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


Teachers College Record Volume 114, Number 3, ISSN 1467-9620


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.


Chazan, D. & Herbst, P. Animations of Classroom Interaction: Expanding the Boundaries of Video Records of Practice. Teachers College Record, 114(3),. Retrieved December 9, 2022 from .

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