10 SES 04 D, Learning to Teach: Classrooms and Differentiation
The teaching profession demands highly developed cognitive processing. It takes years of professional practice in the classroom to cultivate the knowledge and expertise leading to substantial student learning gains (Berliner, 2001). How teachers perceive and interpret the complexity of classroom events, especially student interactions, is an important component of this cognition. It is practical knowledge specific to the profession.
Teachers’ practical knowledge draws on the knowledge, conceptions, beliefs, and values teachers have about their own teaching practice. Its development can be seen as an integrated process that relies on practical experience gained in the classroom (van Driel, Beijaard, & Verloop, 2001). Explicating the relationship between teachers knowledge and the actual practice of teaching, including essential components of effective classroom management, is still a work in progress (van Tartwijk, den Brok, Veldman, & Wubbels, 2009). Research on teacher cognition remains incomplete, particularly with regard to how teachers perceive and represent educational events, and how these differ between beginner and experienced teachers (Hogan et al., 2003). Such is the case in European classrooms and elsewhere.
Existing theories about teachers’ cognition needadditionalsupport because systematic inquiry into the specific contexts of teachers practical knowledge has not been fullyrealized(Bromme, 2001).Classroom perception is a critical skill for effective teaching: one which depends on a combination of practical knowledge and keen visual perception. The ‘professional vision’ of teachers – their ability to search for, observe, and make sense of classroom information – develops over time as they gain experience in the practices of their profession (Goodwin, 1994).
Visual expertise has been extensively investigated in numerous professions, yet research on teachers’ professional vision is scarce (Reingold & Sheridan, 2011). While we know that experienced teachers have valuable classroom knowledge about students and events allowing them to effectively discern and manage classroom complexity, we know little about how teachers perceive and make use of their classroom perceptions (Carter, Cushing, Sabers, Stein, & Berliner, 1988). Understanding of developmental differences in teachers recognition of perceptual cues remains limited (van den Bogert, van Bruggen, Kostons, & Jochems, 2014).
Our study investigated how differences in teaching experience affects the way teachers view and process the different classroom management events taking place within the classroom. We combined eye tracking measurements and verbalizations to form a coherent picture of teachers’ perceptual processing. Eye tracking allows for the measurement and analysis of eye activity, providing an objective measure of visual cognitive processing and was used to establish expertise differences in perceiving the classroom. Eye movements are measured and analysed in relation to the environment in which they occur, making it possible to interpret where a person’s gaze and attention is directed, the gaze duration (fixations), and the order in which gazes and attention are allocated. Verbalizations supplemented eye tracking data, specifying the classroom events that teachers considered relevant to classroom management. Eye movements conveyed the primary perceptual details and the verbalizations conveyed the teachers’ interpretations of what they perceived.
The motivation driving our exploratory analysis was to understand the extent to classroom expertise influences teachers’ visual perception and viewing strategies. The main research question we investigated was: How do experts and novice teachers differ in the visual perception of the classroom?
This broad question was tackled by specifically considering the following research questions:
- Do expert and novice teachers focus their attention differently across the classroom?
- Which areas of the classroom do experts and novices fixate on the longest in the classroom?
- Where do experts and novices look most frequently when viewing classroom events?
- Which areas do expert and novice teachers overlook as they perceive the classroom?
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