What factors contribute to pupils making excellent progress? It’s possible to lose clarity on this question with the varied and numerous demands placed on schools and teaching staff. Assessment, planning and preparation play a pivotal role in pupil progress. However, I believe that these elements should not overshadow the importance of communication and the relationship between the teacher and pupils. Building a ‘good relationship’ is no easy feat for many reasons, with communication being a fundamental factor. When communication is a barrier to a young person’s learning, building a relationship can be a particular challenge.
In my work at a special school for children with social and communication difficulties, I aimed to use Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) to facilitate communication and the subsequent relationships between teachers and young people. This article aims to introduce VIG and provide a brief background into the intervention. It then describes how a small qualitative evaluation was completed to measure the effectiveness and impact of VIG in a special school. The main findings of the study are then summarised.
Video Interaction Guidance
Originating in the Netherlands in the early 1980’s, VIG was developed as a tool to aid and enhance positive communication and interaction between clients (e.g. parents) and child. VIG uses the ‘principles of attuned interactions and guidance’ (Biemans, 1990) to improve effective communication and to promote change through video reflective feedback. VIG differs to other forms of video reflective feedback as a VIG ‘guider’ meets with the client to share the video and discuss the principles of attunement identified in the video and the implications of this (Kennedy, Landor & Todd, 2011).
VIG is based on the notion that everyone has a desire to communicate, that this can be done in a number of ways, and that everyone can develop their own unique communication skills and their subsequent relationships. The intervention is based on developing strengths and works towards developing an attuned relationship (Kennedy, Landor & Todd, 2011).
I was introduced to VIG as part of my doctoral research when I was searching for a tool that would facilitate the parent – child relationship for children in a Nurture Group. Nurture Groups aim to develop the skills, competencies and early learning experiences of children so that they can function at an emotionally and socially appropriate level. They also intend to serve as a bridge to permanent and full time placement in a mainstream classroom (Bennathan, 2000). I hoped that VIG would support the development of these nurturing relationships, as well as providing more consistency between the home and nurture group settings. One of the research conclusions was that VIG enhanced nurturing practices amongst parents by developing their communication skills, their understanding and their empathy. In addition, parents developed confidence and self-efficacy in their parenting skills as a result of the intervention (Rautenbach, 2010).
Video Interaction Guidance in practice
As an Educational Psychologist at the special school, one of my roles was to support communication and interaction between staff and pupils. I was interested in building on my previous research and exploring how VIG could have a positive impact between the teacher-pupil relationships. The school is a designated SEN specialist secondary school for meeting the needs of young people with communication and interaction difficulties with many young people meeting the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), complex learning difficulties and disabilities (CLDD). Over the years, the complexity of the pupils’ communication and interaction styles has increased. To prevent this serving as a potential barrier to their engagement and subsequent learning, the school and staff have evolved to meet these challenges. In September 2011, I started using VIG as an intervention to facilitate staff development.
After explaining the intervention, six teachers with varying levels of experience volunteered to participate in the project. I met with each teacher to negotiate their goals. The next step in the process was to video record a section of the lesson (approximately ten minutes) where the teacher was interacting with a pupil or group of pupils. I then ‘micro-analysed’ this video using the Principles of Attuned Interactions and Guidance (see Table 1).
The principles are a hierarchical framework that can be used to identify an adult’s attuned responses to a child or young person’s initiatives. The premise is that an attuned interaction can develop most effectively when the adult firstly establishes attentiveness with the child (the first 2 sections of the table). This must be secure before adults are encouraged to develop attuned interactions (section 3 and 4 in the table). Once this is established the adults can deepen the discussion, scaffold learning and manage conflict (section 5 and 6 in the table).
Table 1: Principles of Attuned Interactions and Guidance
|Being attentive||· Looking interested with friendly posture
· Giving time and space for the other
· Wondering about what the other is doing, thinking or feeling
· Enjoying watching the other
|Encouraging Initiatives||· Waiting
· Listening actively
· Showing emotional warmth through intonation
· Naming positively what you see, think or feel
· Using friendly and/ or playful intonation as appropriate
· Saying what you are doing
· Looking for initiatives
|Receiving Initiatives||· Showing you have heard, noticed the other’s initiative
· Receiving with body language
· Being friendly and/ or playful as appropriate
· Returning eye contact, smiling, nodding in response
· Receiving what the other is saying or doing with words
· Repeating using the other’s words or phrases
|Developing Attuned Interactions||· Receiving and then responding with words
· Checking the other is understanding you
· Waiting attentively for you turn
· Having fun
· Giving a second (and further) turn on the same topic
· Giving and taking short turns
· Contributing to interaction/ activity equally
· Cooperating- helping each other
· Extending, building on the other’s response
· Judging the amount of support required and adjusting
· Giving information when needed
· Offering choices that the other can understand
· Making suggestions that the other can follow
|Deepening Discussion||· Supportive goal setting
· Sharing viewpoints
· Collaborative discussion and problem solving
· Naming difference of opinion
· Investigating the intentions behind words
· Naming contradictions/ conflict (real or potential)
· Reaching new shared understandings
· Managing conflict (back to being attentive and receiving with the aim of restoring attuned interactions)
From Kennedy, H., Landor, M., & Todd, L. (2011)
After these small successful moments of interaction in the video were identified, they were captured and edited to produce a short video of the teacher’s attuned interaction with a pupil or group of pupils.
