Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Learning to Look beyond the Boundaries of Representation: Using Technology to Examine Teaching (Overview for a Digital Exhibition: Learning from the Practice of Teaching)

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Learning to Look beyond the Boundaries of Representation: Using Technology to Examine Teaching (Overview for a Digital Exhibition: Learning from the Practice of Teaching)

Article excerpt


At first glance, the video tape of one day in Yvonne Hutchinson's classroom showed work that was effortless. Hutchinson calmly moved around among the ninth-grade students while they went over their homework and discussed their reading of A Call to Assembly, an autobiography of the jazz musician and professor Willie Ruff. There was some commotion in the classroom as Hutchinson organized a group discussion, but soon the students began talking, calling on one another, responding to one another, referring to the text they were reading, and making connections to their own lives. Hutchinson casually interjected a comment or a question here or there, but for the most part, the students seemed to be talking about the book among themselves.

From the perspective of the preservice teachers from the Stanford Teacher Education Program who were watching the video, Hutchinson's classroom provided a vision of the possible--an image of what a group discussion could look like. In some ways, however, the video also provided a vision of the impossible: How could these preservice teachers, many of whom had never seen or led a group discussion in their own teaching placements, produce or even approximate the teaching moves that Yvonne Hutchinson had cultivated over a career of more than 30 years?

For teacher educators and the novice teachers they seek to support, these kinds of representations of teaching provide a dual challenge: These viewers need to be able to see what is there and to see what is not; they need to be able to analyze the many elements of teaching and learning that are captured in video and other media, but they also need to have a sense of what those representations fail to capture---crucial details that might be obscured, larger contexts in which work may be situated, overarching purposes, histories, and long-term relationships invisible in daily interactions (Ball & Lampert, 1999).

Part of this challenge involves the difficulty of analyzing the highly complex practice of leading a rich discussion. Leading a classroom discussion involves multiple components, including establishing norms for participation, assisting students in engaging in careful readings of text ahead of time, and modeling features of academic discourse. In other work, Grossman and her colleagues (Grossman et. al., 2009) refer to this as the "decomposition" of practice--breaking down complex practice into its constituent parts for the purposes of teaching and learning. If decomposing practice enables novices to "see" and supports them in enacting practice, how can multimedia records of practice illustrate both the fluid performance and the individual parts that contribute to such fluidity without making teaching seem rote or simplistic?


This challenge--to make teaching accessible for analysis while still capturing its complexity--serves as the focus of a digital exhibition that brings together four Web sites that represent teaching using group discussions in four different ways and contexts (A list of Web sites referred to is included at the end of this article).

This overview of the exhibition describes the background of the work on these Web sites, the conceptual framework that guides the development of the Web sites and this digital exhibition, and a discussion of the exhibition and the implications for the development and exchange of these kinds of multimedia representations of teaching, and their use in teacher education, in the future.


This exhibition grows out of work begun at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where Hutchinson was a member of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). (1) CASTL provided fellowships to faculty in both K-12 and higher education who had been nominated for both their excellence in teaching and their involvement in efforts to study and document their practice. …

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