Video Clubs: The Art of Noticing

Why not join the club?

In Leveraging Video for Learning: Strategies for Using Video Observations for Professional Growth by the Centre for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, one of the recommendations made is that,

Education leaders should consider promoting opportunities to join or start a video club or teacher rounds process.These opportunities can contribute to a “culture of continuous improvement” in which teachers grow through formative, low-stakes feedback.

A video club is a professional development environment in which teachers watch and discuss videos of a lesson from each other’s classrooms. These are held once or twice a month and last about an hour.

Typically, a lesson is filmed and the teacher selects a short excerpt to show and view at the next group meeting. Coming together as a video club provides teachers with a window into each other’s practices and the opportunity to chew over a range of issues- it develops ‘professional vision’.

A fundamental aim of video clubs is to help teachers learn to notice and interpret significant features of classroom interactions.

Viewing and discussing short, edited segments of videos has proved to stimulate conversation around the issues of teaching and learning and the act of noticing feeds teacher professional development.

In part, learning to notice means “identifying what is important or noteworthy about a classroom situation” (van Es and Sherin, 2002). Connecting and interpreting events depends critically on what teachers attend to and notice.

Sherin and Van Es (2008) divided teachers’ perceptions of classroom situations into two categories:

  1. ‘selective attention’, or seeing, and
  2. ‘knowledge-based reasoning’, or interpretation.

During observation, the act of seeing should connect rationally and developmentally to teacher knowledge but this is a skill that takes time to develop. For example, an expert teacher will ‘see’ a class in action and quickly identify “this is a behaviour issue”, “this is an assessment opportunity”, “this is a misconception” etc but a novice teacher might see very little.

Just as the amateur and expert chess player use different parts of the brain, so do trainee and trained teachers – they notice more. Novice teachers won’t see the same as a classroom-savvy teacher and will miss more but video clubs allow them to engage with the dynamics and learn how to notice.

Training Club: do you see what I see?

Building and growing ‘professional vision’ so teachers can see in depth needs to start very early which is why the use of video clubs is particularly useful for teachers in training as a way of building their skill-set.

Trainee teachers need explicit training in how to observe lessons and spotting salient features. Research shows they are not particularly astute observers of lessons or capable of sorting the important from the less important.

Star et al (2003) argue that it is vital that novice teachers activate a focus on noticing in order to start attending to the intricacy of the classroom and the full range of events that requires a teacher’s attention,

In the absence of an observational compass that points toward important events, teachers’ attention will be attracted by whatever is most visually salient, obvious, or personally compelling—independent of its importance in the lesson.

‘Noticing’ is a skill that skilled teachers just do but they didn’t start out this way. The ability to notice and interpret what is happening in a classroom is a key component of teaching expertise.

Classroom life is full nuances and complex interactions and video “offers rich affordances with its capacity to capture the multimodality of these processes” (Hackling et al 2017).

A teacher’s attention to pedagogy and classroom management can transform the development of subject knowledge in students by examining interactions in a video club. As Hong et al (2017) note,

Video has great potential to enrich the art and science of teaching. Video technology is a useful tool for both beginning and experienced teachers to reflect on their instruction to support students’ engagement.

The act of noticing is developed through stages of experience and will evolve as teachers acquire new skills and move through five states: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient or expert. These developmental junctures are called the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition and understanding what these steps are made up of act as a powerful tool for systematically progressing.  We could also add another stage of sophistication to the model by including ‘master’.

Video clubs can foster self-education and promote higher-order thinking by enabling trainees to link theory with practice so they can acquire theoretical knowledge by observing ways theory is applied in real settings.

They are most effective when an expert teacher sits down with a novice teacher to watch the same video excerpt. Teacher experts can share their observations and point to issues and particular moments, events, activities and behaviours that might otherwise be missed or misinterpreted. As Hong and van Riper (2017) note,

When carefully planned and supported, the interactive nature of video analysis can benefit (trainees) in constructing their knowledge and reflect on their practice.

Of course, video isn’t intended to replace real-time observation or authentic interaction with real breathing speaking pupils but it can act as a valuable supplement to acquire professional knowledge and skills.

Video clubs allow guided analysis and can be used to demonstrate exemplary teaching practices and to show the dilemmas teachers encounter in their day-to-day practice.

The bigger picture

The video-club environment is ideally suited for supporting trainee teachers but it is a powerful context for all teachers to develop their noticing skills. As teachers have very few opportunities to observe their colleagues’ teaching, these clubs can provide teachers with access to each other’s classrooms.

Coming together as experts can focus evaluative discourse and promote deep analyses of teaching and learning issues and allow multiple perspectives on the same event to be explored. Experts are not the finished article and there is always more to learn.

For example, in one study (van Es and Sherin, 2010) a number of experienced teachers who participated in a video club reported learning about the importance of listening to student thinking and how for some it made them conscious of the times students “may be thinking in a way that I’ve never thought of.”

This realisation then acted as the catalyst to shift teaching practices and provide more space for student thinking so that students were given more time to articulate their views, explore ideas and teachers could probe ideas in substantive ways.

And finally….

Watching and analysing classroom video is quickly emerging as a high-leverage professional learning practice for teachers and there is a strong case to be made that it is integrated into teaching training as it

…lays the cognitive groundwork for developing teacher self-reflection (Fadde and Sullivan, 2013).

To learn more about video clubs then take a look at the start-up guide provided here.


Fadde, P., & Sullivan, P. (2013). Using interactive video to develop preservice teachers’ classroom awareness. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(2), 156-174.

Hackling M.W., Romain G., Aranda G. (2017) Reflections on Video-Based, Cross-Cultural Classroom Research Methodologies.In: Hackling M., Ramseger J., Chen HL. (eds) Quality Teaching in Primary Science Education. Springer, Cham

Hong, C, and van Riper, I. (2017) Using Video to Assess Teaching Performance: A Resource Guide for edTPA

van Es, E. A., & Sherin, M. G. (2002). Learning to notice: Scaffolding new teachers’ interpretations of classroom interactions. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 10(4), 571–596.

van Es, E. A., & Sherin, M. G. (2008). Mathematics teachers’ ‘‘learning to notice’’ in the context of a video club. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 244–276.

Video is a powerful tool to enhance teaching and learning. Staff, students, leaders and parents can now engage with video in ways that were unattainable several years ago.

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