Authors: Janet Mercado, Elizabeth van Es
Presented at 2017 AERA
Abstract: Mathematics classroom interactions provide an abundance of information for teachers about student learning. How teachers observe and interpret this information can have consequences for the learning opportunities afforded to students (Erickson, 2011; Author, 2012). This study draws on the construct of teacher noticing to investigate the particular strategies equitable teachers use to attend to and reason about what they observe. Two lines of research inform our study. First, the construct of teacher noticing provides a framework to understand how teachers reason about classroom interactions (Sherin, Jacobs, & Philipp, 2010; Author, 2008). Noticing has been defined as consisting of three components: attending, interpreting and deciding how to respond (Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010). Research on noticing for equity finds that when teachers attend to student thinking and learning, as well as patterns of participation and students’ multiple knowledge bases, they develop a disposition toward equity (McDuffie et al., 2014; Wager, 2014). Other research suggests that teachers use various interpretive frames to make sense of classroom interactions (Colestock & Sherin, 2009; Sherin & Russ, 2014). We build on this prior research to investigate the interpretive approaches that teachers who are committed to equity use to make sense of what they observe. Data were collected from three secondary mathematics teachers who were nominated as being exceptional equitable teachers. We sought to understand the noticing of teachers that were nominated by district leaders for being: (1) effective at narrowing participation gaps, (2) skilled at using reform-based mathematics curriculum. The teachers identified as being: Caucasian (2) and Asian/Latino (1) males. Data consists of videotaped observations and three noticing interviews with each teacher, in which the teachers were prompted to discuss what they were noticing during these interactions while teaching. Data analysis was qualitative in nature. The transcripts were initially coded for both event noticing (what is being noticed) and teacher interpretation. Influenced by Sherin and Russ’ (2014) structures of interpretation, we then categorized frames teachers used to talk about the events they noticed. Coding was discussed within the research team. Three broad findings emerged in the data analysis. First, using existing frameworks provided insight into what equitable teachers attend to in classroom interactions from an equity frame. Specifically, teachers paid attention to aspects of mathematics, individual students, and student engagement. Second, we identified particular interpretive frames that are linked to a disposition to achieve equity. In particular, they adopted a more competency-based frame, examining the contributions and strengths students bring to bear on their learning. In addition, their interpretations were tightly coupled with broader conceptual models of equitable teaching (e.g. “seeing from the student perspective”). Finally, variations within study participants’ noticing for equity appears to influence their classroom instruction. The findings of this study expand on current research that defines the frames teachers use to make sense of classrooms. These findings have implications for understanding how teachers’ noticing informs their classroom instruction, as well as how to cultivate noticing for equitable teaching.