Chapter 8. Learning while teaching

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The literature in mathematics education has extensively documented the ways that discourse practices affect student learning and dispositions. However, there has been little discussion about how discourse practices affect what teachers learn in classrooms. This chapter builds from Davis’s (1997) description of listening practices to explore the related propositions that what teachers learn in the context of their teaching is tied to the ways they listen, and their opportunities for listening are tied to the language patterns they enact in their classrooms. I provide examples of classroom discussions to illustrate various types of listening/language patterns and their implications for teacher learning. The episodes of classroom discourse demonstrate a continuum of teachers’ listening practices and associated language patterns, from evaluative listening and teacher-centric language patterns to more interpretive listening and interactive discourse practices. In these episodes, evaluative listening involved less ambiguity than interpretive forms of listening, but revealed little about the deep ways students made sense of the mathematics. Interpretive and hermeneutic listening, by contrast, involved higher ambiguity but yielded deeper insights into student thinking than evaluative forms of listening. These findings highlight the importance of connecting teacher practices not only to student learning but also to what teachers know about how students learn mathematics. They also demonstrate the value of discourse analysis to understanding mathematics classroom practices of teaching and learning.


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