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Students’ and teachers’ focus of attention in classroom interaction — subtle sources for the reproduction of social disparities


Mathematics classroom interaction has often been described as an important context for involving all students. However, this article shows that teacher-student-interaction is still not really in the focus of teachers’ attention. Based on classroom video studies, some authors hypothesize that the implicitness of establishing norms and practices is, among others, an obstacle for students with low socio-economic status. The article intends to put this hypothesis into perspective by investigating teachers’ and students’ focus of attention on classroom interaction in video-stimulated group discussions (six discussions with 5–6 students, four discussions with 5–9 teachers). The data analysis used inductive procedures of category development, frequency analysis, and deeper qualitative analysis of the transcripts. For students’ focus of attention, differential patterns could be extrapolated: Whereas students of high socio-economic status seem to be more attentive to teacher’s contextual expectations, the students of low socio-economic status seem to be more focused on general norms without taking into account contextual expectations. For the teachers, the analysis shows that interactive mechanisms of teacher-student exchanges in classrooms are usually not in the teachers’ focus of attention. Additionally, the teachers address, but rarely problematize the implicitness by which norms and practices are established. Together with the differential findings on students’ attention, these findings are discussed with respect to equity concerns and consequences for professional development of teachers.

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  1. According to the adopted guidelines for transcribing and translating transcripts, all specialities of the spoken language (mistakes, grammar etc.) are mentioned in the translation. Emphasis is marked by upper case letters. Breaks are coded by a dot for every second in round brackets.


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The research project InterPass — Interactive procedures of establishing matches and divergences for linguistic and microcultural practices — was funded by the German ministry BMBF 2012-2016 (grant 01JC1112, grant holder S. Prediger & U. Quasthoff). We thank our project partner Kirstin Erath for the collaboration in the classroom study. We also thank the involved teachers and students for their participation.

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Correspondence to Susanne Prediger.

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Vogler, AM., Prediger, S., Quasthoff, U. et al. Students’ and teachers’ focus of attention in classroom interaction — subtle sources for the reproduction of social disparities. Math Ed Res J 30, 299–323 (2018).

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  • Implicit classroom interaction
  • Unequal participation
  • Teachers’ professional vision
  • Students’ differential focus of attention of norms and practices