Using Video to Support Teachers' Ability to Notice Classroom Interactions

Article excerpt

This article examines how video can be used to help preservice and inservice teachers learn to notice what is happening in their classrooms. Data from two related studies are presented. In the first study, middle-school mathematics teachers met monthly in a video club in which they shared and discussed excerpts of videos from their classrooms. In the second study, a group of preservice high-school mathematics and science teachers used a new video analysis support tool called VAST to examine excerpts of video from their own and others' classrooms. In both cases, there were changes over time in what the teachers noticed and in how they interpreted these events. This research adds to the theoretical understanding of the role of video in teacher education and also provides direction for the development of new forms of video-based professional development activities.

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Video has become an important tool for working with both novice and veteran teachers. This is particularly true in mathematics and science education, where many new video-based and multimedia programs have recently been developed. In some cases, video is used to demonstrate new ways that teachers can explore specific content areas with students (e.g., Hatfield & Bitter, 1994). In other cases, video is used to illustrate particular classroom processes such as discourse or problem solving (Corwin, Price, & Storeygard, 1996). Common to both of these approaches is an emphasis on helping teachers learn what to do in the classroom.

In contrast, this research examines how video can help teachers learn to notice, that is, to develop new ways of "seeing" what is happening in their classrooms. This approach is based on the assertion that the ability to notice is critical in the context of current mathematics and science education reforms that require teachers to make pedagogical decisions in the midst of instruction (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 2000). For example, teachers are supposed to pay close attention to the ideas that students raise and then use these ideas as the basis for the lesson-in-progress. This adaptive style of instruction calls for teachers to be skilled at noticing and interpreting classroom interactions. Even veteran teachers who may already be experienced at seeing what is happening in their classrooms need to find ways to focus their attention on new aspects of classroom interactions (Smith, 1996).

This article reports on two related studies that used video to support teachers' ability to notice and interpret classroom interactions. In both cases, changes took place in what the teachers noticed and in how they interpreted these events. This research adds to our theoretical understanding of the role of video in teacher education and also provides direction for the development of new forms of video-based professional development activities.

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES

The nature of expertise has been the focus of research for many years. From this research, key features of expert thought and action have been identified. For example, experts have well-structured knowledge systems in their area of expertise, as well as the ability to use that knowledge flexibly (Schoenfeld, 1985). In addition, experts typically make use of automated responses to tasks with which they have become familiar, easing the cognitive load for these tasks (Greeno & Simon, 1988). Experts also have the ability to recognize complexities within situations that they examine (Goodwin, 1994). Thus, rather than focusing on superficial aspects of a task, experts tend to focus on substantive issues and meaningful patterns (Chi, Feltovich, & Glasser, 1981).

In studying teaching expertise in particular, many of these same issues have been investigated. For example, a great deal of research has explored the organization of teacher knowledge and how this knowledge is accessed (Ball, 1991; Ma, 1999; Putnam, 1987; Sherin, 2002). …