AERA 2017 Poster: Beginners' Skills With Interpreting Students' Thinking: Preservice Teachers' Inferences and Their Use of Supporting Evidence

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Objectives: In many contexts, teacher education is being designed to focus more directly on the practice of teaching which entails focusing much more on doing key aspects of the work. In this context, it is particularly important to appraise teaching practices that have been shown to be pivotal in supporting learning, like assessment (Black & Wiliam, 1998). To appraise and support the learning of complex teaching practices like assessment, teacher educators must often parse the practices into their composite parts, resulting in what is sometimes called a decomposition of practice (Grossman et. al., 2009). In the case of assessment, one central component is the interpretation of gathered evidence. This study examines preservice teachers’ inferences and their use of supporting evidence.

Perspectives: Classroom assessment requires teachers to: (a) identify valued educational goals; (b) determine a purpose for assessing those goals (c) select/develop a method of gather information from students relevant to the stated goals and useable for the stated purposes; (d) use the method(s) to gather information; (e) interpret the gathered information; and (f) purposefully use the information and interpretations (NCTM, 1995; Stiggins & Chappuis, 2011; Popham, 2013). Interpretation is a key component in that it is the work that teachers do to give meaning to what they see and hear. This often involves explaining, connecting, reframing, or other ways of showing one’s own understanding. Interpretation is crucial because the kind of meaning making involved connects what students say and do to actions that often impact their later learning opportunities. There are many interpretive frames and tools that teachers use to accomplish this work (McMillan, 2011).

Methods and Data Sources: We make use of a simulation assessment in which preservice teachers: (1) prepare for an interaction with a simulated student about one piece of student work; (2) elicit and probe the simulated student’s thinking to learn about her process for solving the problem and her understanding of key mathematical ideas; and (3) respond to questions about their interpretation of the student’s thinking, including predicting the student’s response to a similar task. We have collected hundreds of video records of preservice teachers’ performance on the assessment of the course of the last six years. In this paper, we draw on video records of performance at the midpoint of our teacher education program, after coursework that involves eliciting and interpreting student thinking. We focus specifically on the interpretive work.

Results: This paper features specific examples and aggregated data collected. Our findings include, but are not limited to, the way in which preservice teachers state claims about students thinking and recall/describe evidence in support of their inferences. These findings frame the complexity of interpretation and also the challenges preservice teachers face when formulating and describing their interpretations (e.g., understanding the mathematics well enough to hear a student’s thinking).

Significance: The findings from this study set the stage for professional dialog about assessing, and also supporting, the work of preservice teachers as they interpret the mathematical ideas that children share when talking with teachers.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy, and Practice, 5(1), 7-74.
Grossman, P. et. al. (2009). Teaching practice: A cross-professional perspective. Teachers College Record, 111(9), 2055-2100.
McMillan, J. (2011). Classroom assessment: Principles and practices for effective standards-based instruction. 5th edition. Boston: Pearson.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1995). Assessment standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Popham, J. (2013). Classroom Assessment: What teachers need to know. Boston: Pearson.
Stiggins, R., & Chappuis, J. (2011). Introduction to student-involved assessment for learning. 6th edition Reading, MA: Addison Wesley