Shortly after, the edited video is shared with the teacher in a shared review meeting. We would observe, analyse and reflect on the positive interaction strategies employed in the edited video. Through discussion and referring back to the video clips, they would be encouraged to think about the impact their communication had on the pupils emotionally, and how this affected their engagement and learning. The advantage of using a video in this situation was significant; it enabled us to ‘micro-analyse’ initiatives and responses between the teacher and pupils in great detail while also empowering teachers. The video manages to successfully capture these moments, which are otherwise lost in the fast pace of a lesson. Together, we would then consider how to extend their observed skills and move towards a more attuned relationship. The shared review also incorporated reflection time encouraging teachers to consider how the more attuned responses could be applied to other less successful interactions, and the impact that this would have on pupil engagement. This process (i.e. videoing, editing and the shared review) was cyclical and repeated with each teacher for approximately four cycles.
For the first three teachers involved in the intervention, the VIG process evolved into Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) (Kennedy, Landor and Todd, 2015). In this stage, the teachers viewed the videos from their fourth teaching session and edited the video themselves using the Principles of Attuned Interactions and Guidance. These three teachers then brought this video to a Group Shared Review and showed their videos to each other. This meeting followed a similar sequence to the initial meeting described above, but they also allowed teachers to observe each other’s interactions and reflect on these in relation to their own practice. The following three teachers also completed the same process but at a later stage, after the data for this evaluation was collected.
In July 2012, I measured the impact of the intervention qualitatively through evaluative questionnaires. Thematic analysis suggested that as a result of the intervention, communication skills improved, teachers demonstrated they were actively reflecting on their practice and there were a range of positive outcomes. These are explained in more detail below.
Development of communication and interaction skills
For effective communication to take place, teachers have to ensure that they have established communication principles from the top of the table of Principles of Attuned Interactions and Guidance. Firstly, teachers demonstrated that they were interested in the pupil through their attentiveness, eye contact, their positioning and tone of voice. The teachers would take notice of what the pupils were doing and name what the pupils were doing.
As they developed attunement, there was evidence of them using positive body language. Teachers were conveying that they were enjoying the interaction by smiling, laughing, nodding and adopting friendly postures. At the same time, they noticed how the pace of their speech impacted on the pupils’ understanding. For example, at the end of the intervention, one teacher reflected, “I can speak too quickly… I am consciously slowing my speech down”. Teachers considered how to develop attuned interactions; they reflected on their choice of language, tailoring it to the audience and using simple phrases. These elements all increased the likelihood of engaging learners.
Once these basic attuned interactions principles were established teachers became mindful of receiving the pupil’s initiatives. They would accept a degree of pupil digression (i.e. listening to the pupil’s initiative), as they understood that it was relevant to the pupil at that stage of their learning. Some would receive them by repeating and “scripting” what the pupil had told them. This also reinforced the learning point back to the pupil, as well as the whole group.
An important theme was that teachers realised the importance of balancing turn taking during discussions. With this balance between teacher and pupils, pupils seemed more engaged in the learning process. Part of this important listening process was to ensure that teachers paused after they spoke to allow the pupils to respond. One teacher commented how they “must allow pupils time to reflect and digest” while another identified that “I talk too much! I must allow pupils time”. It is well documented that this processing time is crucial for ASD pupils (Murin, Hellriegel and Mandy, 2016).
Teachers were then able to reflect on how to deepen their discussion. They identified the importance of skilled questioning to extend and scaffold their learning. For example, pupils in one of the analysed videos showed excellent learning through open questioning, focusing on a very specific aspect of the learning.
Reflective teachers and development of confidence
There was evidence that the reflective and analytical nature of VIG enabled teachers to review their practice and refine their existing skills. However, it also facilitated the development of new skills and encouraged them to think about how these skills can be used most effectively.
Furthermore, the video provided clear and strong evidence of teachers’ skills, which promoted their self-efficacy. For example, the evaluation revealed that teachers felt more confident: “I have learnt that I am a good communicator with a range of skills that I wasn’t really aware I had” and that “my perceived weaknesses were unfounded”.
VIG also encouraged a culture of sharing good practice between staff. Teachers involved in the intervention demonstrated how they had shared their knowledge of ‘engaging interactions’ with other teachers and learning mentors at the school. Staff became more reflective about the impact that their behaviour and communication was having on the pupils.
