Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) for a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) Seeking to Improve their Work with Parents. Pitt and Soni

Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) for a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) Seeking to Improve their Work with Parents

Sophie Pitt and Anita Soni (Sophie.Pitt@coventry.gov.uk, A.Soni@bham.ac.uk)

Abstract

 

Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) is a method of professional development that aims to improve practitioners’ attuned interactions with their clients, through a specificway of using video reflection (Kennedy, Landor and Todd, 2015). Existing literature on VERP is scant, but suggests VERP’s utility in: improving practitioners’ attuned interactions with their clients, providing a reflective space for practitioners and improving outcomes for practitioners’ clients. In the current professional practice report, as a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP), I used VERP to improve my collaboration with parents during consultation meetings. My initial goals for VERP were to encourage parents’ full participation in consultation meetings and to empower them to generate actions and ideas about the provision their child needs in school. After two cycles of VERP with my university supervisor/VERP guider, I rated my goals as largely met and reflected that my attuned interactions had improved. My mindfulness had increased and I was encouraging initiatives from parents more. The report discusses the logistics of using VERP and potential limitations of the research.

Introduction

This project developed out of dissatisfaction in my work with parents during consultation meetings. Consultation is one of the core functions of educational psychology service delivery (Scottish Executive, 2002). Wagner (2000) defined one of the key principles of consultation being working with others as equals.She noted that by working collaboratively with parents and teachers, ideas for how to make a difference to children and young people (CYP)’s situation develops.

In the Educational Psychology Service (EPS) where I was on placement as a TEP, a consultation model was a large part of EP practice. The standard pathway in this service was:

  • A request for involvement from the EPS is made for a CYP, usually by adults from their educational setting;
  • The link Educational Psychologist (EP) or TEP to the setting completes an assessment of the CYP, based on the referral information;
  • A consultation meeting is held with the CYP’s parents, teacher and the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) from the setting, as well as any other professionals that may be involved. Depending on the circumstance, the CYP may or may not attend the meeting;
  • During the consultation, each person’s respective views on the CYP is shared and at the end of the meeting an action plan is agreed to meet the needs of the CYP in their setting; and
  • The action plan is implemented by the educational setting and a consultation review meeting is held 6-12 weeks later. In this meeting, the actions set in the initial consultation meeting are reviewed, and updated views about the CYP are shared.

In my practice, I was aware of my existing skills with parents during consultation meetings, including my abilities to build rapport, show empathy and demonstrate active listening. I received positive evaluations of my co-operation with parents from SENCosand through observations from my supervisor. Despite this, when reviewing the ideas, solutions and actions set during consultation meetings, I noted that very little emanated from parents and I felt as though parents’ voices werenot apparent. As a parent myself, I am acutely aware of the breadth and depth of knowledge that a parent has about their child. Yet, in consultation meetings, I felt that I was not supporting parents to share their knowledge in a purposeful way.

Reflecting on my practice using models such as Self-Organised Learning (Thomas and Harri-Augstein, 2013) and ordinary supervision were not enabling me to identify specific areas that I could target to enhance my work with parents during consultations. Thus, I was motivated to try other ways to reflect on my practice in this area and chose to use VERP with my university supervisor for two consultation meetings with parents.

Literature Review

What is Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP)?

Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP) is a method of supporting individuals or groups to improve their effective communication skills in their work practice. It involves practitioners reflecting on video clips of successful communications and identifying working points to strengthen future practice (Strathie, Strathie and Kennedy, 2011).  VERP was developed from Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) and is based on the VIG Principles of attuned interaction and guidance (Kennedy, Landor & Todd, 2011). The purpose of both VIG and VERP is to move from a discordant cycle, where individuals are missing each other’s initiatives, to an attuned cycle, where the individuals are attuned, receiving and encouraging each other’s initiatives and therefore engage in a deeper discussion.

How does VERP work?

The process of VERP is similar to the process of VIG, with both methods involving video recorded interactions and shared reviews of recordings with qualified VIG guiders. The VERP process is outlined in Figure 1. The requirement for VERP, similarly to VIG, is that the guider needs to be trained in the principles of VIG and accredited by the Association for VIG UK.

 

Figure 1– Model to illustrate the process of VERP used

The key difference between the VIG and VERP process is that in VIG, the VIG guider chooses the clipsto share in the review, whereas in VERP, the practitioner selects the clips. Nevertheless, in both models, the clips, of between a few seconds to a minute, shared in the review are moments of successful, positive interactions and thus both approaches are strength-based and solution-focused in nature.

What is the evidence base of VERP?

