Watching Yourself Teach is Transformational

Reading time: 3
Ross Morrison McGill teaching John Kelly Girls Technology College


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Have you ever watched yourself teach a lesson?

This is a blog about observing yourself teach; and why and how video recordings of yourself teaching can be transformational in your own classroom practice.


As part of our staff professional development, this week we have introduced @IRIS_Connect into our weekly CPD session. As part of the process, we shared a number of observational footage – including my own journey – using IRIS connect.

This is not only my story, but how we hope the IRIS will change teaching pedagogy at our school.

For the past eight years on and off, I have been using IRIS connect to observe my own teaching practice. I can recall the first time I videoed myself back in 1995 as a trainee teacher, and then as a new head of department in early 2000. In my first senior leadership position, having then introduced IRIS connect to the school; I have continued to video myself as an assistant headteacher and now as a deputy headteacher.


  1. To discuss how IRIS could drive standards of teaching and learning across the school; developing a reflective, supportive and developmental culture.
  2. To reflect on a lesson observation; including in-ear coaching.
  3. In departments: to think about the opportunities vs. risks.


For the introduction of our session, I shared not only my personal aims of the session, but the vision for teaching and learning that I hope all staff will contribute to, and help shape. I have blogged many times about IRIS here. This post is merely to share what has been communicated with our teaching staff in our first show and tell CPD session.

Here is an image of all the footage currently stored within my personal IRIS account. Despite having used Iris for eight years, this is just the footage that I have collated since commencing work at my current school last September 2014.

iris connect

Little and Often:

Here are some very useful tips I have shared with our staff, courtesy of IRIS support.

  1. Make participation a choice.
  • Give teachers the power to opt in and out!
  • A choice to develop and share.
  • This will not be compulsory.

2. Focus on ‘motivation’ and safety

  • … to support a teacher’s intrinsic desire to improve their practice.
  • If a teacher has a personal motivation to move their teaching forward then video can be powerful in helping them do so.
  1. Establish boundaries!
  • The power must lie with the teacher whose lesson has been recorded. It is paramount to be clear about boundaries, particularly regarding who sees a video and how it is talked about.
  • An agreed protocol must be established and communicated.
  1. Lead by example
  • If you want to inspire the use of video CPD in your school, you need to show teachers that you believe in using it too.
  1. Start slowly …
  • Implementing VPD (video professional development) at QK will not be a rushed process.
  • It will be unfamiliar to teachers = no benefit.
  • Encouraging teachers to volunteer to try out VPD.

Why Not?

Video observation is not for everyone and nor should it be.

  1. You’re too busy – You have a lot to think about when you are teaching! This leaves no room for you to be able to step back and see the bigger picture.
  2. Habituation – When we experience something repeatedly we lose our sensitivity to it. We can easily forget about the joy of teaching!
  3. Confirmation bias – a natural predisposition … or a tendency for us to inadvertently focus on evidence that supports (our) current picture of reality and ignore the evidence that goes against it.

Video has the ability to cut through all three of these things, leading to a clear picture of reality and motivation to try new things.


  1. Should we encourage this model of observing?
  2. How often have you observed a lesson observation and intervened with students/teacher?
  3. And if you have intervened, what was the impact/outcome? How was the intervention received?
  4. How can the school establish a model where teachers can watch the observer, observing and providing incisive feedback before, during and after the lesson?


Below is the PowerPoint from the 20-minute session I shared with my staff. Throughout the session, teaching staff rotated to 3 different classrooms to hear other journeys and view some teaching footage. You can click to view the image and download the file here.

IRIS Connect CPD

I look forward to sharing how this evolves throughout 2015/16.


5 thoughts on “Watching Yourself Teach is Transformational

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.