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Protocol for Watching Illuminating Standards Videos

Format(s): EL Document

Topic(s): Spark Discussion

Audience: Educators

Protocol for Watching Videos in the Illuminating Standards Series

Developed by Steve Seidel, co-director of the Illuminating Standards Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education with Tina Blythe, author/educator, and students in the MODELS OF EXCELLENCE course at HGSE.

Through this course, over 30 students have worked with Seidel and Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer of Expeditionary Learning, on the The Illuminating Standards Project. Students chose projects from Models of Excellence and considered ways in which those projects do—and don’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and many of those films are presented here.


Principles for Watching the Videos 

  1. These videos hold tremendous amounts of information and are fast moving. We think that, time permitting, it is very valuable to watch them twice in the course of the protocol.
  2. The Illuminating Standards Videos examine how student work can illuminate state  standards—and vice versa. In addition, they invite viewers to question the standards and consider a range of issues raised by considering standards in relation to real examples of student work.
  3. We find it helpful to arrange the group in a circle, if at all possible.
  4. The role of the facilitator is to help the group move through the protocol within the established time frame and to help make sure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute their thoughts.
  5. This is a structured conversation. Indeed, at times it may not feel like a conversation so much as a way of surfacing varied impressions, thoughts, questions, and ideas stimulated by watching the video.
  6. This protocol is designed to use these films as a catalyst for discussions among colleagues about the relationship between one’s commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students. There are no right or wrong answers.  Surfacing diverse perspectives enriches the quality of the group’s thinking.


The Protocol

  1. The group quickly identifies a facilitator and establishes how much time is available for the session and reviews the principles for these sessions (noted above).
  2. Watch the video together.
  3. The facilitator leads the group through the following questions:
  • STRIKING: What is striking about what we’ve watched?
  • THE VISIBILITY OF LEARNING: Can you see learning in the video? If so, what does it look like? What do you think students might have learned?
  • STANDARDS FOR LEARNING: What are the standards under consideration in this video? (Read the standards for the video aloud together.)

4. Watch the video again and then address the following questions:

  • STANDARDS FOR LEARNING, PART TWO: How do we, collectively, make sense of that standard? What is clear and what is confusing?
  • BRINGING IT HOME: What questions are we left with today about the standards and what and how we teach?

5. Final reflections on the session:

  • ONCE AROUND THE CIRCLE: Each participant is asked to share one idea, image, or question they want to hold on to from this “Illuminating Standards” session.


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