Video capture

Video capture uses recording technologies in smart phones, iPads and tablets, inbuilt cameras in laptops, low cost camcorders and wearable cameras (for example, Go Pro) to record teaching and learning in progress. Sequences of classroom practice are captured in video footage for later reviewing and analysis, providing snapshots of evidence in classrooms about the effects of an intervention or new pedagogical approach.

As an approach to professional learning, Video Capture borrows from sports coaching, where athletes watch video recordings of their own performances or of experts in their field in order to analyse and improve their own performance. It can be used in lesson-study investigations where small groups of teachers select a common focus and observe and collaboratively investigate their own and each other’s lessons. Using it to gauge the effects of an intervention or innovation turns it into an evaluation technique, not just a professional learning tool.

Video Capture of classroom practice is increasingly popular. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded (MET) ‘Measures of Effective Teaching Project’ to collect 20,000 videotaped lessons in classrooms in urban schools in USA (TLE, 2014). In Australia, AITSL has compiled collections of video exemplars as ‘Illustrations of Practice’ for levels of professional standards in different curriculum contexts.

Why use video capture?

With Video Capture, short periods of classroom practice are recorded, then played back and discussed by a small group of people for deeper analysis than would be possible with other approaches to classroom observation. Video Capture is not appropriate for surveillance of particular classrooms or teachers. It is most powerful as a method that allows teachers to see, from the outside, and in collaboration with each other, what changes to professional practice looks like, feels like and sounds like.

Strengths and limitations of video capture

Video Capture is a versatile approach for professional dialogue and evaluation. It can also be used to include students in conversations about teaching and learning innovations. Video Capture allows teachers to examine authentic classroom practice objectively. It does not rely on the teacher’s or students’ later memories of what happened in the lesson, or on teaching documents like lesson plans, which are only partial representations of what happens inside a class. Nor does it rely on the perspective of an external observer. It can show aspects of teaching practice that are not available in any other way, and it can open these moments of practice for deep analysis.

One of its limitations is its reliance on technology, which may fail; make sure that batteries are charged, equipment is appropriately positioned and you remember to press ‘record’. Another disadvantage is that many people do not like being recorded. Therefore it is important to be clear to students and teachers that the aim of Video Capture is the evaluation of teaching and learning practices within an improvement cycle.

For ethical reasons, Video Capture requires the informed consent of teachers and students. Unless consent for additional use has been secured, Video Capture footage can only be ethically used for the purposes that the participants were advised of when they agreed to the filming.

Another limitation is that there may be so much going on that it is difficult to know which aspects of teaching and learning to pay attention to. Some researchers see this as an advantage because this makes video more suited to complexity. It is helpful to have a clear focus and criteria in mind when viewing the footage. However it is also important to be alert to things that may not have been anticipated and your criteria may alter as a result of looking at the video.

How do I use video capture?

As an evaluation tool, Video Capture is more manageable when particular sections of the footage are the focus of analysis rather than full lessons. For example, looking at the first five minutes of a lesson will enable focus on strategies for engaging students effectively in learning, or opening the inquiry processes. Alternatively, the focus might be on instructional sequences throughout the lesson, looking at questioning techniques or how a teacher is introducing new concepts.

If the camera has been recording through an entire lesson and only particular sections of the lesson are relevant, these sections of the lesson can be easily identified and extracted with editing software. These key extracts can then be discussed in detail and more easily viewed multiple times. Analysis can then focus on the identified goal or aspect of practice. An ‘ethnographic’ approach, in contrast, would prefer unedited video so that the breadth and totality of what goes on inside the classroom can be seen.

Time series approaches may provide ‘thin’ slices of practice across a longer sequence. For example, you could set the device to record a short (30 second) burst at five or ten minute intervals in order to map the range and sequencing of lesson activities. Various software and apps can convert these batches of short film into time-lapse videos.

Filming at different times through a term or unit of work (for example, week 1, week, 3, week 5) will also provide a series of points in time snapshots from the classroom.

Video footage may be recorded from a fixed point, for example through a camera on a tripod at the back or side of the classroom, or attached to a whiteboard or desk. New peripherals now enable fixed cameras or IOS devices to follow movement whilst recording (for example, Swivl). Software allowing for video annotation is also available and enables collaborative commenting on video files.

Video recordings can be relatively informal or highly polished. Higher quality recording may use cameras fixed to tripods and external fixed or radio microphones.

