Nothing To Hide


We are all on display, with or without our consent, almost all of the time. It is part of information society that we are being monitored, watched, and screened. When on the street or in our homes we are being recognized (i.e., watched over) by the electronic gadgets we or some-one else has installed for us. Call it transparency of living or keeping tabs on our security. We like it because we want to see how our kids, pets, energy consumption or whatever are doing. “Others” like it because it adds to complete a profile they have of us. Whether you feel the need or not: “surveillance can help” (1). May be for that reason webcams with cloud storage which allow remote viewing through web-portals all the time are so handy. With live video feeds we can put on display whatever is happening or has happened, allowing us to check in from anywhere. Great, isn’t it? What to think of it then applying it to teaching and classroom observation? Looking into the classroom and observe closely how teachers manage and structure the instructional environment for pupils would open up varies ways to explore how students work and teachers do their practice. Except that teachers and pupils alike are hesitant to be subjected to such a live observation (2).
A study however took position on this by installing a live video observation system in the classroom to test reactivity of teachers and students. The study which was conducted in a larger Chinese city, and having the consent of principals and teachers, observed no reactivity to the live observation after a prolonged period after installation of the video system. Teachers became accustomed to it. The authors favor this method of classroom observation over more obtrusive methods as being more real and valid.

If the objective is to obtain credible observation information the authors are no doubt on the right track. But is this the issue? Circumventing the ethical aspect (3) for a moment, a key concern would be the claim of avoiding reactivity. Teachers get accustomed to it, the authors claim. You get accustomed to something by having a reaction somehow: ignore, avoid, adapt, fake, beautify. There is no non reactivity. To accustom requires a change in behavior. The point is how teachers accustomed, and are we sure it was for the better?

The demand for live video observation in classrooms is growing rapidly. Parents for instance are highly in favor. For teachers to safeguard themselves against possible claims would lead them to hide behind a mask of compliance or erect a fence of defense in some way, thus closing the classroom door. We need to agree on rules of  invading professional space, that is for sure.

Jiwen Liang (2015) Live video classroom observation: an effective approach to reducing reactivity in collecting observational information for teacher professional development, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:3, 235-253, DOI:10.1080/02607476.2015.1045314
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