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Think Online Videos Will Solve Your PD Problem? Think Again.

Today's guest blog is written by Weston Kieschnick, Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education.

Across the PD landscape, video repositories are emerging with claims that they can provide quality professional development that is both cheap and effective. In many cases, none of the above is true. In fact, many of these sites are becoming dumping grounds for mediocre ideas and wasted professional development dollars. These are dollars that could, and should, be spent on coaching and mentoring programs. These programs have been proven time and again to both enhance teacher satisfaction (Edwards, Green, Lyons, et al., 1998) and improve student achievement (Wenglinsky, 2000).

Why shouldn't you spend money on vetted and filtered content available in many of these video repositories? The answer is simple. Think about it, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts, Pinterest, Khan Academy, TeacherTube, Facebook, and Google are existing repositories where educators are already freely sharing ideas and best practice. Furthermore, these sources are unfiltered and unvetted; which, believe it or not, is a great thing! It's great because educators are able to engage in the thoughtful consideration and professional dialogue that is necessary to discern whether or not the examples they find align with the mission and vision of their district, school, or classroom. This sort of filtering and discernment embodies exactly the kinds of 21st century skills we are trying to cultivate in our students.

Furthermore, we should be devoting energy and resources to those things we know will move the academic needle for kids. Simply put, those things include high quality professional development accompanied by consistent coaching and mentoring. We know very little about these video sites and the claims they make. On the contrary, we know a great deal about coaching and it's impact on both students and teachers. Here are a few of the things we know to be true:

  • Professional development is an important predictor in student achievement. Students in classes that were taught by teachers who received professional development outperformed their peers by 107% on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. (Wenglinsky, 2000)


  • In a 5 year study spanning more than 80 schools spread out over 20 districts, researchers found that when teachers were given only a description of new instructional skills, only 10% actually used the skill in the classroom.  (Bush, 1984)


  • A 15 week study examined the transfer of skills acquired during professional development under "coached" and non-coached" conditions. It concluded PD accompanied by coaching unequivocally increased the transfer of training to improved instructional practice. In contrast, teachers who received PD without coaching ultimately lost interest in the skills and stopped using them. (Truesdale, 2003)


  • Up to 75% of teachers who receive coaching after PD are able to transfer newly acquired skills into their classrooms. (Showers, 1983)


  • In studies on in-class modeling, teachers overwhelmingly report that seeing sample lessons modeled by instructional coaches in their own classrooms instills confidence, increases understanding, and improves the likelihood of implementation. (Knight, 2007)

Believe it or not, some will read this and still choose to pay for monthly and yearly "premium" memberships to video sites for educators. We can only speculate as to why. But if I had to venture a guess, I would argue many hope these videos will act as replacements for professional development and robust classroom coaching.

Unfortunately, this is the same logic that led some to believe that video and computer technology would ultimately replace the classroom teacher. In fact, we know this could not be further from the truth. The same is true for coaching as it is the classroom. Education is about people. It is about relationships. We move closer to excellence when we increase the points of connectivity between learners and thought leaders. Can this include video content? Absolutely it can. But should it exclude real people doing the real work of coaching and mentoring? Ask yourself if you're willing to replace your child's classroom teachers with a cache of video content; and then give me your answer. 

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