by watching others in action,  so video seemed like a good option. We purchased 2 kits as an ESD (Education Service District) to support our county.

Gaining staff buy in

To begin with, getting this program in motion was all about comfortability. Most teachers do not want to video themselves, unless they are already very confident in their practice. Since a lot of the teachers we wanted to develop were not so confident putting a camera in their classroom would only brings tension. The coaches at the ESD and surrounding districts knew that if we wanted it to be successful,  we would have to lead by example and model it first, if we wanted any of our teachers to use it successfully. 

Our first year was just using the tools as coaches; setting it up and recording ourselves whenever we were providing PD, or modeling lessons. This made it easy for us the following year when we asked teachers to start doing the same. 

Capturing and sharing practice

Our second year was much more teacher-focused. Coaches and mentors would record teachers and use the platform to provide time-stamped feedback from the lessons. We also started capturing clips of exemplary teachers to show during our regional workgroups. If we were discussing trauma-informed practices, then we’d record a teacher building her students’ working memory. If we were discussing call and response cues, then we’d capture that, and so on. It made it far easier to capture and share practice with all the teachers in our District. 

Our third year saw some innovative and interesting uses that teachers and admins created on their own.We had some professional learning communities (PLCs) created and teachers were recording each other practicing strategies and giving each other feedback. Not only were people beginning to feel comfortable with using it, but they were definitely seeing the benefits in the practice, as well as their confidence. 

One of the  principals even used it to capture behavior triggers between students and staff to spark conversations. Another staff member, a curriculum specialist, started recording themselves during training sessions in case any of their staff couldn’t attend and missed it.

Award winning video-based PD

In May 2019, we won an award for innovation from the OAESCD for our work in expanding PD tools throughout the county. 

The purpose of the OAESD New Ideas in Education Awards is to both recognize innovative ideas, projects or programs initiated by member ESDs as well as to stimulate a culture of innovation and creativity within each Oregon ESD. 

“Douglas ESD purchased this system to serve our component school districts” said Analicia Nicholson, Douglas ESD assistant superintendent. “Ryan was instrumental in not only supporting teachers as they tested out the program but in ensuring teachers truly embraced the program’s capabilities for professional development.”

To date, the system has been used by all 13 component districts. Douglas ESD has seen:

  • Teachers recording themselves to share best practices in regional workgroups.
  • A trauma-informed coordinator recording professional development sessions to meet the needs of all staff.
  • Instructional coaches recording their clients and providing time-stamped feedback digitally.
  • An elementary school principal recording behavior triggers between staff and students to target specific management strategies.
  • Mentor teachers recording themselves and mentees for objective reflections of lessons.
  • Professional Learning Communities modeling specific strategies and recording themselves to refine their teaching.


We are now in our fourth year and hope to continue see these ideas grow and deepen to connect teachers within our schools and collaborate within our county. While the measured impact so far has been solely qualitative, it can certainly be felt. Teachers are definitely more comfortable recording themselves and the school communities that have been using Iris Connect are overall more open to reflection and growing within their practice.


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Creating a positive and developmental professional learning culture

Whitecote Primary School is a 2 form entry school in Leeds. They have successfully developed a culture of openness and trust, and supported staff to analyse and discuss teaching and learning more effectively. To find out how we caught up with year 6 teacher Dan Sheffrin and were sent some videos from the other staff with their thoughts about it too.

IRIS Connect: Why did you feel that you needed to change your approach to CPD?

Dan Sheffrin: We wanted to move from a top-down model of staff development to one that was altogether more reflective. Top-down models, whether they intend to or not, are quite confrontational. People are faced with a situation where someone with authority is telling them the things wrong with their practice. This can naturally trigger feelings of defensiveness amongst staff – they may feel that they are not being represented fairly, and will often focus on this, rather than on accepting the things they need to do to improve.

We wanted to move to a more reflective approach, built upon mutual collaboration, by encouraging staff to open up, to share and to be a critical friend to their colleagues. This is more likely to lead to a genuine desire to improve – teachers generally want to improve, they want their pupils to learn more effectively. By building upon this, the introduction of new ideas to spur improvements and by creating the right framework for collaboration, change in practice is more meaningful and more sustainable.

IC: Why did you choose video CPD as your vehicle for change?


IC: How did staff react to the idea of being videoed for professional development?

DS: Some staff had real hang-ups about seeing themselves on camera or hearing their own voices – one said that she hadn’t even wanted a photographer on her wedding day because she hated it so much. Many were also wary of what was going to happen to the videos and who was going to be able to view them.


IC: How did you deal with these concerns?