 

When attempting to search the literature for articles on ‘Video Enhanced Reflective Practice’, standard databases returned no results, although there were some for VIG. Searching the open-access e-journal named ‘Attuned Interactions’, which specifically reports research on VIG and VERP, I found two papers on VERP; Craddock and Branigan (2017) exploring the use of VERP in a children’s centre and Lomas (2016) investigated VERP in a specialist secondary school. In addition, several studies of VERP have been reported in the text ‘Video Enhanced Reflective Practice: Professional Development through Attuned Interactions’edited by Kennedy, Landor and Todd (2015). The studies within this book that are particularly relevant were:

  • Quinn (2015) – VERP used to enhance teachers’ mind-mindedness in six nurture groups;
  • Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015) – VERP implemented with teaching assistants to improve their interactions with four children;
  • Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015) – VERP used to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and
  • Birbeck et al. (2015) – VERP applied in early years settings.

The four studies above will be discussed in addition to the work from Murray (2016), Craddock and Branigan (2017) and Lomas (2016). Parallels can be drawn across the research in terms of their discussion on VERP’s capacity to:

  • Improve attuned interactions with clients;
  • Enhance practitioners’ reflection skills; and
  • Achieve positive outcomes for clients.

Improvement of Practitioners’ Attuned Interactions with Clients

 

All seven studies reported that practitioners had developed better attuned interactions with their clients following their participation in VERP, suggesting that the primary aim of the intervention had been met. The five family support workers in Craddock and Branigan (2017) research aimed to enhance their communication with parents. The children’s centre workers wanted to be able to listen to parents and receive their initiatives to agree common goals and develop confidence in maintaining positive relationships with parents while having sensitive and difficult discussions. Following VERP, large effect sizes were reported in relation to the practitioners’ ratings of their goals and their attuned interactions with parents.

Similar findings were reported by Lomas (2016) who worked with eight teachers and one teaching assistant (TA). After participating in VERP, the teachers felt an increased sense of attunement with the young people that they worked with which in turn led to more positive interactions with the young people.

Quinn (2015) applied VERP to increase teachers’ mind-mindedness in six nurture groups (working with children aged between four and seven years) with three in the intervention and three as a control group. Quinn (2015) defined mindmindedness as adults being attuned to children’s possible thoughts and feelings and talking about these during interactions.

To measure the outcomes, two videos were taken in the six nurture groups during a breakfast session at the beginning and end of the study. The researchers transcribed and coded the adults’ speech for references to what the children may be thinking, experiencing or feeling (Quinn, 2015). In the nurture groups that received VERP, comments coded as attuned and displaying mind-mindedness increased from 4.75% to 16.86% compared to 4.44% to 7.14% in the control groups. In the post-intervention footage, the adults that received VERP used an average of 33 emotion-focussed comments in 72 minutes, whereas for the control groups, the average was seven comments in the same time. Consequently, the findings indicate that VERP may have led to an increase in teacher’s attuned interactions with the children.

The second VERP project by Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015) worked with two TAs who wanted to improve their interactions with two children with ASD. After three cycles of VERP, microanalysis of the video clips highlighted an increase in the frequency and intensity of attuned interactions between the TAs and the children. Similarly, the early years practitioners in Birbeck et al. (2015) noted that they had developed specific skills to increase their attuned interactions with children, such as repeating the child’s sounds and words and naming what the child is doing or feeling.

Taken together, the findings of these studies show the potential for VERP improving the attuned interactions between practitioners and their clients.

Enhancement of Practitioners’ Reflection Skills

 

In each of the seven articles there was discussion of practitioners valuing VERP as a way to improve their reflection skills and increase their self-awareness.  Birbeck et al. (2015) used VERP with early years practitioners to improve their ways of working with young children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and to support the children’s language and communication skills. They participated in three cycles of VERP and reported positive outcomes of the project. Practitioners reported that it gave them space to think and that it inspired them to be reflective despite busy working environments.

Murray’s (2016) research also recognised VERP’s capacity to support with reflection skills. In the study, Murray (2016) assumed the role of a VERP guider and worked with three TEPS during three cycles of VERP, where each TEP recorded footage of themselves in consultation meetings with parents and school staff. VERP was noted to enable reflective space and made interactions more explicit, whereas otherwise interactions are largely unconscious processes.

Quinn (2015) noted that the teachers commented onincreased self-awareness regarding their own interactive behaviours with the children. Similarly, Craddock and Branigan (2017) noted that the children centre workers commentedin the questionnaires that they felt more aware, conscious and reflective about their practice with parents.

