Developing Prospective Elementary Teachers’ Abilities to Identify Evidence of Student Mathematical Achievement

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14(1), p. 67–87. (February, 2011).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors examined whether a classroom intervention would improve the ability of prospective elementary teachers to identify and evaluate evidence of student understanding of a mathematical lesson.

The authors addressed to the following questions:
Can an intervention improve PTs’
i. attention to evidence of student thinking rather than teacher behaviors?
ii. evaluations of evidence that is irrelevant to a specified learning goal?
iii. ability to distinguish between evidence of procedural fluency and evidence of conceptual understanding?

The participants in this study were 192 prospective elementary teachers who enrolled in the first mathematics content course at a Mid-Atlantic University.

The prospective teachers completed pre- and posttests individually outside of regular class times, and the interventions were implemented by each of six course instructors during regular course meetings.
The intervention consisted of two 75-min lessons and associated homework assignments.


The results indicate that the intervention was successful in improving at least some of PTs’ analysis skills.

After participating in the interventions, the prospective teachers were much better able to identify that student responses are the only evidence of a lesson’s success.
Furthermore, they were able to recognize when evidence is not relevant to a learning goal and disregard irrelevant evidence.

However, there were several complications regarding PTs’ improved evaluations of evidence.
First, even after the intervention, most PTs readily accepted a detailed set of procedural steps as evidence of understanding of the concepts underlying those steps.
Furthermore, PTs’ responses revealed skepticism toward several dimensions of the evidence.


The results demonstrate that it is possible for PTs to learn the skills needed to identify and analyze evidence of student understanding.
The results suggest that it may be possible to implement a new model of teacher education which aims to encourage PTs to pay attention to, and learn from, their students’ thinking.

Updated: Sep. 03, 2012