Teachers involved in the Group Shared Reviews also highlighted the positive impact. By this stage, the teachers were very reflective of their own practice and were able to apply their understanding of attuned interactions to a colleague’s approach. This forum enabled them to see their colleagues teach, discuss their rationales, support each other, praise them and incorporate their teaching strategies into their own practice. In addition, they noticed “common threads” in their approaches. Identifying these similarities has helped them to shape more consistent learning experiences for the pupils.
It is also important to highlight that staff demonstrated that they were able to put aside fears of being videoed. They spoke positively about the experience of viewing themselves: “it has been really good fun and informative” and “it has been a fantastic experience to watch myself communicate and facilitate effective communication with my pupils”. After using the video feedback they became aware of how the pupils perceived the lesson: “you only ever have a skewed view of what your delivery is like and I wanted to see it from the other side”.
Outcomes for Pupils
A range of benefits for the pupils were highlighted as a result of the intervention. By reflecting on their practice and discussing their practice, teachers used a greater range of multi-sensory teaching approaches. There was evidence of teachers using more visual prompts to support their lessons. Visual prompts are tools that increase the understanding of language, environmental expectations and provide structure and support for individuals with ASD. Evidence suggests that these teaching approaches support children with ASD (Murin, Hellriegel and Mandy, 2016; Tissot and Evans, 2003).
The intervention enabled teachers to see the impact of their communication on their relationship with the pupils. One teacher commented, “I’m developing more attuned relationships with the pupils by reflecting positively on communication and dialogue”. Fundamentally, they could identify what they needed to do to improve this relationship further and how they needed to individualise their communication for different pupils. As a result of developing these positive relationships, they noticed increased levels of pupil participation and felt more effective in their teaching roles.
Another finding was that pupils seemed more confident. It was noted how pupils felt more secure and how they were more actively engaged. A teacher noted, “their (pupils) answers became more confident”. Pupils would also share their worries and were more willing to ask for help in challenging situations.
As teachers became increasingly aware of the principles of attuned interactions they personally utilised, they started to focus on facilitating attunement between pupil-to-pupil interactions. They used their knowledge of attuned interactions and shared this with pupils to help them interact effectively together. In these situations they would prompt the pupils, organise them in specific groups and facilitate group discussions. As a result of this small group work between pupils, they were able to “explore their own learning” and could “even identify something they like about each other”.
As a result of the combination of these factors, teachers identified a clear improvement in in terms of pupil’s knowledge and understanding.
The evidence discussed suggests that the VIG had a positive impact at the school. VIG was a vehicle that supported reflectiveness amongst the teachers and guided them towards considering how their communication and behaviour impacted on the pupils. The video feedback provided clear evidence that pupils responded positively to the teachers’ attuned interactions. It also showed teachers what teaching strategies and resources were effective in the classroom. This evaluation suggests that as a result of this process, there were positive outcomes for pupils. The development of positive relationships in the school promoted engagement with learning. With increased levels of participation, pupils appeared to make more progress with their learning. With greater levels of understanding, success and engagement, it is hoped that pupil confidence will continue to increase.
Teachers involved in the project were enthusiastic about continuing with the intervention and valued VIG as a professional development tool. The next phase of the work will continue with some of the existing teachers but will also include teachers who have currently not been involved. It is hoped that the good practice demonstrated will continue to grow as more staff become aware of VIG and integrate the principles within the school culture.
For those who are eager to reflect on the quality of their teacher – pupil relationships, a first step would be to become more aware of their communication and consider how successfully they are using the principles of attuned interactions and guidance in their own communication. VIG training opportunities are shared on www.videointeractionguidance.net (the website for the Association of Video Interaction Guidance UK (AVIGuk)). Enjoy your interactions and the subsequent rewards.
Author Roosje Rautenbach is an Educational Psychologist for Cornwall Educational Psychology Service. She works as an AVIGuk Guider and Full Supervisor.
Bennathan, M & Boxall. M. (2000). Effective Intervention in Primary Schools: Nurture Groups (2nd ed.). London: David Fulton Publishers.
Biemans, H. (1990). ‘Video Home Training: Theory Method and Organisation of SPIN’. In J Kool (ed.) International Seminar for Innovative Institutions. Ryswijk: Ministry of Welfare, Health and Culture.
Kennedy, H., Landor, M., & Todd, L. (ed.) (2011). Video Interaction Guidance: A Relationship Based Intervention to Promote Attunement, Empathy and Wellbeing. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Kennedy, H., Landor, M., & Todd, L.,(ed.) (2015). Video Enhanced Reflective Practice: Professional Development through Attuned Interactions. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Murin, M., Hellriegel, J., & Mandy, W. (2016). Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Transition into Secondary School. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Rautenbach, R. (2010). From Nurture Group to Nurturing Community: Exploring Processes and Evaluating Outcomes when Nurturing Principles are Consistent between Nurture Group, Home and School. Submitted as Doctorate in Educational Psychology thesis, University of Exeter. Available at https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/115507 Accessed on 22nd of April 2016.
Tissot, C. & Evans, R. (2003). Visual Teaching Strategies for Children with Autism. Early Child Development and Care, 173 (4) 425-433.