The Durability of Professional and Sociomathematical Norms Intentionally Fostered in an Early Pedagogy Course

Aug. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Vol. 15, No. 4, (August 2012), p. 293–315.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated the extent to which the sociomathematical and professional norms intentionally fostered through the use of the video-case curriculum materials in an early mathematics pedagogy course re-emerged in a similar context, but with different cohorts:
(a) at the end of the university teacher preparation program and
(b) during a professional development session for graduates of the program.

In the context of this study, the authors used the video cases to help prospective teachers learn to analyze student thinking and teacher decisions during classroom interactions, as well as the relationship between them.

Context for the study
The participants were 11 prospective secondary school mathematics teachers (PTs) enrolled in their final mathematics pedagogy course at a US university.
Furthermore, 16 self-selected beginning secondary school mathematics teachers (BTs) who were program graduates with fewer than 4 years of teaching experience, also participated in this study.

The PTs were all mathematics majors, while the BTs included 11 mathematics majors and 5 mathematics minors.
All the participants had engaged in sustained reflection on teaching practice using the video-case curriculum materials in their initial mathematics pedagogy course.

In the initial mathematics pedagogy course, each of the eight video modules began with the participants individually solving a mathematics problem, after which they shared and discussed their solution strategies as a group.
They then viewed video clips of school students sharing their thinking about the same problem and analyzed and discussed the student thinking and teacher actions seen in the video.

Data collection
The data included both participants’ written work and recordings of the group discussions. The individual written work included solutions to the mathematical task, predictions about potential student solutions, and reflections on the video cases and on the session overall.


This study revealed that the three sociomathematical norms that were introduced in the early pedagogy course—naming and comparing, mathematical argument, and pushing understanding. These sociomathematical norms were consistently durable over time across both participant groups, with the sociomathematical norm of providing a mathematical argument being the most widely and consistently exhibited among the participants.
This finding is significant in that these behaviors are foundational to supporting the learning of mathematics with understanding.
Teachers’ ability to engage in and recognize the importance of these behaviors is an important first step in cultivating them in their own mathematics classrooms.

Four professional norms were also exhibited by both groups, but with more variation.
These norms were listening, critical yet respectful norm, tentative stance and evidence.
Although the listening and critical yet respectful norms were also exhibited uniformly across the groups, tentative stance and evidence were more disparate.

The analysis of the differences in the ways that participants exhibited these two norms suggests that participants’ engagement in them was enhanced as a result of their additional classroom experiences.
The participants' use of evidence to support generalizations about practice provides a means of connecting specific instances of practice with general theories about teaching and learning. In these ways, it appears that the normative behaviors that were cultivated in the early pedagogy course supported the graduates’ learning from practice in generative ways.

In general, the results point to the long-term benefits of developing productive norms early in a teacher education program.
In particular, the participants in this study focused on analyzing student thinking and considering the implications of the teacher’s actions for supporting student thinking in ways that are not commonly seen in teacher professional development.

The authors conclude that supporting teachers in making connections between their own teaching and what they learn in professional development has potential to improve the effectiveness of professional development by making it more relevant to teachers’ classroom practice.

Updated: Mar. 31, 2014