See and Tell: Differences between Expert and Novice Teachers’ Interpretations of Problematic Classroom Management Events

August 2017

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 66 (2017) 295-308
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explored the differences between expert and novice teachers' perceptions and interpretations of problematic classroom events.

The participants were sixty-seven teachers: 35 experts and 32 preservice teachers.
The experts were experienced teachers from six secondary schools in the Netherlands.
The experts had a minimum of ten years of teaching experience, and were recognized as successful classroom managers by teachers in their school.
The novice teachers were in either the first or second year of Dutch teacher training program, and had between 10 and 40 hours of classroom teaching experience, respectively.

The participants viewed two types of videos presented problematic events. The videos displayed either unrelated problems, such as disengaged, off-task students, or interrelated problems leading to a flagrant disruption.
The participants, then, were asked to provide post hoc think aloud verbalizations about any relevant thoughts they had about the classroom management. Furthermore, the authors also tracked the participants’ eye movements as they simultaneously expressed their thoughts about the problematic situations they were viewing.

The authors identified a number of differences in the way experts and novices perceived, interpreted and explained the problematic situations with which they were presented.
The findings reveal that the novice teachers expressed significantly more visual perceptions. They described what they saw happening in a play-by-play manner without any additional layer of interpretation.

The experts, however, offered significantly more interpretations: they provided inferences about students, inferences about the teacher, and explanatory and/or reasoning statements.
They transformed sensory perceptions of what was seen or heard into more elaborate interpretations, probing concerns oriented around the teacher and students and how events could be projected.
These results provide evidence that novices’ limited experience and knowledge of classroom events impedes their ability to quickly process their perception of classroom events and convert them into more specific interpretations of how events and actors contribute to the situation.

Additionally, the experts expressed significantly more thoughts on the theme of student learning. They perceived student learning as represents the purpose behind the skill of effective classroom management, whereas the novice teachers expressed more thoughts about student discipline and classroom rules.
The authors explain that experts contemplated ways in which the teacher was both a cause and a solution to problematic events, while novices largely neglected the impact and influence of the teacher.

The authors conclude that novice teachers perceive students as key contributors to the problems which arise and escalate. They neglect the relevance of classroom interactions between students as well as those between the teacher and students.
However, the experts share their reasoning, explicating how and when problems emerge. They foresee how events are likely to play out and how the context of the classroom and the choices of the teacher relate to the events constituting problems.

The authors suggest that novices may benefit from exposure to experts’ thinking, so that they can begin to see management as a means to the important end goal of facilitating learning. Furthermore, teacher educators can also make use of the differences reported in this study to support novice teachers when observing and analyzing videos of actual classroom problems. 

Updated: Mar. 25, 2018