DS: Barriers and fears had to be removed first – the terms and conditions of the system reassured people that no-one would be able to access their videos apart from them unless they chose to share them. Even then, this sharing could be withdrawn at any time and those they had shared videos with would no longer be able to see them.  

We made it clear that the first videos that they produced were only ever intended for their own viewing – they would not have to share them with anyone. When we did introduce sharing with others it happened on a piecemeal basis. At this stage, only a few videos were shared in a very limited capacity and teachers could share videos as an alternative choice to observation. Some videos of good practice were shared amongst the phase (2-year groups). And the teachers chose which videos they shared – there was no pre-existing task or aim, nor any points for improvement at this stage – it was all about building confidence in the system.

IC: How did staff feel about it?


IC: What happened next?

DS: We heard about the EEF funded research project on using IRIS Connect to improve the use of feedback in lessons. We joined the project because we wanted our use of IRIS Connect to be more purposeful. We wanted to move on to using it to improve teaching beyond what was mostly self-reflection.

IC: How did the project help you?

DS: The project introduced us to IRIS Connect film club. This provided us with rich materials which we could use a springboard for improving teaching. It also gave us the opportunity to expand the use of IRIS Connect into sharing videos with the specific aim of identifying areas of strength and improvement, and use it as a tool to instigate school-wide improvements.

IC: Tell us about film club…

DS: Film club provided a powerful way of introducing new ideas to teachers. The high-quality video clips provided examples of the concepts in action: they were actually working models, not just theories from an inset session. The discussion questions gave an opportunity to unpick what aspects of provision allowed the pupils to engage in deeper learning. In combination with the video clips, this created a fertile ground for rich, face-to-face discussions. Teachers could also be critical of the video examples, picking apart what wasn’t as successful. While those discussions were carrying on, staff were writing text comments using the commenting system built into IRIS. This meant they could see what other groups were saying, and reply to those comments. In concert with the face-to-face discussions, this created a powerful combination of formats which worked really well for developing our thinking, and ultimately our teaching.

IC: What do staff think about film club?


IC: Were all staff involved?

DS: All teachers and HLTAs attended film clubs and were grouped into triads. By putting staff members into triads, the more experienced staff members could share the wealth of experience with other members of the group, whilst younger members of the group could contribute their energy and any knowledge they may have of the latest ideas in education.  By splitting up Year Groups, it meant that both members could come back with different ideas about the same topics, thereby increasing the breadth of ideas going into those Year Groups.


IC: Why do you think film club is effective?

DS: It works because it ties into what we are already doing, becoming part of the whole picture. For instance, yesterday we had a meeting on Maths, and we referred back to the learning from a film club session about dialogic teaching. The clips are high quality and lead to fantastic face-to-face discussion during the film club screening. The online comments function is very helpful for sharing thoughts beyond the triads. This combination of formats works really well. Like with anything in school, you need someone with the capacity to keep this going and it must have support from leadership.

IC: Is that because of the specific content of dialogic teaching or the flexible format of film club?

DS: It’s both. The content, which was really useful in itself, and the format of film club. The ready-made modules or episodes really help because half the job is done for you. One of the most beneficial aspects of the IRIS/film club/triad model is that it is completely adaptable to our needs. We are able to use the same model in the introduction of reciprocal reading, as well as some work on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The use of this model ties into everything we do. What is discussed in film club sessions comes up in many other contexts e.g. other training sessions.


IC: Has using film club affected the professional learning culture at all? If so, how?

DS: Definitely! The culture is less top down, people are more open and it’s created an atmosphere of trust between teachers.

IC: What are your next steps?

DS: In future, whatever new ideas of areas of focus we want for the school, we know we can use that model to help us achieve it. It does so in a way that is responsive to our needs while allowing staff to try out new ideas and improve based on the feedback of their colleagues. It feels like a very sustainable approach to embedding whole school priorities.


Read overview of research by the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) on the impact of film club >

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IRIS Connect is used to run lesson study project with 100+ teachers

One of the best secondary academies in the country, Tuxford Academy, are using IRIS Connect to conduct a school-wide Lesson Study project involving 105 teachers. Ten years ago they embarked upon a national college project in Lesson Study, using DVD cameras to facilitate it. After several years the project fizzled out because the technology proved […]

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Developing a Self-Sustaining Coaching Culture

Video Coaching at Foxford School and Community Arts College

Foxford School and Community Arts College have increased the impact of their coaching programme, developing a self-sustaining coaching culture with the help of inspire2teach and IRIS Connect. 

