Pre-service Teachers' Learning from Significant Opportunities for Improvement in a Positive Error Culture


  • Randall E. Groth Salisbury University
  • Jennifer A. Bergner Salisbury University


errors, professional noticing, discourse, design-based research


Many teacher education models involve reflecting on teaching practice for the sake of improving it. Such reflection must be carefully structured to help practitioners identify and act upon significant opportunities for improvement (SOIs). Learning from SOIs requires the cognitive activities of noticing students’ mathematical thinking and its connection to instructional practice, along with an affective disposition to view sub-optimal teaching practices as learning opportunities. We draw upon existing literature and theory related to the notion of developing positive error cultures to identify design principles for helping teachers learn from their own sub-optimal practices rather than becoming discouraged by them. The design principles include experience-based learning, low-stakes settings, collaboration, process reflection, and exploration of disagreements. We then describe a mathematics teacher education environment incorporating the design principles. Examples of pre-service teachers’ work within the environment are analysed for possible patterns of learning from SOIs within a positive error culture. Based on these examples, a four-quadrant model to characterise teachers’ learning from SOIs is proposed. The four quadrants describe various outcomes related to recognising and resolving SOIs.


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