The findings within these seven studies suggest that VERP has the capacity to improve practitioners’ reflection skills. In addition, it providesa means for recording the live reflection and for detailing the outcome of reflection (e.g. through monitoring the practitioner’s self-set goals during shared reviews).

Schon (1991) defined two types of reflection as part of ‘single loop learning’; these were:

  • Reflection-on-action – where past events are reflected on with a focus on what might be done better next time, and
  • Reflection-in-action – where present events are reflected on ‘in the moment’ in order to act right away.

Argyris and Schon (1978) also coined the term ‘double loop learning’, which refers to a deeper level of reflection that considers the underlying values and assumptions of the actions that are being reflected on. As highlighted by Birbeck et al(2015), Murray (2016), Quinn (2015) and Craddock and Branigan (2017) identify, the process of videoing interactions within VERP allows for this more thorough, double loop learning through exploration of the principles of attuned interactions and how they are being enacted in the videos that are reflected on within the shared reviews(Landor, 2015).

Positive Outcomes for Clients

 

Whilst most of the research on VERP focuses on outcomes for practitioners, the studies in the present review discuss the further effects of improved practitioner skills on the clients they work with. Table 1 outlines the VERP guider(s), practitioners and clients for each of the seven studies.

Table 1 – Outline of Guiders, Practitioners and Clients

Study VERP Guider(s) Practitioners Clients
Birbeck et al. (2015)  1 EP, 1 Inclusion Team Leader EYs workers EYs children
Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015) (Project 1) 1 EP 4 teaching assistants 4 children with SEND in mainstream primary schools
Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015)

(Project 2)

1 EP 2 teaching assistants 2 children with ASD
Quinn (2015) 1 EP 6 teachers and 6 teaching assistants Children within 6 nurture groups
Lomas (2016) 1 EP 8 teachers and 1 teaching assistant Young people from a specialist secondary school
Murray (2016) 1 TEP 3 TEPs Parents and teachers
Craddock and Branigan (2017) Not stated 5 children’s centres workers Parents

 

Lomas (2016) explored VERP’s utility in supporting teachers of a secondary specialist provision in supporting young people displaying challenging behaviour through reflection on their interaction.The needs of the young people included diagnoses of ASD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning difficulties. Following VERP, the eight teachers and one TA described the young people (their clients) as more ‘compliant’ in their traject plan,because interactions had improved. They stated that the young people’s self-confidence has increased in relation to their knowledge and ability in the classroom. Thus, this study suggests that VERP had a positive effect on the young people, through having a positive effect on the staff.

In the first project by Hewitt, Satariano and Todd (2015), VERP was used with four TAs from mainstream primary schools. Each TA recorded their interactions with one child with SEND during activities outside the classroom. Following five cycles of VERP, data suggested improved skills for the children – such as independence, academic skills and emotional development. The authors reported that there appeared to be a parallel between the development of the TAs and the children; the more the TAs developed, the more the children developed. A follow-up film made four months after the end of VERP suggested that improvements in the children’s skills were maintained or further improved.

The children from the nurture groups in Quinn’s (2015) study were presenting with fewer behavioural difficulties and less intense emotions following VERP, as measured by the Emotion Regulation Checklist.  InHewitt, Satariano and Todd’s (2015) second study, the two boys with ASD demonstrated increased task completion and engagement with academic tasks, improved attendance and improved social skills. These studies add further support to the notion that there is a measurable, positive impact on clients as well as practitioners following VERP.

In summary, the seven studies all suggest that VERP is a useful intervention for improving attuned interactions between practitioners and clients, improving practitioners’ reflection skills and for supporting the clients that practitioners work with.

Method

Procedure

 

The VERP process in the current paper followed the steps outlined in Figure 1Model to illustrate the process of VERP used. As a TEP I worked with a university supervisor who was trained in VIG and could thus facilitate VERP. We had an introductory session where we discussed the Principles of attuned interactions and guidance (Kennedy, Landor & Todd 2011) and I shared my learning goals. My overarching learning goal was:

  1. To improve my interactions with parents so that I am encouraging their full participation and collaboration in consultation meetings about their child.

Within that goal, there was a specific area that I wanted to improve within consultation meetings with parents, which was:

  1. To improve my ability to empower parents to generate actions and ideas about the provision their child needs in school.

Following our initial meeting, I video recorded a consultation meeting with a parent and school staff. I then proceeded to select three clips that I thought showcased positive, attuned interactions which worked towards my learning goals. These clips were shared in a review with my supervisor. During the shared review session, additional goals were added based on the reflections of the video. I then recorded a second consultation meeting and had a shared review in the same month.