Foxford pupils coaching culture

The Inspiration

Welcoming around 1,000 students from all backgrounds, Foxford School and Community Arts College in north-east Coventry centres teaching and learning around three core values:

  • Success is realised in a variety of ways
  • People can and do change
  • Growth is achieved through learning and partnership

With these values in mind, they were looking to increase the impact of their already embedded programme to develop a stronger coaching culture. Foxford heard about St Augustine Academy in Kent, who were using IRIS Connect alongside a unique coaching project called inspire2teach and seeing some significant results.

“Inspire2teach was born out of our use of IRIS Connect,” says Paul Collin, Senior Lead Practitioner of Teaching and Learning at St Augustine Academy. “We’d had it for about 2 years, but were concerned about it falling by the wayside if I, the main driver for it in the school, was to leave. So we decided to develop a self-sustaining system that would prevent that happening.”

Having only used the programme in-house so far, St Augustine’s were keen to trial it in another school. Foxford agreed to be the pilot school and began the inspire2teach coaching programme in October 2015.

 “I don’t personally feel that at the moment there is another tool as effective or that gives you as much return on investment as IRIS Connect does. It’s a truly powerful tool for professional learning.”

Developing a coaching culture

“We initially identify with the school a willing group of 12 delegates. At Foxford, that included a wide variety of people from NQTs to heads of departments.” explains Paul. “We coach all 12 people but in addition, two of them will also train to become coaches themselves. We call them Coaching Improvement Partners (CIPs) and they become the legacy vehicle to carry on the programme once we’ve left,”

Paul and his team set the scene for the programme over a 2 day INSET. The first is an interactive fun day where delegates learn all about the programme and IRIS Connect, whilst the second day is for starting the IRIS Connect reflections. Every other week from there on, Paul and his coaches visit the school and on the weeks in between, they communicate with delegates via the online inspire2teach and IRIS Connect platforms.

After the sixth week, live in-ear coaching sessions are introduced using a five stage coaching sequence originally developed by Education Consultant and Trainer, Mike Fleetham. “We use in-ear coaching as part of the programme because of the rapid results it produces. Receiving feedback in the moment means that new approaches and techniques are embedded far more quickly. It’s also comforting to know that someone has your back if you are struggling with a class. It’s collaboration at its best point,” says Paul.

“What it’s done for a few colleagues in particular, in moving their practice forward and increasing their confidence and self esteem, has just been fantastic. Compared to the old coaching programme, this one is far more effective.”

The impact of coaching with video

Deputy Headteacher, Marie Szyndler shares the impact they have experienced across the school so far as a result of the inspire2teach programme and IRIS Connect:

“The programme’s been successful beyond anything that I had imagined, both in terms of the impact of IRIS Connect and the coaching”. “What it’s done for a few colleagues in particular, in moving their practice forward and increasing their confidence and self esteem, has just been fantastic. Compared to the old coaching programme, this one is far more effective.”

“We’ve seen improvements in teaching across the school and in students progress. We’ve had children and teachers come and ask: ‘when’s it my turn?’ and because they have gone through the process themselves, TLR post holders now feel they are better equipped to help move colleagues on in ways they hadn’t thought of before”.

The school’s focus this year has been questioning and oracy, which Marie feels, IRIS Connect has been particularly effective at supporting so far: “You can do things as straightforward as count your wait time or count students words. Then, you can look back at your questioning when you started and see how you have improved over time; it’s brilliant.”

“Something I hadn’t necessarily considered is that we could use both the inspire2teach coaching programme and IRIS Connect for wider CPD. So things like filming meetings, getting clips of lessons to create examples of good practice and building up a bank of videos about key issues like questioning, oracy and differentiation. I want to make sure that by the end of the year, all the faculties have been involved so we can learn what works,  what doesn’t and then plan for next year.”

The Future – sustaining coaching as part of the school culture

“I don’t personally feel that at the moment there is another tool as effective or that gives you as much return on investment as IRIS Connect does. It’s a truly powerful tool for professional learning,” says Paul.

“My hope is that, like Foxford, we can use the inspire2teach programme to help other schools get to grips with IRIS Connect and embed a self-sustaining coaching culture that lasts. Ultimately I’d like to build a network of schools who, beyond the 12 week programme, can continue to collaborate and share their experiences for the benefit of everyone.”


