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Learning to observe: using video to improve preservice mathematics teachers’ ability to notice

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Video has assumed an increasingly prominent role in teacher education, particularly in the form of the viewing of videotaped class lessons by preservice teachers. Yet there is little research that confirms whether preservice teachers attend to the aspects of the video(s) that teacher educators anticipate or desire. This article explores this issue and reports on the impact of video viewing as a means to improve teachers’ ability to be observers of classroom practice. We utilized a pre- and post-test design to measure the quantity and type of classroom events that preservice mathematics teachers noticed before and after a teaching methods course where improving observation skills was an explicit goal. The results of the pre-assessment suggest that preservice teachers generally do not enter teaching methods courses with well-developed observation skills. The post-assessment indicates that the course led to significant increases in preservice teachers’ observation skills, particularly in teachers’ ability to notice features of the classroom environment, mathematical content of a lesson, and teacher and student communication during a lesson.

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  1. In this article, we use the terms “video” and “videotape” to refer to both analog and digital recordings of classroom interactions.

  2. See also Mason’s work on noticing, particularly his distinction between seeing a generality through the particular and the particular in the general (Mason 1996).

  3. Although we use the word “assessment” to describe these instruments, it is important to note that the assessments were not used in determining students’ grades in the mathematics methods course. Students were informed of this prior to taking the assessments.


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Correspondence to Jon R. Star.

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Star, J.R., Strickland, S.K. Learning to observe: using video to improve preservice mathematics teachers’ ability to notice. J Math Teacher Educ 11, 107–125 (2008).

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