The development of student teachers’ interaction skills through video interaction guidance

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Penny Forsyth

Teaching Fellow

VERoC Centre

Faculty of Education and Social work

University of Dundee

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Glamorgan, 14-17 September 2005

(1) Abstract

Seventy first year student teachers, taking a four year Bachelor of Education course at the University of Dundee UK in 2001- 02, were introduced to the contact principles of video interaction guidance in preparation for their first teaching placement. Seventy students took part in Condition 1 which consisted of an introductory workshop, a CD Rom exercise and an interaction task during teaching placement. In Condition 2, four of the group also received feedback on their interaction skills during placement based on video clips of their performance. Data from questionnaires and observations of student performance were analysed. Condition 2 students demonstrated a higher level of reflection, interaction skill and congruence between espoused theory and practice. They also reported greater perceived gains in skill use and levels of self-efficacy. It is argued that achieving and sustaining intersubjectivity is central to satisfying and effective teacher interaction. The role of video interaction guidance in initial teacher training is discussed.

(1) Introduction
The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, (S.C.C.C. 2000) emphasises the necessity for teachers to establish and maintain good quality relationships with their class. They are seen as central to engaging and maintaining the intrinsic motives of happy children to understand and to engage positively. They are therefore central to effective teaching.
Good quality relationships are of course achieved and sustained through good quality interaction. The S.C.C.C. is recognising that the key to a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development lies primarily in the interactions between the child and their primary caregivers and peers (Vygotsky 1978; Trevarthen 1993; S.C.C.C. 1996). Good quality relationships are therefore synonymous with a satisfying and effective interplay of knowledge, skills and emotions between the participants.
It is therefore, of paramount importance that student teachers have a sound understanding of interaction and a sound level of interaction skill if they are to achieve and sustain co-operative, learning environments. Surprisingly, however, relationships or interaction is not a major theme of teacher training programmes in Great Britain. It appears student teachers are provided with a theoretical understanding of interaction but are assumed to either possess the necessary skills or the ability to absorb them as they train. However the ‘slippery’ nature of co-operative learning environments sees newly qualified teachers still placing the capacity to achieve and sustain multiple, simultaneous relationships in the classroom as their major concern (Oberski et al 1999).
“Their (teachers) work involves interaction with other people who will also interact amongst themselves…….

Expertise in teaching means learning to deal with the unpredictability which results from the social

contingency of every classroom situation………Social contingency means that the most rigorous plans can be

derailed in the first five minutes of a lesson.” (I’Anson & Cope 2003 p11)

I’Anson and Cope (2003) suggest that there is also a need for a holistic approach to reflection which would encompass the dynamic nature of teaching e.g. the students’ own emotions and attitudes, the need to make immediate decisions between seemingly opposite aims such as individual expression versus order. They call this the ability to cope with the social contingency of the classroom.
The relevance of a good level of interactions skills to teachers however is not confined to the classroom. Their relationships or interactions with their tutors, mentors and peers during initial training and later continuing professional development are equally important (Oberski et al 1999). The focus of this paper therefore is the role that video interaction guidance (VIG) could play in supporting student teachers to achieve and sustain satisfying and effective interactions with pupils, mentors and colleagues.

(2) Intersubjectivity: the basis for learning and teaching.

The fundamental building blocks for interactions are found in studies of early mother – baby exchanges (Table I). It appears that people are innately programmed for communication (Trevarthen 1977; Trevarthen and Hubley 1978). Even premature infants actively communicate by means of ‘pre-speech’ lip and tongue movements, imitation of facial and vocal expressions and imitation of bodily gestures and movements. The result is that mother and infant are engaged in the enjoyment of a reciprocal and emotion laden communication. The mother imitates the infant and the infant imitates the mother. This is primary intersubjectivity and it is often referred to as being ‘attuned’ in recognition of the musical nature of the exchange, i.e. emotional signals are exchanged through the pitch, tempo and rhythm of the voices as well as by gesture and what is said (Papousek et al 1991).

With advancing awareness of both persons and objects the infant becomes able to combine attention to a task and attention to a person. This is known as secondary intersubjectivity (see Table 1). The shared acts that become possible once this stage of secondary intersubjectivity has been reached enable the child to learn through ‘guided participation’ and collaboration, (Rogoff 1990)..

