Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Learning to Notice: Scaffolding New Teachers' Interpretations of Classroom Interactions

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Learning to Notice: Scaffolding New Teachers' Interpretations of Classroom Interactions

Article excerpt

Mathematics and science education reforms encourage teachers to base their instruction in part on the lesson as it unfolds in the classroom, paying particular attention to the ideas that students raise. This ability to adapt instruction in the moment requires that teachers be able to notice and interpret aspects of classroom interactions that are key to reform teaching. This paper defines what it means to "notice" in the context of reform and describes a multimedia tool designed to help teachers learn to do so. The authors then report on a study in which six mathematics and science teachers seeking secondary teaching certification used the software to examine teaching. The results suggest that use of the software helped the teachers to develop new ways to analyze instruction. Specifically, the teachers began to identify particular events in their classroom interactions as noteworthy, to more frequently use specific evidence to discuss these events, and to provide their own interpretations of these events. Thi s research adds to our understanding of teacher cognition and also has implications for those who are designing and implementing teacher education in the context of reform.

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A key tenet of mathematics and science education reform is the creation of classroom environments in which teachers make pedagogical decisions in the midst of instruction. In the mathematics classroom, teachers and students are expected to listen carefully to one another's ideas, with teachers adapting their instruction, at least in part, based on the ideas that students raise (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 2000; Smith, 1996). Similarly, teachers of inquiry-based science curricula are encouraged to listen to and interpret students' ideas and to use those ideas to help students investigate authentic questions (Hammer, 2000; van Zee & Minstrell, 1997; National Research Council [NRC], 1996; American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993). The authors claim that this view of teaching and learning requires that teachers develop new ways of noticing and interpreting classroom interactions. However, current programs of teacher education often do not focus on helping teachers l earn to interpret classroom interactions. Instead, they focus on helping teachers learn to act, often providing them with instruction concerning new pedagogical techniques and new activities that they can use (Berliner, 2000; Day, 1999; Huling, Resta, & Rainwater, 2001; Niess, 2001; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Taylor, 2000). Although these techniques and activities are certainly important resources for new teachers, they do not necessarily ensure that teachers will learn to interpret classroom interactions in ways that allow for flexibility in their approach to teaching.

In this article, we report on an investigation of how teachers learn to notice and interpret classroom interactions. We begin by defining what it means to "notice" classroom interactions. Next, we describe a software tool intended to help teachers learn to do so. We then report findings from a study in which we investigated how the use of the software tool may have influenced preservice mathematics and science teachers' analysis of their classrooms. Our findings suggest that teachers who used the software tool began to analyze and interpret teaching in ways that we believe are recommended by current mathematics and science reform efforts.


Our study is framed by two main areas of prior research. First, we draw on prior work to define what we mean by teachers' ability to notice classroom interactions. Second, we turn to research on the use of video in teacher education to describe the reasons why video might be a useful tool for supporting teachers' efforts to notice and interpret classroom interactions.

What Does It Mean to Notice? …

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