Tag Archives: video feedback

Video as a tool for teaching adult-child interaction strategies

I visit nurseries to train staff as part of my job; we aim to support the language development of all the children by improving the communication environment. I observe the staff and complete a check-list about the communication environment; it covers areas like adult-child interaction, the listening environment, snack time, and story time. I discuss my observations with the nursery manager and we decide what to focus on.

I’ve recently trained several practitioners in adult-child interaction, with varying degrees of success!

Training package

The training package I offer is still evolving. I usually:

  • give the practitioners some written information about adult-child interaction from Elkan Early Language Builders;
  • discuss the dual strategies of following a child’s lead and commenting rather than questioning;
  • model these strategies; and
  • make a brief video of the practitioner interacting with a child, and give feedback.


I have used this package with five practitioners over the last month. Three of them responded really well: they asked thoughtful questions, reflected on their skills as they watched the video, and were able to adapt their interaction styles to become better communication partners. Result!

What about the other two? Well, one was able to identify that she asked a lot of questions; with support she began to think about how she could use comments instead. However, at the end of the session she still seemed unaware that she was being directive. The other practitioner felt she was already using both strategies, but didn’t notice herself asking questions when we watched the video. Hmm.

Reflecting on the sessions that didn’t go so well, could I achieve more by fine-tuning how I use the video? There’s lots of useful information on this topic in the Hanen “It Takes Two To Talk” programme. After reviewing it, I’ve found three ideas to try:

  • considering the adult’s stage of learning,
  • using coaching methods, and
  • asking rather than telling.

Stages of learning

The Hanen programme describes three stages of learning: pre-aware, aware, and active. A pre-aware learner might be able to explain the strategies, but doesn’t realise that she’s not applying them. An aware learner knows the strategies and knows that she’s not yet applying them. An active learner has applied her knowledge and changed her behaviour.

So the practitioner who thought she was using the strategies but didn’t notice that she asked questions was at the pre-aware stage of learning. I should try to move her on to the next stage: to increase her awareness of her own behaviour. The Hanen information suggests making tentative statements about what you see and then “letting the tape do the talking.” I’ll try it.


Hanen suggests coaching as another way to support an adult’s learning process, by improving the specific interaction. You can do this while the camera is running, during a brief break in filming, or by demonstrating the strategy.

So for the practitioner who was unaware of how directive she was, I could try some coaching: while the camera is running I could say something like, “don’t suggest what to play with: wait for him to show you what he wants to do.” Something else for me to try out.

Feedback: ask, don’t tell

Reflecting on the feedback I gave, I think it started well, but could be improved. I asked what the practitioner thought about the interaction, and then offered a specific focus; for example, “let’s look at when you made comments.” So far so good. But then I told them my own observations, rather than asking for theirs! By asking rather than telling, I could provide a more active learning experience, to increase the chances of learning new skills. Looks like I’ve got lots to practise!

Any ideas?

Do you use video as a teaching tool? What techniques have you found work well with pre-aware learners?

Does It Take Two To Talk in inner London?

This week I spent 3 days in Nottingham, learning how to run the Hanen “It Takes Two To Talk” (ITTTT) course for parents. ITTTT is an early intervention program designed to teach parents how to facilitate their children’s communication skills. A key component of the program is the use of video feedback; parents are filmed playing with their children, so they can see how they are using the strategies they have been taught.

The course was interesting, the group leader was dynamic and inspiring, and I picked up some really useful tips for running adult training sessions. The information about different adult learning styles and how to accommodate them made sense; I’ll be applying this when I give some training tomorrow! I found practising how to coach parents during the video sessions, and using the 9 steps for feedback a worthwhile exercise.

Although I learnt a huge amount that I can use in my day to day work, I have doubts about how successful ITTTT would be for most of the families I work with in a bilingual patch of inner city London.

I have to work against the medical model: ‘You’re the professional, fix my child.’ Parents often don’t understand the importance of play, or are struggling with financial, housing or health issues; playing with their child simply isn’t a priority. Some parents have limited literacy skills, or negative past experiences of education — and the use of video is an alien concept.

Therapists have tried running ITTTT in other local boroughs with limited success and struggled with a lack of attendance. Have you tried running ITTTT in urban areas with high levels of deprivation? How effective was the course as intervention? Have you successfully adapted the program for use with this type of population? At the moment, I’m planning on working with families on an individual basis, using the ITTTT principles for parent training and video feedback sessions. I’ll let you know how I get on!