An excellent way for a teacher to improve his or her effectiveness is to video record a class and then view the video with a trained Bok Center consultant. Consultations are always private and confidential, and can focus on any aspects of the class that interest the teacher. After your consultation, you may request your own copy of your class video. These services are free of charge and are open to anyone teaching Harvard College students.
You can have one of our experienced Bok Center staff visit your class and chat with you afterwards, confidentially, in order for you to gain insight into how your teaching is perceived by an objective observer. Such observation is especially appropriate if the class is small (such as a tutorial) or if the instructor believes that videotaping might distract students -- see below for a further discussion of the merits of videorecording vs. a class visit.
Comparison Between Video & Observation
Providing the means for in-service feedback on their teaching is at the core of how the Bok Center serves individual teachers at Harvard. By reflecting on their teaching and discussing it with one of the Center's experienced staff, instructors gain insight not only into what can be improved in their teaching, but equally importantly into what strengths they already have and can build upon for even more effectiveness in helping their students learn.
Our most-used form of self-feedback during the semester is class videotaping -- in fact, the original name for what is now the Bok Center was the "Danforth Video Laboratory." In addition or alternatively, some teachers opt to have their class visited by one of the Center's staff so that the teacher can chat with her or him about it afterwards. Either option is particularly effective when done in conjunction with early student feedback.
Advantages of videotaping
- It's a much more direct and complete record of your class than can be provided by a human observer, no matter how experienced. Particularly, teacher-student and student-student exchanges are very valuable moments to reflect on that can only be captured on video. (This is the primary reason the Bok Center encourages videorecording.)
- You can keep a copy of the video for your own use... and many TFs and junior faculty incorporate a strong, short clip of their teaching video in their teaching portfolios.
- You can review interesting parts of the class (tricky explanations, involved exchanges with students, boardwork) multiple times and at your leisure.
Advantages of class observations
- Observation is slightly less intrusive (there being no camera); it may be better for tutorials and very small classes.
- For labs, studios and other activity-based classes a camera may be cumbersome in following the teacher around the room -- although videotaping these types of classes is certainly possible.
- Confidentiality is assured in either observation or videotaping: the Bok Center will not divulge its observations, whether in person or on video, to anyone without your permission.
Of course, it's not necessarily an either/or question; you may choose both types of in-service feedback at different times during the semester.