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UDL in 15 Minutes with Jenny Parker

The rewards of video recording

While the theme of this podcast is how one teacher got started with UDL, Jenny and I moved forward from there and talked about tools she believes help teachers move forward with their practice. Within that conversation, we talked about video recording. Whether the idea intrigues or repulses you, there is a whole body of quality literature that says it is an excellent tool to help you improve your instruction (Hollingsworth, 2005; Major & Watson, 2018; Star & Strickland, 2008; Tripp & Rich, 2012). My initiation into the process came early; I was in my undergraduate program and I still have the VHS tape!

We had to record ourselves, take notes, and then hand in the tape and the notes to our professor. We had to identify the strengths and (then labeled) weaknesses in our instruction. There I was in my oversized 80’s white top with writing all over it and my hair was pulled back in a barrette that slowly slid out of my hair during the 30 minutes. I eagerly connected with my four learners as we sat in the boiler room of the elementary school. These were students with disabilities, I was teaching them a side lesson, and this was the available space. My students were nonplussed but I remember being taken aback.

I also recall the mortification I felt when I watched the video recording the first time. Luckily, my professor has the foresight to tell us that we needed to watch it objectively. She only had us watch it once and take notes. I’ve shifted that to recommending three times (you can choose a 15–20-minute segment that you’re going to watch the three times). I recommend that you watch all three of them over the course of three days, not back-to-back in one sitting. Here are the steps I suggest:

  1. Watch the first time with no sound. Watch your movements and your students’ responses.
    1. Watch your facial expressions.
      1. What is your face saying?
      2. Are you happy?
      3. Angry?
      4. Are your emotions limited?
    2. What is your body language saying?
      1. It is welcoming?
      2. Do you enter the space of some learners and not others?
    3. Do you physically reference teaching aids (e.g., do you point to the board?)
      1. Do you gesture toward resources they are going to use?
    4. Do you make eye contact?

    All of your notes should focus on your movement and how your students are responding via their body language.

    1. Watch the second time with the sound on, paying attention to what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
      1. Are your sentences clear?
      2. Is your speech halting or is there a natural flow to it?
      3. Do you repeat critical information?
      4. Do you use inflection to emphasize important information?
      5. Do you use silence to your advantage (e.g., not talking to create a calm or quiet environment)?
      6. Do you speak in with a shouting voice or a projected voice (the first sounds forced; the latter carries)?

    All of your notes should focus on how you are using your voice to communicate.

    1. Watch the third time to observe the flow and movement of your learning environment.
      1. Are you the only one moving?
        1. When students are moving, do they move with purpose?
          1. What can you do to help them gain more purpose?
        2. When you are moving, are you pacing or do you have purpose to your movements?
        3. Should you become more still at times to emphasize material or information?
      2. Can you add in more opportunities for student movement?

      All of your notes should focus on the flow and movement in your learning environment.

      By breaking down your observations, you’re able to assess more about your teaching in a more systematic and objective way. You can identify patterns that support your learners and patterns that don’t. You’ll see where you tend to look and what you might be missing (no one can see everything all of the time). You can see where you tend to stand and whether you should shift that. Finally, it gives you a different vantage point of the classroom. That’s always valuable.

      We’re always going to be subjective about our instruction, but these steps should provide you some distance. You can use that distance to collect data and even discuss some of it with colleagues. It is this kind of observation that can help us shift our teaching practices and discover more ways we can help our learners become expert learners.


      Hollingsworth, H. (2005). Learning about teaching and teaching about learning: Using video data for research and professional development.

      Major, L., & Watson, S. (2018). Using video to support in-service teacher professional development: the state of the field, limitations and possibilities. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 27(1), 49-68.

      Star, J. R., & Strickland, S. K. (2008). Learning to observe: Using video to improve preservice mathematics teachers’ ability to notice. Journal of mathematics teacher education, 11, 107-125.

      Tripp, T., & Rich, P. (2012). Using video to analyze one’s own teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 678-704.