Selecting Video Clips to Promote Mathematics Teachers’ Discussion of Student Thinking

Jun. 04, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60, No. 3; p. 213-230 (May/June 2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines the use of video clips from teachers’ own classrooms as a resource for investigating student mathematical thinking. The central question of this article: What features of a video clip make it a useful resource for having mathematics teachers examine student mathematical thinking? To examine this question, the authors focus their investigation on three dimensions of video excerpts of student mathematical thinking: (a) the extent to which a video clip provides windows into student thinking—that is, ways of “seeing” what a student is thinking;
(b) the depth of student mathematical thinking shown in the video-in other words, the extent to which the mathematical ideas that students consider in the video are substantive in nature;
and (c) the clarity of the student thinking shown in the video, whether a student’s idea is transparent or requires some work on the part of the viewer to understand.

Research Design

The context for this article is a video club in which a group of seven teachers met over the course of one school year to watch and discuss video excerpts from their mathematics lessons.
The teachers taught either fourth or fifth grade and had between 1 and 19 years of prior teaching experience. All seven teachers taught at the same urban elementary school outside a large Midwestern city. The majority of students at the school were African American.
The video club was initiated as part of a university-district partnership, and these seven
teachers were selected by their principal to participate. The video club met once or twice a month after school for a total of 10 meetings. Each meeting lasted approximately 1 hour.
Prior to every meeting, a researcher would videotape one or two teachers’ classrooms and select short clips from those classrooms to show at the meeting. A researcher would also prepare a transcript of the excerpts for the upcoming meeting. In all, video from each teacher was viewed two or three times. Each video club meeting generally followed the same format. A researcher, who also served as a facilitator for the video club meetings, would introduce the video clip. In addition, the teacher whose classroom was portrayed in the video clip might provide background information.

Twenty six video clips were rated as being low, medium, or high on each dimension. Corresponding teacher discussions of each video were then examined to identify the ways in which clip dimensions served as catalysts for more and less productive teacher conversations of student mathematical thinking.


Findings include first, that, under certain circumstances, both low-and high-depth clips lead to productive discussions. Second, high-depth clips in which student thinking is sustained only briefly do not typically lead to productive discussions. Third, in cases where windows and depth are both high, clips that are either low or high in clarity resulted in productive conversations of student thinking on the part of teachers.


The analysis suggests that the relationship between the video clip dimensions is most important in predicting whether a video clip will support in-depth conversations of student thinking on the part of teachers. Furthermore, this study provides teacher educators
and others who design and use video-based materials information concerning how to select video clips to promote substantive analyses of teaching and learning.
Finally, if you take the situative perspective seriously, then you must also be aware that the video clips themselves are not the only factors that determine the quality of video club discussions.

Updated: Sep. 15, 2009