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Teaching Disciplinary Literacy: Using Video Records of Practice to Improve Secondary Teacher Preparation

reviewed by Leslie David Burns - December 19, 2016

coverTitle: Teaching Disciplinary Literacy: Using Video Records of Practice to Improve Secondary Teacher Preparation
Author(s): Charles W. Peters, Deanna Birdyshaw, & Amy Bacevich
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807757675, Pages: 162, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

As teaching and teacher education evolve in ongoing movements toward accountability, legislation at the state and federal levels has moved strongly toward instrumentalist measures of so-called value-added teaching and teacher education. These measures are largely evaluative and in a format for administrative oversight rather than improving teaching practices toward professionalization and school success (United States Department of Education, 2016). Value-added measures (VAMs) have been criticized as inadequate for determining teacher quality (National Statistics Association, 2014) and critiqued as potentially invalid and unreliable by the American Educational Research Association (2015). These critiques were issued due to the fundamental inability of these measures to account for the vast range of variables required to determine the effectiveness of programs and practices in K–12 teaching and teacher education contexts. Teaching Disciplinary Literacy: Using Video Records of Practice to Improve Secondary Teacher Preparation, by Charles W. Peters, Deanna Birdyshaw, and Amy Bacevich, provides a refreshing alternative for the assessment of educator quality and practice using a constructivist approach. This alternative approach is founded on using video-based classroom case analysis and clear research-based protocols for reflection, analysis, and implementation of literacy practices across disciplines. Through their work, the authors compellingly demonstrate the positive potential for novices, experienced teachers, and teacher educators to collaborate systematically to analyze and improve their work.

Video self-study in teaching and teacher education is not a new idea, having been utilized in a variety of models and formats since the advent of video technologies as early as the 1960s and through the early 2000s (Burns, Brass, & Koziol, 2003; Burns & Koziol, 2007). From microteaching to lesson study, video analysis has been utilized across diverse contexts for continuous improvement of teaching and teacher education. The authors present a refined, broadly adaptable, and vigorous model for the contemporary use of video as a central element for both teacher education and professional development at the secondary grade. Their model is founded on a strong array of well-established research (e.g. Ball & Cohen, 1999; Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009; Lampert & Ball, 1998; Moss, 2011; Shulman, 1987; Stiggins, 1987, 1994; Stigler & Hiebert, 1997). As Karen Wixson notes in the book’s foreword,

[v]ideo records of practice are just one component of an entire system of secondary teacher preparation. In many ways, this book is a blueprint for the design and implementation of a secondary teacher preparation program aimed at developing a “strategic” teacher. (p. xi)

By developing communities of practice, the authors demonstrate how to utilize focus questions for critical reflective analysis of video teaching episodes (p. 3). These questions and the analyses they encourage orient professionals and novices alike toward refinement and continuous improvement, innovation, and collaboration during clinical fieldwork in classrooms. For example, teacher-identified focus questions enable inquiry regarding what might be done differently to move towards successful outcomes/improvement, what effects a technique or teacher behavior may have during implementation, wondering aloud with others about potential uses of design and strategy, collaborative discussion with peers, and documentation of “authentic recordings of classroom interactions [and] video representations of teachers’ work with students” (p. 5). These representations become “useful to . . . teacher educators seeking to use video records of practice in an ongoing way to support novices’ learning to teach disciplinary literacy” (p. 5).

Teaching Disciplinary Literacy treats video self-study as not just useful, but central, for teacher education and professional development. These videos provide lasting records, enable the collection of targeted cases for teacher inquiry, provide opportunities for collaborative critical reflection, and account for contextual data and research-based practices proven to enhance classroom literacy teaching. The authors’ protocols for generating tasks and promoting discourse communities engage these tasks in providing a roadmap to purposeful, interactive, adaptive, and meaningful practice (p. 43). They emphasize that video analysis provides a central, rather than merely supplemental, orientation for teaching across the disciplines. From this, Peters, Birdyshaw, and Bacevich outline a system for refining teaching practices over time with a focus on what teachers do in classrooms. They identify core instructional practices and core literacy practices that increase high-leverage teaching strategies. In turn, these practices “significantly increase the likelihood that teaching will achieve the goals of instruction and result in students demonstrating the desired learning outcomes” (p. 9).

Teaching Disciplinary Literacy presents a system and models of practice in four clear and concise sections. Peters, Birdyshaw, and Bacevich offer strong rationales for program design. They emphasize the need for coherent and cohesive educative experiences. They also support using long-term clinical practice for novice and experienced practitioners alike. Program designs include explanations of how to design peer networks, group interactions, and discussion of video records. In addition, the authors offer an orientation to teaching both core and high-leverage practices in disciplinary literacy that are frequently utilized, research-based, and proven to result in student success (pp. 31–32). These high-leverage practices are defined as those that engage students in substantive learning, yield evidence of success, are supported by both research and theory, entail strategic implementation, and orient teachers to reflect on, analyze, discuss, and implement their instruction with constant attention to their purpose (Burns & Botzakis, 2016). Further, the authors stipulate these practices should be teachable for other professionals, accessible for novice teachers, and flexible for meaningful work on data based needs for continuous improvement across diverse contexts.

Sharing, analyzing, reflecting, and discussing core practice efficacy with high levels of social interaction are central to improving literacy practices. Using these tools, the authors define the analysis of video records as a matter of reflection. Specifically, they are “a deliberative process of examining experience in light of the assumptions that an individual uses to make meaning of the experience” (p. 41). Attending to the central question, “[d]o the practices, content, and methods that we embed within the program and courses have a strong theoretical and research foundation?” (p. 17), Peters, Birdyshaw, and Bacevich ensure coherence between teacher education and teaching practices in secondary grades classroom. They also offer a “thinking taxonomy” (p. 15) to support teacher collaboration for analysis of practice towards professional growth and success.

Teaching Disciplinary Literacy offers an approach to teaching and teacher education for the 21st-century, providing a model where all participants operate as peers for mutual benefit. Its vigorous focus on the purposes and methods of teaching disciplinary literacy offers readers an alternative to current calls for more evaluative accountability instruments. Unfortunately, these instruments do not offer meaningful data that professional educators can use for improvement. With dedicated sections on designing assignments, implementing reflection methods, using protocols for analysis, and utilizing writing to enhance classroom practice, this text offers a well-informed approach to the successful development of professional literacy teachers in all subject areas. In this era of ongoing high-stakes accountability in education reform, the book is a refreshing and invigorating work that educators at all levels can use to operate as consummate professionals.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 19, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21767, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 10:18:29 PM

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About the Author
  • Leslie Burns
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    LESLIE DAVID BURNS is Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of Kentucky with expertise in curriculum, teaching, and educational policy. He is a winner of the Edward Fry Book award in Literacy for Empowering Struggling Readers with Leigh Hall and Elizabeth Carr-Edwards, co-authored the NCTE/CAEP Standards for the Preparation of Teachers of Secondary English Language Arts (2012), and served as author of the first national standard for social justice in teaching and teacher education in U.S. history. Dr. Burns has published widely about literacy, teacher identity, social justice, responsive pedagogies, teacher education, and education policy. Venues include the Harvard Educational Review, Reviews of Research in Education, Teachers College Record, Research in the Teaching of English, and Language Arts. His most recent book, Teach on Purpose!: Responsive Teaching for Student Success, with Stergios Botzakis, is available through Teachers College Press. Dr. Burns may be reached via email at L.burns@uky.edu.
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