As teacher educators who specialize in elementary math at University of Michigan, Meghan Shaughnessy and Susanna Farmer want to ensure their teacher interns can correctly explain and model the complex idea of multiplying fractions to their elementary school students. The week before implementing a lesson on this topic in their internship classroom, Meghan and Susanna ask their teachers to record approximately 90-seconds of video of themselves explaining, as if to a fifth-grader, how to use an area-model representation to solve a fraction multiplication problem. They guide their teachers to capture the actual example they plan to use with students during instruction.
Meghan and Susanna review the videos and provide comments on strengths and things each teacher might consider changing before the teacher delivers the lesson later in the week. In total, Meghan and Susanna spend less than 10 minutes on each teacher, gaining a clear sense of what the intern is prepared to do while also offering targeted and meaningful feedback on core aspects of instruction. As teachers finish preparing to teach, they request clarification on specific comments when necessary.
Pre-Teach involves teachers recording themselves rehearsing portions of upcoming instruction in order to refine their practice before implementing with students. Videos can be as short as 90 seconds or upward of five to seven minutes. Pre-Teach is meant to approximate real teaching practice and can be implemented with or without others role-playing as students. Pre-Teach is a powerful strategy since it helps teachers practice and make adjustments before their lessons rather than analyze teaching that has happened in the past.
Pre-Teach helps teachers prepare for the delivery, not just the design, of lessons. Since it requires teachers to try out the particulars of a lesson—the particular image they might show, the particular questions they might pose, or the particular language they might use to describe a phenomena, for example—this strategy functions as an important intermediate step between planning a lesson and implementing it. Teachers might consider pre-teaching episodes of instruction that will require them to help students engage in discourse, elicit and respond to students’ ideas, communicate core content, organize instructional materials, navigate social and intellectual relationships among students, and so forth.
Pre-Teach is an evolution of the microteaching practice developed in the 1960s by Dwight Allen and colleagues at Stanford University. Microteaching involves teacher candidates teaching short segments of lessons to small groups of students, receiving feedback from students and observers, considering how to adjust based on that feedback, and reteaching that same short lesson to a new group of students. While microteaching and video-recorded rehearsals have since become popular within teacher training programs, here they are adapted into a format appropriate for both pre-service and in-service teachers. Pre-Teach can happen in two formats: solo and with peers. A solo Pre-Teach happens with only one teacher and his or her recording device. In this version, the teacher can focus on trying out sequences such as key explanations, demonstrations, or directions to give to students.
Alternatively, Pre-Teach can happen with peers or coaches who role play students while one teacher practices. This version allows the teacher doing the Pre-Teach to try out episodes of instruction that require sustained interaction, like eliciting and responding to students or supporting students to engage deeply with the content of the lesson. When Pre-Teach videos are shared, teachers can invite peers and coaches to spot moments of importance and offer specific feedback, as well as support them in breaking down or interpreting their Pre-Teach performance. Using these focusing techniques to analyze the Pre-Teach video can help teachers refine their instruction before they implement with students. Teachers who view a peer’s rehearsal video can also gain new insight for their own instruction.
Many video learning strategies focus on instruction that has already occurred with students. Pre-Teach is one of the few strategies that can improve instruction before it occurs with students.
All teachers, early-career and experienced, can benefit from implementing Pre-Teach for techniques and content they’re delivering for the first time or working to refine. In fact, a recent study by Francis John Troyan and Megan Madigan Peercy (2016) found that teachers see these types of rehearsals as important to their own preparation.
While the solo version of Pre-Teach is logistically simple to implement and highly valuable to the teacher involved, it doesn’t afford the opportunity for teachers try out segments of instruction that rely on significant interactions with students. To compensate, teachers can pause themselves during the Pre-Teach, momentarily step out of the role of teacher, and talk through what they expect their students to do or say.
The role-play version of Pre-Teach offers the opportunity to prepare for interactions with and between students. However, this benefit comes with its own set of drawbacks. Teachers can find it awkward to play a student, potentially distracting the rehearsing teacher from the task at hand. Establishing clear norms for role play—like asking teachers to respond with the ideas they most commonly hear from their own students, follow directions, and demonstrate good behavior—
can help mitigate this challenge.
Simply to coordinate everyone involved, implementing Pre-Teach with role plays also requires more directive facilitation from a coach or teacher educator. This kind of heavy direction may be less desirable for the professional development of more experienced teachers.
Regardless of the format used, when teachers record and share Pre-Teach clips, colleagues and coaches can offer feedback equally or even more effectively than they could if a written lesson plan was the only artifact of preparation. A recorded Pre-Teach allows a coach to understand much more clearly and directly how a teacher plans to represent ideas for students, compared to what they can infer from reading the teacher’s lesson plan.
For example, Meghan Shaughnessy noted in the first five seconds of one Pre-Teach video that the teacher changed a math problem from asking students to find “three-fifths of two-thirds” to asking them to find “one-half of one-half.” Meghan could foresee the confusion these specific fractions might cause as students tried to use the teacher’s area-model representation to solve the fraction multiplication problem. She left a brief comment, asking the teacher to reconsider the numbers in the problem to avoid confusion when introducing the concept to students. In this way, the teacher benefited from quick, actionable feedback before she taught the lesson to students.
Pre-Teach video clips also make the process of giving and receiving feedback on the instructional plan much more efficient. Teachers have to spend less time writing out detailed explanations just to make their plans clear to a feedback provider. Those providing feedback spend less time trying to discern what the lesson author intends because they can literally see what the teacher is prepared to do.
In total, Pre-Teach can happen over one or several days. The planning work should only take 10 minutes. In execution, teachers should plan to spend between 10-20 minutes recording their Pre-Teach videos. If the role-play version of Pre-Teach is used, educators who role-play students should plan to spend an additional 15 minutes, while the person coordinating the role-play should plan for an additional 20 minutes. Educators analyzing and discussing Pre-Teach videos should budget 10-30 minutes.
Excerpt from “Evidence of Practice”
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