Using video to support reflective practice: The eResource

Isabel Brookes and Dr Caroline Cohrssen

Reflective practice, the process of deliberately considering our own actions in order to gain insight into effective professional behaviours, should be an ongoing process. However, talking about ongoing professional learning and achieving ongoing learning – regardless of one's profession – are entirely different. Reflective practice requires an ability to see ourselves from the outside; from a bird's eye view, so to speak – in order to think objectively about our professional practice. Another challenge is that the process requires us to address the 'So what next?' question, ideally with the guidance of a trusted mentor.

Reflective practice is one of the cornerstones of the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and (Early Childhood and Primary) programs. The University of Melbourne's consistently high ranking for initial teacher education attracts students from Australia and around the world. Applicants have varied graduate-level qualifications that range from Advertising to Zoology and everything in between. Each 'teacher candidate' enters the program with differing understandings of effective teaching and learning based on their own educational experiences. They graduate equipped with empirically-tested competencies that are associated with gains in child learning outcomes. Supporting this shift in knowledge, practice and beliefs requires the support of a team of early childhood education specialists. Teacher candidates acquire skills that equip them to collect evidence of the knowledge that children demonstrate through play. They then draw on theory and research to individualise teaching interventions that will consolidate and extend the learning of each child in the context of an informal curriculum.

Supporting the development of self-reflective practitioners requires out-of-the-box thinking and sensitive consideration of teacher candidates' individual learning needs. Over the last few years, the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and (Early Childhood and Primary) team has developed and refined an innovative, online application to increase opportunities for teacher candidates to receive personalised feedback that supports reflective practice: the eResource. Teacher candidates record short exemplars of their teaching practice. The eResource tasks are undertaken with the consent of families and early childhood (EC) centres, and ongoing assent of children. Videos, recorded with EC centre digital devices and uploaded on EC centre computers, cannot be downloaded from the secure site.

The use of video enables teacher candidates to view themselves as others see them – to see what they actually did, rather than what they thought they did. Videos are recorded in response to specific tasks that align with practicum expectations and academic subject content. Teacher candidates are required to demonstrate the links between theory, research and practice in the videos that they upload. Feedback, and teacher candidates' responses to feedback, draw on the terminology of pedagogical strategies embedded in the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and (Early Childhood and Primary). Critical self-reflection takes the self-reflective process one step further as it requires teacher candidates to challenge their own assumptions and to re-evaluate the beliefs that underpin their practice.

Early childhood settings are busy environments where play-based learning activities, routines and transitions often blur with little time to consider the what, why and how of teaching. Video makes data-based reflection after the event possible and provides authentic, irrefutable evidence of actual practice. It makes possible a focus on the impact of purposeful teacher interactions with children during play. This platform for self-reflection creates more aware, intentional and effective teachers. It also enables teacher candidates to engage in critical self-reflection – to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which their beliefs may be impacting on practice, and to filter their thoughts through newly-acquired academic knowledge.

Undertaking an eResource task each semester became a hurdle requirement on the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and (Early Childhood and Primary) at the start of 2017. eResource feedback is provided in addition to the traditional visits teacher candidates receive whilst undertaking clinical teaching practice placements; similar to those visits experienced in other initial teacher education programs. Teacher candidates describe the eResource tasks as a valuable addition to the program. Individual task requirements and the feedback received are reported to increase learning, as they provide opportunities for teacher candidates to compare their practice with evidence-based indicators of interactions that are research-based and empirically tested[1]. As the video and associated feedback can be viewed only by authorised University staff and the teacher candidate, strengths and areas that require feedback are discussed individually and in private.

The use of video with a diverse cohort of pre-service teachers has been shown to promote the development of high quality, reflective interventionist practitioners who draw purposefully on theory and research. The process of critical self-reflection is similarly supported as each individual teacher candidate is provided with an opportunity to consider how their own values and beliefs impact on their practice. This is an important first step towards refining and improving practice to inform intentional interactions that support learning and development.

[1] The domains and dimensions of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) are explicitly taught on the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and (Early Childhood and Primary) courses. Feedback on teaching practice - both face-to-face and eResource - is based on the CLASS observation instrument. This instrument widely used in international research and also valued as a lens for professional learning.