Self-observation of online teaching

Every cloud and all that. Online learning may not be ideal but it provides some great opportunities for CPD.

The last time I filmed myself teaching was, wow, during my DipTESOL (2014). I remember filming my lessons to analyse my instructions for the self-development record (post here). Six years on, and recording online lessons with my YLs is now standard practice for safeguarding purposes. This means I have tonnes of footage of my own teaching to analyse. Well, if I dare to view it that is… *cringe*.

It’s hardly the most riveting viewing, but it’s really useful. Google Meets upload a lesson recording to Google Drive really quickly, so you don’t have to dwell on bad teaching moments for too long. Wait 10 minutes for the upload, skip to a certain moment in the recording, critique yourself, plan some steps to improve next time… then get ready for your next call.

What makes things even better at the moment is that a lot of my teaching is reactive. Throughout the day I offer lots of drop-in sessions to help young learners with their unit of inquiry. I don’t know what they need help with until they turn up, which is daunting and interesting at the same time.

Like the other day, when a student dropped in to ask me to explain the word ‘influence’. Not an easy one off the cuff, and my go-to response was to explain it using language that was equally challenging – ‘have an effect on…’ etc. I came up with one contextual example (about being influenced by peers) which wasn’t that effective… but you know, it’s easy to think that when you’re watching footage of yourself struggling, isn’t it? We got there eventually, but yeah, it’s a challenge sometimes.

So, anyway. The videos of my own teaching I’ve watched recently have highlighted some areas for development, but they’ve also helped me realise what’s working well. Some high/lowlights…

Bore them to death why don’t you?

Yeah… some of my explanations are long-winded! I go around the houses as times. Then again, it can be tough with EAL learners as sometimes they need multiple examples of a phrase in context. That’s fine. I actually think online teaching (like my drop-in style) is beneficial for that. You can spend more time clarifying language/tasks than you might in a classroom – the fluid timetable means you’re not eating into ‘lesson’ time as such. Nevertheless, I still use 50 words when I could use 5 at times. Anyone who knows me in person (or who reads this blog) will know that anyway!


I think I’m a bit impatient in the classroom sometimes. You know those moments when you allow learners thinking time… And they think for an age. I mean, you feel like you could have watched The Irishman in the time they take to answer, but in reality it was somewhere in the region of 6 seconds. You know, I feel like I’m much better at this during online learning. I don’t mind the silence as much. Looking at clips of my teaching, I think this is really effective too. I’ve watched clips where I’m just waiting… and waiting… and trusting that one of my new-to-English learners is formulating a response. And they are, and it’s like ‘wow, I’m glad I allowed that to happen because they’ve demonstrated a lot in that moment’.


As I said in my previous post, I still haven’t met my learners. I don’t know what their rapport was like in school, so I don’t know if I’m forcing the social interaction between them. Still, I’ve noticed in my teaching that I’m leaving avenues open for them to talk to each other. They are not taking them, and I think I could do more to promote that. I’ve made a start, but in keeping things simple in my online meets I seem to have defaulted to keeping them more teacher-centred than they would normally be. This is my big area for development at the moment.


I’ve not thought much about my online teaching voice. Lots of things, like…

  • do I sound interesting?
  • do I grade my language appropriately?
  • do I use tone/intonation (gestures too) to signpost questions?

Etc. I’ve thought about these things in a classroom context of course, but right now I have a good opportunity to analyse whether I’m actually that engaging for my online learners. Eeek.

Urgh, I have some annoying habits. I wonder how many times in one day of teaching I say the word ‘so’. I could also work on signposting – one student definitely doesn’t get my ‘this is a question’ moments, and I think that’s more my fault than theirs. I’m not as monotonous as I thought, there’s actually some energy in my voice (in the afternoon more than in the morning!). There are also more histrionics than I expected, although I wonder whether they are a distraction for learners at times?

Anyway, the point of this post (apart from a bit of reflection on my part) was to say…

You’ve got to take this opportunity to develop your practice. I know recording your teacher-self might feel weird for some of you, but trust me – there are a lot of things you can gain from this. Confidence being one – you will definitely realise that there are things you do that work, and some that work well! Yes, there are things to improve on too, but don’t be afraid to notice them. They’ll be Keep recording your lessons and you’ll be able to track your own improvement. It won’t just be a feeling that you’re improving, they’ll be tangible evidence in video form. Cool.

Oh, probably the most important thing:

You might set out to consider your own teaching. But you might realise that by watching these teaching moments back, you’ve more evidence of your learners’ improvement and areas for development. I took a screenshot from one video for the image in this post, and ended up watching a minute or two from that video. It turned out to be a more informal moment of the session, but watching this back I noticed that one of my learners is able to use certain language more freely than I gave them credit for. See, always learning.

Categories: General, reflections

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. I love your last point – our enforced use of video does give us an added perspective on our learners’ contributions. It felt like cheating, initially, when I started doing this. However, it does mean you can give them more rounded feedback if, like me, you can’t focus on their pron/grammar/lexis all at once.


    • Yeah certainly does! Although in that example I found good evidence from my learners speech just by chance. These videos give us so much data but do we really have time to go back and analyze it?



  1. Peer observation and online teaching | ELT Planning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: