Examining Student Thinking Through Video Analysis
For preservice teachers, videos of children interacting with other children or with teachers can serve as more than a repository of "virtual kids." An inquiry-based approach to watching such video, supported by tools that allow for frequent and close viewing, provides an opportunity for prospective teachers to develop their skills of observation and interpretation before entering the classroom. Furthermore, the in-depth study of videos— particularly if the videos capture situations that reveal something about children's thinking—creates a context in which teachers can act as researchers by gathering evidence, developing hypotheses, and coordinating this information as a guide for further inquiry and teaching. Over time, close and repeated viewing and analysis of video helps shift focus away from the teacher and to the child, and allows for a richer conception of the relationship between children's performance and understanding, to help better inform teaching. Research suggests that a "cognitively rich environment" can aid in the development of the skills of observation, interpretation and argument (Kuhn, 2001a; Kuhn, Shaw, & Felton, 1997). To support teachers' learning about children's thinking, and to help teachers develop these skills, the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) and Prof. Herbert Ginsburg of Teachers College, Columbia University, created a web-based video analysis system called VITAL, or "Video Interactions for Teaching and Learning." The VITAL software is a course management system with tools for enabling students to view, analyze, and write about video. The work preservice teachers perform in VITAL has a number of potential implications for teacher development: first, it grounds learning in the empirical, and second, it offers the opportunity to practice skills of observation, interpretation, and reasoning in preparation for entering the classroom. The immediate goal of the VITAL method is to help preservice teachers (or students from any discipline) become more likely to gather their own evidence of understanding and to encourage them, through repeated viewing and manual interaction with the video content, to be deliberate in validating what they see and in explaining the connections between their evidence and claims about learning. A long-range goal of the method is to help teachers develop a more conditional notion of "the truth" that encourages them to entertain alternative hypotheses and promotes further inquiry and new ideas for teaching. This process represents a recursive, iterative response to new events; gathering more information creates the need for new evidence. By practicing these activities in a controlled setting, teachers can then prepare for classroom-based formative assessment.
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