Assessing Teachers’ Developing Interpretive Power: Analysing Student Thinking

Susan D. Nickerson, Diane K. Masarik


A cohort of middle school mathematics teachers in the U.S. participated in a two-year
professional development program that focused on developing a deeper conceptual
understanding of the mathematics of middle school with connections to instructional
practice. We assessed the teachers’ developing interpretive power, specifically
developing interpretations of student work, which Ball and Cohen (1999) call one of the
core activities of teaching. In interviews before and after the first year of the program,
we found significant shifts in their capability in anticipating student responses to a
task and in the range of pedagogical moves. On further analysis, these shifts were
related to positioning – position of a teacher relative to the students (role of the
teacher), perception of the position with regards to mathematics (primacy of formal
solutions in mathematical understanding) and positioning of students in relation to
each other (as pedagogical resources). Here we draw upon four teachers’ responses
to a situation-specific task in interviews prior to and following a year of professional
development and teaching that typify the shifts teachers made in the dimensions of
interpretive power.


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