This dynamic emotional sensitivity seen in mother –infant relationships is also observed between teachers and pupils (Argyle 1970). Indeed satisfying and productive communication in a classroom embodies the same principles of musicality, reciprocity, mutuality, attunement, regular timing and turn – taking behaviour, (Robb et al 2000) (Gjersoe 2003; Robb et al 2003).
When this is not present, however, and the adult is self - oriented, controlling, less attuned to the child, critical and more debasing of the child’s experience there are negative outcomes. Children tend to become distressed, show less motivation to engage, poorer cognitive development, ( Murray et al 1993). and a reliance on their own judgement (Tronick and Weinberg, 1996; Nadel et al 1999, Hobson 2002).
Table I. Intersubjectivity

Theoretical concept

Practical application

Primary intersubjectivity

Reciprocal - Eye contact

- Friendly posture and


- Friendly facial expression

- Friendly, ‘musical’ vocal


- Repetition of vocal

expressions, naming of

feelings, actions and


- Turn taking

Secondary intersubjectivity

Joint attention


Co-operative learning therefore requires the participants to constantly tune into each other’s emotions, check they understand each other, and share turns. In this way successful contact can be achieved and sustained. Intersubjectivity is, therefore the pre-requisite and basis for guided participation or learning and teaching.

(2) Guided Participation and a community of learners

Guided participation as a concept (Table II) has a wealth of literature devoted to it. Its essence has been clearly described by Wood and Bruner (1976) , (1976) who speak of ‘scaffolding’ or the way adults provide just enough support to allow a child to progress. Vygotsky (1978) also emphasises how an expert and novice should ideally interact in what he calls the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’. Stevens (1996) on the other hand recognises the need for scaffolding but highlights the importance of developing an effective learner through ‘attunement strategy’. For Stevens, the teacher’s role is to make explicit the aims of the lesson and the criteria for success. In addition they need to facilitate the pupils’ ability to predict the task, plan and review their own performance and attribute the results appropriately. Key outcomes therefore are the development of the novice’s self awareness; ability to predict and review the task and their performance; and increases in a sense of competence, autonomy and motivation.
Common to all the above contributors is a social constructivist theory of learning. Knowledge or learning is seen to be created by individuals sharing and re-formulating past and present experiences and not passively absorbed. The active participation of the child is therefore a crucial factor, (Bruner, 1996).
Rogoff (1994) has described various models of guided participation or learning. They include those that are ‘adult- run’, ‘child-run’ and a ‘community of learners’ in which the responsibility for learning is shared. In this model everyone serves as a potential resource to the other and adults provide leadership rather than controlling all interactions. The ‘community of learners’ model has particular benefits. These are greater co-ordination with others, responsibility for one’s own learning and motivation., ( Rogoff 1994; Rogoff et al 1996; Rogoff 1998). The degree to which the community acts as a whole, and individual’s respond to each other in a mutual, co-operative manner, determines therefore how satisfying and effective the learning environment will be. The implication is that teachers need to engage in ‘authentic discussions’ rather than ‘sterile questioning’ (Scott, 1996) and to ‘orchestrate’ proceedings (Bruner 1996).
Table II. Guided Participation

Theoretical concept

Practical application

Guided participation :

Zone of proximal development


Authentic discussions

Attunement strategy

Community of learners

Allowing thinking time

Focussing on the thinking of others

Deferring judgement

Speculating along with others

Treating others as equals

Using open questions

Encouraging others

Accepting the feelings of others

Acknowledging the ideas of others
Adult and pupils display the above

Adult provides leadership

Guided participation is defined here, therefore, as the ability to support and encourage the continued active involvement of pupils in a shared task and in the process of learning itself, (meta-cognition). All of which is based on a sound foundation of intersubjectivity.

(2) Video Interaction Guidance
Video Interaction Guidance, (VIG) aims to increase the ability of individuals to sustain such satisfying and effective interactions. The methodology has at its’ core a series of elements referred to as the Contact Principles. These are drawn from research on intersubjectivity and the mediation of learning (Biemans, 1989). The approach also draws on the powerful mechanism of self-modelling or positive self review in which positive video feedback produces lasting change (Hung and Rosenthal, 1981; Dowrick, 1991).
The VIG process involves the practitioner in negotiating the goals of the work with the teacher. They then video-tape the teacher for approximately 10-minute segments at agreed times. Relatively short pieces of video are taken as people’s use of the contact principles repeats throughout an interaction e.g. they use eye contact well with individuals but do not often look around the class. The tape is then analysed for the elements of intersubjectivity and guided participation which are used (see Table III). The selected clips demonstrate the responsiveness of the adult to the pupil(s) and the effect this has on the pupils’ responsiveness to the teacher and to each other. The practitioner will usually select three clips lasting two to three minutes in total. These short clips are then fed back to the teacher and discussed. Very little video is needed for thirty to sixty minutes of discussion. In this way the micro-elements and how they help the teacher reach their goal are central to the discussion. The aim is for the teacher to be as active as possible in identifying the elements which make these moments effective, reflecting on their impact and considering how they can enhance and increase their use of them. By watching successful moments of themselves on video, teachers gain confidence in their unique responses to pupils, identify their strengths and identify any areas that might be developed. 

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