Ethics

 

The study was conducted according to the ethical conventions outlined by the BPS Code of Conduct and Ethics (2009). A project information sheet and consent form was read and signed by every person who was video recorded (contact author for details). Prior to their signing, I had spoken to each person over the telephone or in person at least one week before the intended meeting to introduce the idea of the session being recorded and to allow them time to consider whether they were comfortable with the idea.

Reflection and Discussion

Improvements Relating to the Principles of Attuned Interaction

 

First VERP Cycle

Within a few days of recording the first consultation meeting I analysed the footage to find three clips to share during the review. Initially, I found watching the recording quite difficult, which connects with the experiences of the TEPs noted byMurray (2016) and practitioners noted by Birbeck et al. (2015). I instantly noticed negative aspects of myself – including my voice, facial expressions and hand movements. However, when watching it a second time, these negative feelings subsided and I was able to look in more detail at the interaction between myself and the parent. I chose three clips where I felt I was adhering to some of the principles of attuned interactions. For example, in one clip I received the parent’s initiatives by repeating their words and phrases and in another I maintained a good balance between receiving and responding to the parent’s initiatives.

In the shared review, I felt no anxieties around sharing the clips with my university tutor/VERP guider. Our working relationship is positive and non-judgemental, which allowed me to feel comfortable in the sharing of the recordings. This related to one theme in Murray’s (2016) dissertation, which discussed the importance of the VERP guider-practitioner relationship. The trainees commented that having a positive relationship with the guider enabled the shared reviews to be comfortable and effective. From my experience, the VERP guider was able to help me to notice more of what was working well in my interaction with the parent through looking at the parent positive responses, and then shifting the focus when watching the video again to my own behaviour, words and actions, alongside reference to the principles of attuned interaction. For example, in one interaction, the parent was empowered to have a longer turn during the discussion which was supported by me being attentive and encouraging initiatives. I had not noticed how the parent felt more comfortable to speak in that part of the meeting than any other, despite watching the recording two or three times before the shared review.

By looking closely at my facial expressions during the shared review, I noticed that at times I did not appear totally ‘present’ or engaged in my interaction with the parent. I reflected that these were the moments where I was trying to think through possible strategies, actions and ideas that I could share at the end of the meeting. We discussed that the purpose of me trying to think ahead was so that I could be useful, helpful and competent – which perhaps alluded to some anxieties that I had around being a ‘good’ TEP. The VERP guider asked me to estimate the percentage of time I was fully present in the meeting and the percentage of time where my mind was wandering to action planning. I surmised that I was present for 60% of the consultation and absent-minded for the remainder.

Towards the end of the shared review the VIG guider facilitated a discussion around goal setting and scaling using a scale of 1-10, where I was asked to think about how my interactions could be even better. We agreed that I could work on:

  • Being at least 10% more ‘present’ and mindful during the consultation meeting;
  • Waiting longer for a parent’s response before interjecting; and
  • Increasing the amount of commenting as opposed to questioning – as this may be less threatening for parents.

When rating these small-step goals, I set my scores as between three and five out of 10.

 

Second VERP Cycle

After the first VERP cycle I worked hard in all of my parent consultations to increase my mindfulness, waiting for parents’ initiatives and commenting instead of questioning. One consultation was successfully recorded and I selected three clips where I felt my interactions were attuned and better than usual. Watching the recording in the second cycle was not at all uncomfortable, as it was in the first cycle. I chose three clips where I felt I was:

  • Being attentive i.e. looking interested and maintaining a friendly, open posture towards the parent;
  • Encouraging initiatives i.e. waiting and pausing to allow time for parent’s responses;
  • Guiding i.e. building on the parent’s comments and extending their turn; and
  • Deepening discussion i.e. supporting the parent’s role in goal setting and ensuring their views were incorporated into the support plan.

 

Similar to the first cycle, the VIG guider was able to facilitate a greater depth of reflection about the interactions than I could achieve by viewing the recording alone through encouraging me to review the video focusing on the parent’s responses, and what I was doing to evoke these responses. For example, the parent became very animated when talking – their body language changed and they would often raise their hands in the air and smile widely. I had not observed these behaviours and how they formed a pattern. This enabled me to see exactly what I was doing to encourage those initiatives and to empower the parent, for example, returning smiles, facing the parent and nodding. This deeper level of reflection and self-awareness connects to existing literature on VERP (e.g. Birbeck et al., 2015; Murray, 2016).

