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Animations of Classroom Interaction: Expanding the Boundaries of Video Records of Practice

by Daniel Chazan & Patricio Herbst - 2012

Background/Context: For decades, teacher educators and professional developers have been using video recordings of actual classroom practice to help teachers reflect on their teaching (e.g., van Es & Sherin, 2002, 2008) and to help preservice teachers come into contact with practice (Lampert & Ball, 1998). However, the use of video records of actual practice involves important facilitation challenges (Lefevre, 2004).

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Challenges of using video records of actual practice with teachers, as well as a research program focused on the rationality of mathematics teaching (Herbst & Chazan, 2003), suggest a move toward sketchier representations of classroom interaction; this article focuses on two-dimensional video-based animations of fictional classroom interactions as another kind of video image for representing classrooms.

Research Design: This research project carries out breaching experiments (Mehan & Wood, 1975) related to models of the responsibilities of teachers and students when carrying out particular mathematical work in the context of mathematics classrooms. This project explores hypotheses derived from these models about who has the responsibility to do what, in what order, and how these responsibilities play out in time when a classroom is engaged with this mathematics. The hypotheses are tested by having study groups of teachers respond to clips from animated lessons in which there are breaches of the responsibilities as suggested by the models. These encounters between teachers and the scenarios present teachers with classroom interactions that maintain many of the characteristics of ordinary action, but breach others; practitioners then speak about the teaching represented and researchers examine their reactions. The project uses discourse analytic techniques to identify the arguments (in the sense of Toulmin, 1958) being made by teachers about how the animated stories should go. The warrants provided in these arguments give insight into the rationality of teaching practice. This article presents a conceptual argument and illustrates the argument with excerpts, from the project’s data corpus, of teachers’ discussions about teaching scenarios depicted in animated videos.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Based on an analysis of data from the ThEMaT project’s data corpus of teacher study group interactions, this article finds that the study group teachers identify with the work that the teacher in the animation does, project their own beliefs and circumstances onto the characters in the animation, and use their classroom experience to suggest back stories for characters that explain away (or repair) tensions between actions in the animations and the teachers’ sense of how mathematics classrooms should operate. We view these findings about the nature of teachers’ interactions with the animations as evidence that fictional animations are a valuable addition to our field’s capacities to represent practice, one that can support conversations about tactical and strategic dimensions of the work of teaching.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 3, 2012, p. 1-34
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16319, Date Accessed: 3/4/2021 5:33:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Daniel Chazan
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    DANIEL CHAZAN is an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Maryland interested in resources that the sociology, history, and philosophy of mathematics provide for conceptualizing mathematics teaching as a societal endeavor and a social practice. As a result of an atypical clinical faculty position at Michigan State University (where Chazan was on faculty from 1990 to 2002), and supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Academy of Education, in 2000, he published Beyond Formulas in Mathematics and Teaching: Dynamics of the High School Algebra Classroom (Teachers College Press). An edited volume, Embracing Reason: Egalitarian Ideals and High School Mathematics Teaching (Taylor Francis, 2007), follows up on the earlier book and concentrates on the long-term Professional Development School relationship between the Holt High School Mathematics Department and Michigan State University.
  • Patricio Herbst
    University of Michigan
    PATRICIO HERBST is an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Michigan, where he does research on the teaching of mathematics. He is interested in how mathematics is represented through teaching and how teachers justify instructional decisions that might affect the nature of the knowledge they extend to students. With the support of an early career award from the National Science Foundation, he has written on the teaching and learning of geometry in high schools, building on theoretical resources from epistemology, sociology, and didactics of mathematics. Herbst’s current research includes the design of representations of teaching and their use as tools to investigate and develop teachers’ rationality. Recent publications include the article “Seeing a Colleague Encourage a Student to Make an Assumption While Proving: What Teachers Put to Play in Casting an Episode of Geometry Instruction” published in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 40(4), 427–459, and the article “Using Comics-based Representations of Teaching, and Technology, to Bring Practice to Teacher Education Courses” published in ZDM—The International Journal of Mathematics Education, DOI 10.1007/s11858-010-0290-5.
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