To find out more about inspire2teach please visit their website, take a look at this presentation outlining their journey of inspire2teach from school to project pilot, view this flyer or contact Paul Collin: [email protected] 

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Early experiences of video professional learning

Treleigh Community Primary School
Teacher using video in the classroom

Ryan Hanley, a year 5 teacher at Treleigh Community Primary School in Cornwall, volunteered to be one of the first to use IRIS Connect after his school invested in the system in January 2016. In his own words, Ryan shares an honest account of his experiences of getting started with video professional learning and how he is finding the use of IRIS Connect…

With the changes to the new primary curriculum and the raised expectations, it is tempting to say that teaching and learning has been compromised. Do we solely focus on teaching the increased content driven curriculum, or focus on the best methods and vehicles in which to deliver this content?

We believe IRIS Connect will help us as a team to hold true to our convictions and focus on the best methods to deliver this new curriculum. With a balance of video-based activities in the IRIS Connect platform and peer coaching groups, we’re hoping to improve how we teach, encourage and motivate one another to focus on what really matters; the impact our actions have on children’s learning.

Getting started with video professional learning

We are a medium-sized expanding Cornish school that serves the biggest conurbation in Cornwall – Camborne, Pool and Redruth district. After initially seeing the IRIS Connect platform at a local cluster school’s ‘learning-group’ training day in 2015, our deputy-head teacher was keen to investigate further.

Soon enough, we invested in the system and put forward two teachers (myself and the year 6 teacher) to be in charge of getting used to the equipment, ensuring that it was embedded into our practice and a consistent part of our professional development.

We began using IRIS Connect in January 2016. Rather than just being seen as another ‘bolt-on’ or ‘gimmick’ for the new curriculum by our fellow colleagues, we knew it would be important to ensure that IRIS Connect was properly embedded into our school practice.

Working with our deputy-headteacher, we planned a ‘3 half-termly phased’ approach to help us structure the way teachers got used to the equipment; becoming familiar and competent at recording themselves.

We also had a liaison with Richard from Impact Matters, a leadership consultancy that act as regional partner for IRIS Connect, working with schools and colleges in Wales and the South West of England. Richard helped us to think about coaching methodology, and how to encourage peer-to-peer support amongst the teachers to help motivate and encourage this new approach in our school.

Building the confidence to share with others

Teacher using IRIS ConnectInitially, however, we had to get used to the equipment and filming our lessons. They say with IRIS Connect, you need to get 4 recordings done ‘on-the-bounce’ to get over that initial awareness that you’re being filmed throughout your lesson; and we both found this to be true! Equally, after 4 recordings, we found that we became less concerned with our ‘looks’ and how we sounded on camera, and more focused on the impact the lesson had on the children. We began recording lessons just to see if a new idea would work, or how a group would react to a certain task etc.

Once you’ve recorded a lesson, you have the ability to share it internally from your account to that of a colleague. At first, we both found it slightly nerve-racking to share our lessons; it’s a lesson observation all over again! Will he think I went on too long during the input? Were the children engaged? Was there enough challenge? All these questions flooded our minds before we hit the share button.

However, to the contrary, the comments (which can be tagged within minute and second intervals of the video – like a Facebook feed!) were very encouraging and up-lifting. As we were both ‘in the same boat’, we both enjoyed having the opportunity to be the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ in each other’s lessons. More importantly still, we could silence the harshest critics (ourselves) and focus on the positives; a skill that is arguably forgotten in the current teaching climate.

Setting up coaching triads

Once we had set up coaching triads, our colleagues enthusiastically took to video coaching, recording both long and short lessons in order to get over the ‘4 recording hurdle.’

On a staff-meeting feedback session, we found that the feeling of anxiety before sharing a video was common. However, we knew that we didn’t have to share our video and that if the lesson was an absolute car-crash, we could always choose not to and try again the next day.

Currently, we are still in the process of recording lessons with set focuses to help us get used to the coaching process, improving our professional development and overall teaching and learning.

Looking to the future
treleigh community primary school

Although it is still early-days for us, we are hoping that we can build a ‘bank’ of good practice videos that will help not only the staff at Treleigh, but maybe even the schools in our cluster and learning group as well.

We are already seeing how our PGCE students are benefiting from the impact of seeing themselves teach and saving time arranging demonstrations and observations of other teachers, rather than just logging on to watch best practice of a particular focus they need.

We’re in the business of educating, and this life-long education culture needs to be alive and modelled by the teachers to the children they teach.

IRIS Connect is certainly an educational journey for us, one we are only beginning, but are excited to be on.

What is IRIS Connect?

IRIS Connect platformIRIS Connect is a secure, personalised place for teachers to record, analyse and reflect on their practice.

Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.

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Renew your licence

“I can’t praise the support we’ve had from IRIS Connect over the past three years highly enough. Their patience, timely response and knowledge has been invaluable. There’s no question about whether we’ll renew or not.”  John Bannister, Networks Manager at St John Bosco Arts College

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