Using Video Time-Stamped Comments to Support Teachers in Virtual Coaching Cycles

Using Video Time-Stamped Comments to Support Teachers in Virtual Coaching Cycles

Cynthia D. Carson, University of Rochester,

Stephanie Martin, University of Rochester,



Providing access for teachers to one-on-one mathematics coaching has been a common approach to K-12 professional learning for teachers in recent years (Gibbons & Cobb, 2017). Many districts are turning to virtual ways to provide coaching programs to their teachers, which allows for greater flexibility in scheduling for coaches and teachers, as well as eliminating geographical boundaries. With the increased prevalence of affordable recording devices, software, and online applications, virtual coaching is opening new ways for coaches to connect with teachers using video. For the past five years, we have explored how coaches have been able to engage remotely in robust post-lesson discussions with teachers about instructional practices and student learning. These discussions have been enhanced through the coach and teacher’s use of time-stamped comments as a feature of a video collaboration system, Swivl. Swivl provides teachers and coaches a secure and easy-to-use system for recording, sharing, and commenting on videos (for more information, visit the Swivl website:  Our work was grounded in research literature that suggests having video of teaching practice creates a concrete reference point for discussions of what teachers observe in the teacher’s own practice and with their own students (Beisiegel et al., 2018). Our work explored how using a video-commenting feature allowed teachers and coaches to pinpoint moments within the lesson to analyze and discuss.

Our Context

As part of an NSF-funded project, we supported nine coaches in working with 19 teachers over the course of three years; in total, they engaged in 47 virtual coaching cycles. In our design, grounded in a content-focused coaching model, the coaching cycles consisted of a synchronous online planning conference, the teacher implemented the co-planned lesson (video-recorded), the coach and teacher watching the lesson video, coach and teacher creating time-stamped comments on the lesson video, and a synchronous online debriefing conference (See Figure 1). 

Figure 1

Virtual Coaching Cycle

Teachers used a Swivl robot and mini iPad to record the lesson, and Swivl software to automatically upload the video to a shared library for viewing and commenting access by the coach and teacher (See Figure 2 & 3). Once uploaded, teachers viewed their own video, identified a 10-15 minute clip, and added time-stamped comments to their chosen video clip. Following the teacher, the coach watched the video, with a focus on the selected clip, and left comments for the teacher.

Figure 2

Image of Swivl, iPad, and Markers

Figure 3

Image of Video and Time-stamped Comments

What We Wanted to Know

As researchers and professional learning providers, we were interested in understanding (1) the rationale for why a coach selected particular moments in the video to leave a comment, and (2) the intentions for how coaches worded comments. Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews conducted with the coaches after three years of facilitating virtual coaching cycles. Coaches were asked questions to prompt descriptions of their practice of leaving comments for a teacher, these included: What do you do to prepare for the debriefing conference? What purpose did your video comments serve in a coaching cycle? In what ways did your comments support teachers?

What We Found

Coaches Selected Moments in Video to:

Highlight moments where they could give positive feedback. Coaches indicated that they selected moments to provide positive feedback to teachers by describing what they did and why it was effective. 

The first thing I look for is places where I can give some very positive feedback around something that I really liked and explain why I liked it, what it did for the lesson, what it did for a given student. (Bishop, Coach)


Highlight missed opportunities and ask “what-if” questions to push teachers to think about different approaches. Coaches described how they selected moments to highlight missed opportunities for specific instructional moves:

If I’ve noticed a place where something, like a missed opportunity or a question I think they could’ve answered, I will tend to say, “What could you have asked in this situation that may have changed what the student was thinking?” Putting it back on the teacher and having that what-if out there. “What could you have asked differently? What could you have done in that moment that might’ve changed the course of how that conversation went?” so that opens up and invites that conversation in our debriefing. (Riess, Coach)


Highlight evidence of student thinking or teacher’s instructional practice to discuss in the debrief conference. Coaches also indicated they selected moments to mark specific places to make sure they discussed in the debriefing meeting with the teacher. Riess indicated that she had the video open during the debrief conference to ensure she referenced specific comments she left the teacher in the video:

I have the annotations [comments] pulled right up on my screen during my debrief, so that I can walk through and help jog my memory of the types of questions I wanted to make sure I answered. (Riess, Coach)


Respond to the teacher's comments. Coaches indicated that they learned important information by reading the teacher’s comments, which gave them important information about what the teacher was focused on, or not focused on. Then the coaches used this information to respond to the teacher’s comments.

The [teachers’] annotations themselves also helped me understand, what is the teacher paying attention to in this section? Sometimes the lack of annotation somewhere was also just as telling, right? What’re they not seeing, that maybe I am? (Hale, Coach)


You could really pull a lot of information out [from teachers’ annotations]. You might have a teacher focused on this off task clip, and then a minute later is this clip of some pretty meaningful thinking. If they [teacher] commented on one, but didn't really comment on the other, I think that's just really—it's a really powerful moment to see where they're at in their practice...I think there's so much to be learned from those annotations. (Whilton, Coach)


Coaches Worded their Comments to Maintain the Collaborative Nature of Coaching.

Coaches were careful to word their comments to prompt teacher reflection, so the teachers would not perceive the coaches’ comments as the evaluator of their practice.

“That was really great.” I think that tends to, then, lead teachers down the path of thinking, “Oh, that was really good because they said that was a great question.” They get led down this path of, “Oh, they’re going to tell me what I did right and what I did wrong.” I’ve tried to change my language in my comments to, “I really appreciated seeing the types of questions you were asking. How is this different from the questions you may have asked three months ago?” (Riess, Coach)


Coaches Used a Noticing and Wondering Structure for Wording Comments.

Coaches also described using a noticing and wondering structure to word their comments. This structure involved citing specific evidence from the video (what the coach noticed), followed by an open-ended question (what the coach wondered), or a suggestion for an alternative move. The noticing and wondering structure employed by coaches allowed them to collect evidence from the video and prompt questions, new ideas, and avoid evaluative language in their annotations.


I'd like to think that I don't ask a lot of "yes" or "no" questions of people that I work with. I really try hard in the annotations not to ask "yes" or "no" questions. That's why I often phrase it, "I noticed that such and such…" "I wonder what would have happened if…" and leave it more open (Bishop, Coach)


I always tried to put more questions and noticings than anything else. “I'm noticing this. It's got me thinking about this,” and questions that are that probing in nature, that hopefully wedge open some thought for the teacher. (Whilton, Coach)


As evidenced above in the coaches’ own words, using a commenting feature that could be linked directly to a time-stamped moment in the video provided coaches with an additional tool to support teacher learning. Coaches used this feature to identify moments to provide positive feedback, highlight missed opportunities, consider different approaches, identify evidence of student thinking, and serve as discussion points in the debriefing meeting. The deliberate ways in which the coaches worded their comments using specific and open-ended language was intentional in order to maintain the collaborative nature of coaching in an asynchronous online space.



Although our context was with coaches and teachers our findings can inform all mathematics teacher educators who have the opportunity to provide feedback for teachers through video. We believe using time-stamped comments in teachers’ videos as a mode of feedback in remote learning settings, provide the teacher with information about what was noticed and the opportunity to reflect on that influences the impact of the debriefing conversation.



This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-1620911



Beisiegel, M., Mitchell, R., & Hill, H. C. (2018). The design of video-based professional development: An exploratory experiment intended to identify effective features. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(1), 69-89.

Gibbons, L. K., & Cobb, P. (2017). Focusing on teacher learning opportunities to identify potentially productive coaching activities. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(4), 411-425.



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