Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

02.19.21Announcing the TLAC Video Collaborative + Jo Toye’s Retrieval Practice

Video-study: We dress for the occasion…

This January, we embarked on a new endeavor to bring school leaders and teachers together with the TLAC team to do what we love to do: study video of exceptional teaching. 

Studying video is at the heart of what our team does; it’s how we unearth the techniques in all our books and workshops. And even beyond the way it enriches our own understanding of the craft of teaching, video study is among the best tools for professional development: watching with colleagues develops perception and shared understanding of the craft of teaching.

That’s why we launched TLAC Partners: Video Collaborative, an initiative that provides schools with the opportunity to watch footage of their own teachers in collaboration and partnership with our team.

In a Video Collaborative session, school teams select footage of their own teachers and identify areas of strength, as well as areas of opportunity: places they would like to focus on in developing their teachers.

We then watch and discuss the video together in a 90 minute session, generating insights and exemplar clips that leaders can use in training their staff. 

We were delighted to pilot our first Collaborative with Cardiff High School in Cardiff, Wales, and we thought it was a big success. For example during our session, we watched a video of History teacher Jo Toye exploring key sources with her students during a synchronous lesson.

Among other things:

  • We loved how Jo varied her Means of Participation, shifting between cold calling, taking volunteers and using the chat. She keeps the pacing strong and students stay engaged while thinking about the core content. 
  • We loved her upbeat, irrepressible energy. Students feel her love for the content and respond.
  • We thought the idea of labeling the diagram with numbers to facilitate review could not have been more brilliant- uh, “brill,” that is. 🙂 It prove that with careful planning and preparation, rigorous content comes to life!
  • We appreciated her follow-up questions like “why” that took students’ thinking a step further rather than matching faces to names.
  • We also appreciated the focus on retrieval practice of key content from previous lessons to build long-term memory. That’s always important but doubly so, we think, online when attention is even more fractured and memory thus doubly tenuous.
  • And then there’s her resilience when the lights (literally) go out during her lesson; Jo keeps the lesson going with a smile and a laugh.

One of the biggest takeaways that came from our session was that there was a lot to celebrate in how their teachers were building community with their students while teaching remotely. So we are thrilled to be able to share in that celebration–and thank the teachers and leaders of Cardiff High School for sharing their craft with us.

Here are a few takeaways from their experience:

  • “I think the experience made us think critically. The collaborative approach was really supportive and unthreatening. It is so useful to have people from outside our organization look at what we do- it was great!”
  • “Any professional learning experience that allows for staff to reflect on practice is so important and valuable. The addition of the external viewpoints of the TLAC team gives this process more validity, credibility and insights.”

If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in a TLAC Partners Video Collaborative, please email us at 

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