Snapshots of school life can also be digitally recorded by students. This strategy allows teachers to view teaching and learning from their perspective. Wearable cameras (for example, Go Pro) are ideal for this purpose, as well as more conventional recording devices, and footage can be collaboratively analysed with students. Apps such as Vine and Snapchat are already familiar to students and can be used to capture very short video sequences. Students may themselves identify goals or focus areas as they gather footage, for example identifying what they think ‘deep learning’ looks like over a day or a week. Students might also incorporate video recorded interviews or other materials into footage. This can be a powerful way of fostering research collaborations that value student perspectives on their own learning. Alternatively, students may be invited to film away from their own contexts in other year levels or even in other schools if there is a multi-site collaboration.

In faculties, digital recordings of expert teaching can be collaboratively analysed. External examples of Video Capture, such as those available as AITSL ‘Illustrations of Practice,’ can also be used for faculty analysis. However, recordings of teachers in local conditions with familiar student cohorts and curriculum are likely to be more powerful provocations for action learning in practice. For evaluation of innovations, it is essential that local video footage is collected. For a conventional teacher-directed inquiry using Video Capture, the following guidelines can be used. Possible stages include:

  • Decide on your focus (for example, problem-based learning, questioning etc).
  • Decide on the equipment or software you will use.
  • Develop a protocol that will guide when, how often, of what length and under what conditions you will collect footage.
  • Communicate the purpose of Video Capture to the class or school community. You may decide to use informed consent processes (for example, a letter to be signed giving permission to be filmed), particularly if there is any intention to retain the footage beyond the evaluation.

  •  Set up and check equipment before the class begins.
  •  Collect Video Capture footage according to the planned protocols.

  • Decide whether to use full sequences or shorter excerpts. If necessary, edit and extract excerpts.
  • Watch and discuss each sequence of Video Capture as soon as possible with the research team (usually including the teacher involved). If students have done the filming, then a focus group with the students may be held soon afterwards.
  • Take notes of discussions and emerging insights into the agreed focus area. Adjust the protocol as required.
  • Over time, as collections or sequences of Video Capture footage are compiled, meetings of the research team can re-view these sequences and focus on change over time. Continue to adjust the protocol as required.

When to use video capture

Video Capture is most effective during a process of innovation, however pre- and post-innovation videos can be recorded to show changes in practice over time. Below is an example of use at different points in time:

  At the beginning of a project/study Throughout the project/study At the end of the project/study

To capture what teaching and learning look and sound like before an innovation

To capture teaching and learning during an innovation

To capture what teaching and learning look and sound like at the end of a cycle of innovation


What does teaching look like prior to the implementation of project-based learning?

What does a project-based learning classroom look like? What is the teacher doing and saying? What are students doing and saying? How do groups work together to define and refine a question over time? What does student-directed learning look and sound like?

What does teaching and learning in this classroom look like at the end of the implementation of project-based learning innovation?

What might be used in tandem
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Student products
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Student products
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Student products
How long does it take and with whom? 1 day to a week with students and teachers About 1 month or more with students and teachers 1 day to a week with students and teachers

What the research says

Research affirms that video can be used effectively in many different ways, and that it can be adapted for different purposes. Published research using digital recordings usually has university-based researchers from outside the school organising the filming and interpreting the footage, sometimes in collaboration with teachers. However, it is a versatile method that can be adapted for a school-based inquiry group.

In a recent collection of research on digital video (Calandra & Rich, 2015), researchers argue that digital video is a key resource for teachers to enhance their skills in noticing the details of classroom interactions and develop their ‘professional vision’. For example, Sherin & Russ (Chapter 1) describe their work in teachers’ maths video clubs where teachers shared footage practice from their classrooms to analyse and develop understandings of students’ mathematical reasoning.

  • The researchers conducted ‘noticing interviews’ with maths teachers where they asked teachers to observe four short video excerpts (1 minute and 30 seconds to 6 minutes in length) from other teachers’ maths classes where students were engaging with mathematical problems (whole class discussion, teacher-student discussion about a confusing problem, student led presentation, small group problem solving).
  • As each teacher watched the video extracts, the facilitator probed for deeper and deeper levels of understanding, asking:
    • ‘What did you notice in the video?’
    • ‘Is there anything else you noticed?’
    • ‘Anything else?’ until the teachers had nothing further to say.
  • Through this process they analysed teachers’ strategies in ‘selective attention’ and ‘knowledge based reasoning’ and developed a set of thirteen interpretive frames that teachers use in observing videos of practice.
  • They cluster these 13 frames into 'narrative', 'normative', 'personal' and 'expectation' frames of interpretation.

These details reinforce the complexity of watching and interpreting videos from classrooms, even for very experienced teachers. Different people watch in different ways and interpret what they see though different lenses. Therefore in an evaluation context, groups of people watching and discussing in depth what they see will more likely result in a richer analysis of what is going on, and to consensus about next steps.


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