When we returned to the rating scales, my self-reflective scores increased from between three and five out of 10 to between seven and eight out of 10, as indicated in Table 3. Considering the percentage of time estimated to be present and mindful, this increased from 60% in the first shared review to 90% in the second – suggesting that I felt more able to attune to the parent rather than planning strategies and actions in my mind. This indicates an improvement in my confidence about my practice and hopefully reflects a genuine improvement to my attuned interactions with parents during consultation meetings.

Table 2 – Goals and Ratings

Goal Rating in 1stShared Review Rating in 2ndShared Review
Being at least 10% more ‘present’ and mindful during the consultation meeting 60% mindful 90% mindful
Waiting longer for a parent’s response before interjecting 3/10 7/10
Increasing the amount of commenting as opposed to questioning – as this may be less threatening for parents. 5/10 8/10

 

Initial VERP Goals

The initial goals that I hoped to achieve through VERP were:

  • To improve my interactions with parents so that I am encouraging their full participation and collaboration in consultation meetings about their child; and
  • To improve my ability to empower parents to generate actions and ideas about the provision their child needs in school.

On reflection of these goals, I felt that my attuned interactions with parents had improved and as a result, their participation in the meetings (specifically with generating and sharing ideas for provision) had also improved. These findings are in line with previous research that demonstrates VERP’s ability to enhance attuned interactions with parents (Craddock and Branigan, 2017). From video-analysis, the parents in the second consultation meeting appeared to have more opportunities to generate ideas and solutions for their child’s action plan. If this was the case, it would extend the findings that VERP has an indirect, positive impact on the practitioners’ clients (Hewitt, Satariano and Todd, 2015; Lomas, 2016). However, this was not measured in a systematic way like in other research – for example, Quinn (2015) used a frequency count of comments that displayed mind-mindedness.

Logistics of Using VERP in Educational Psychology Consultations

 

Overall, I found the logistics of recording consultation sessions to be feasible within my practice as a TEP. My reflections on conditions that helped with the successful recordings and shared reviews were:

  • The host EPS having invested in an easily manageable and bookable video camera.
  • School SENCoswith good knowledge of which parents may be comfortable with the consultation meeting being video recorded. Before approaching parents to discuss VERP, I sought advice from the school SENCo. On most occasions, their advice was to make contact with the parent, however, in one or two incidents they advised me to choose a different parent. This was typically where the SENCo perceived the parent to be anxious or where parents had a history of not attending school meetings;
  • Making contact with the parent a week or more before the interview to introduce the idea of VERP and gauge their initial reactions; and
  • The VIG guider being available for a shared review within two or three weeks of the recording being made.

In between the first and second recorded consultation meetings, there were two unsuccessful attempts. In the first, the parent consented to the recording, but after 1-2 minutes asked for the camera to be switched off because she felt uncomfortable and was not sure of the purpose of the recording. In this instance, there was a language barrier with English being the parent’s second language. Thus, I found it difficult to explain VERP; words like “supervision” and “reflection” may not have been fully understood by the parent and I reflected that I needed to find ways to adapt my language so that the video recording is perceived as non-threatening for parents. In the second unsuccessful attempt, the video recorder lost its battery power during the meeting and was thus a minor, easily-avoidable technical error.

Limitations of the Current Research

 

Considering the limitations of this research, the current study implemented VERP over two cycles; this is relatively short when compared with the seven reviewed studies which varied using from three to five cycles of VERP. By limiting VERP to two cycles, it is more difficult to evaluate impact over time. Another limitation is the lack of research methods used to explore the impact of VERP; in other VERP research semi-structured interviews (Hewitt, Satariano and Todd, 2015; Murray, 2016), questionnaires (Craddock and Branigan, 2017) and video analysis using checklists (Hewitt, Satariano and Todd, 2015) have been used. The current research could have adopted some of these methods to explore the impact of VERP in greater detail and also reduced the subjective nature of the perceived impact.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, the current professional practice report details my experiences of using VERP for two cycles with a VERP guider, who was my university supervisor. The aim of the project was to support my collaboration with parents during consultation meetings, and specifically to support them in contributing to the action plan for their child’s provision in school. From my own ratings and reflections, these goals were met and I improved my attuned interactions with parents, such as waiting for longer to encourage their initiatives. I experienced VERP to be a worthwhile intervention and feel that I gained knowledge and skills. The current research connects with existing literature on VERP, which suggest its utility for improving attuned interactions, promoting reflective space and improving outcomes for the clients that practitioners work with. Future research could strengthen the evidence-base for VERP so that it can be applied in a wider variety of settings. Future work with TEPs and parents could utilise more robust research methods like questionnaires, interviews and checklists to explore the impact of VERP.

 

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