Educational Service Center Region 11 in Texas has been using IRIS Connect to dramatically increase the capacity of their instructional coaching program. Teela Watson, Director of Instructional Services & Digital Learning for Region 11, reflects on their experience using IRIS Connect in this interview.
Why did ESC 11 decide to adopt video-based PD?
“We decided to adopt video-based PD because it enabled us to scale our coaching to service more districts. We could never hire enough people to physically be in all 77 of our school districts. That would not be financially feasible for our organization. By utilizing IRIS Connect, we can multiply the number of coaching sessions we can provide dramatically. Also, we know that research says the most effective professional development is job-embedded and includes continual feedback. So we wanted to use the very best solution to build the capacity of our teachers to improve their practice.”
Describe how your organization uses IRIS Connect.
“We have coaching contracts with seven districts — but I only have five coaches. The coach first builds a relationship with teachers and then asks if they would consider using an IRIS Connect camera system so that they can be coached when they choose rather than when we show up. We typically coach 12 teachers in a district at a time. We do it on a volunteer basis and we are finding that 50% of teachers are immediately willing to use the video cameras. These teachers report that, by using the cameras, it’s less distracting to the students in the classroom than if there’s another person in the classroom. We have absolutely seen a change.”
Were your staff skeptical or hesitant? How did you overcome that?
“Even though we work with consultants who are experts in their field and who all have some training (most of it from Jim Knight) there’s still hesitancy for them to be videotaped. In order to encourage teachers to use video coaching, each of our consultants did showcases. In these showcases, they coached for 10 minutes in a scenario with a live actor and then presented 10 minutes of an engaging professional development activity and we used IRIS Connect to video-coach them. By putting video-based coaching into practice in our own building, with our consultants, we can talk about it with our districts and they can know we’ve had the exact same experience.”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
“I think our greatest challenge is also a very exciting one. It’s a problem, but a good one to have. Once we started using IRIS Connect, teachers wanted to film themselves more and more often. We ended up increasing our workload a tremendous amount. When we coach face-to-face, we do about 20 classroom visits a year. With video coaching, we have found that they want an in-person session and then 10-15 more video sessions. IRIS Connect allows our teachers to get coached 35-40 times. The good news, we don’t have to physically drive out to our districts. Some of our districts are 90 minutes away.”
The return on our investment in IRIS Connect is absolutely invaluable.
“We are able to scale to a much larger size. I’m able to coach twice as many schools with half as many people. That has been amazing. Human capital is my most expensive budget expense. IRIS Connect has prevented me from having to hire more consultants. A consultant, by the time I pay salary, benefits, equipment, and indirect costs is around $110,000 per employee. I can buy an incredible number of IRIS Connect licenses and camera kits for that same amount of money. It has been an amazing return on my investment. I have saved money in terms of salary, travel, and time.
I highly encourage other Education Service Agencies to consider this model. In districts, it’s rare that you have enough instructional coaches to coach all the teachers in your district on a regular basis. Using IRIS Connect you can absolutely be coaching many more times throughout the year.”