The use of VERP to develop the practice of teaching assistants within a Middle Eastern educational context
I argue that there is an emerging opportunity for Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) and Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) as appropriate tools to develop the inter-relational skills between children and adults within the UK, Middle East and beyond. The use of video is becoming more culturally accepted in the Middle East in light of the mushrooming of video technologies within the social and occupational lives of the citizens (Elmasry, Benni, Patel & Moore, 2016). The proliferation of mobile apps that use video, social media software that utilises video and use of video in security within the workplace has made broaching video recording more amenable. I outline how VERP has been used successfully with adult teaching assistants and the specific children that they support.
Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) is a therapeutic intervention that fosters positive change within relationships e.g. parent – child; teacher – child. It is a strengths-based approach that analyses the video recordings of positive interactions between a client and another adult or child. The VIG practitioner micro-analyses these interactions in order to share the clips with the client so that both can reflect together on what the client had done to bring about the positive interaction. VERP builds on this methodology by empowering the client to film their own interactions and then reflect on the micro-analysed clips, often within a small group setting (Kennedy, Landor & Todd, 2011; Kennedy, Landor, & Todd, 2010).
VERP has been used as a reflective professional development tool for a wide range of professionals and employees, supporting them to analyse and reflect on moments of their effective interaction on video, whilst in their working environment (Kennedy, Landor & Todd, 2015). As such this approach was uniquely appropriate for my work with adult support staff within a network of schools within the Middle East. Whilst working in the UK I had implemented a similar approach with British Teaching Assistants of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Bolstered by this positive experience within the UK context I embraced the challenge of replicating the approach within a new context.
Spending time working in the Middle East has afforded me opportunity to engage directly with children and the adults who are assigned to support them. I was able to train and equip key adults working directly with SEN children to improve their interaction skills.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region it is commonplace for parents to employ low skilled workers as Shadow Teachers for their child. The Shadow Teacher is somewhat akin to a 1:1 Teaching Assistant assigned to a specific child for 30 hours per week. The Shadow Teacher often accompanies the child in all of their activities within the school day and is the principal adult responsible for their care and access to learning.
With access to over 17 Shadow Teachers all with varying levels of experience and training I presented them with the opportunity to develop their skills using VERP. Following the initial presentation all of the Shadow Teachers signed up to participate in the programme. Due to limitations in time and resources only 8 shadow teachers were trained in two groups of 4. Parental engagement and consent was obtained directly through consent forms, parental discussions and parental review meetings. The recording of video was obtained by the Shadow Teachers themselves using school equipment and/or student electronic tablet devices. When implementing VERP our focus is on empowering the clients to become emerging VIG guiders who can identify, receive and build on the initiatives of others thus building and strengthening attuned interactions.
The VERP approach was well received by the Shadow Teachers as evidenced by the Shadow Teachers attending all sessions, filming clips and providing favourable comments about the process. One Shadow Teacher wrote a letter following the training remarking on the impact it had on the child both at home and in school, and she went on to describe how the child was more willing to attend classroom lessons and was more receptive to her teaching.
The self-reported sense of progress and achievement may be down to a change in the perception of themselves as valued professionals. The time spent acknowledging the successes of the Shadow Teachers through a systematic approach could have enabled them to further appreciate their strengths and development of professional pride.
VERP is an ideal approach to help equip frontline staff with a framework on how to relate with the children in their care so as to develop their repertoire of skills and ability to demonstrate attuned interactions. Moreover the opportunity to revisit video over time provided a consistent period for the Shadow Teachers to reflect on their strengths and consider ways of improving things. Finally the positive approach with tangible reference points was helpful in providing evidence of improvement for the Shadow Teachers, the children and their parents. Moving forward, VERP appears to be a burgeoning area of growth for developing relational, social and interactional skills of children, and their key adults.
There is still a long way to go in engaging parents in the approach for themselves. Many of the parents were content for the intervention to be utilised with the Shadow Teachers yet were unwilling for themselves to be trained. Figures released by Abu Dhabi Education Council indicated that 65% of parents surveyed reported that a child’s education is mainly the school’s responsibility (ADEC, 2015). The engagement of parents in the active development of children’s well being is a key area for many countries in the GCC region (Al Sumaiti, 2012; Baker & Hourani 2014); perhaps with a refined more culturally acceptable presentation of VERP we may see an increase in practitioners and interest for VIG/VERP.
It will be important to grasp the opportunities to advance innovative and evidenced based practice where possible so as to extend good practice across the GCC region. As a VIG Stage 4 supervisor I am a strong advocate of the power of VIG and VERP in creating new meanings and insights for both the individual and family. As I move across the GCC region I hope to be able to continue utilising this approach and would encourage others to challenge themselves by extending their attuned interactions with others.
Al Sumaiti. R (2012). Parental Involvement in the Education of their Children in Dubai, Dubai School of GovernmentPolicy Brief. 30.
ADEC (2015). Parents’ engagement survey, Parents’ perspective. Research Office, Abu Dhabi Education Council
Baker. F. S., & Hourani. R. B (2014). The nature of parental involvement in the city of Abu Dhabi in a context of change: Nurturing mutually responsive practice, Education, Businessand Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 7 (4), 186 -200.
Elmasry. T., Benni. E., Patel. J., & Moore. J.P (2016). Digital Middle East: Transforming the region into a leading digital economy. McKinsey & Company.
Kennedy, H., Landor, M. & Todd. L. (2010) Video Interaction Guidance as a method to promote secure attachment, Educational and Child Psychology, 27 (3).
Kennedy, H., Landor, M. and Todd, L. (2011) Video Interaction Guidance: a relationship-based intervention to promote attunement, empathy and well-being. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Kennedy, H., Landor, M. and Todd, L. (2015) VideoEnhanced Reflective Practice Professional Development through Attuned Interactions. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.