Understanding the Role of Video in Teacher Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This project explores the role of video in teacher learning, and specifically the ways in which reflecting on mathematics teaching using video can support the development of “teachers’ professional vision.” Professional vision involves the ways in which teachers notice and interpret classroom interactions and is particularly important in the U.S. today as mathematics teachers are asked to make many teaching decisions in the midst of instruction.


This research takes place in the context of video-based professional development programs for elementary, middle and high school teachers in the U.S. Teachers within and outside of a large Midwestern city have participated in this research, as well as teachers outside of a large city on the West Coast.

Research Design: 

Qualitative analysis of data is the primary method used in this project. We have developed a coding scheme for analyzing teachers’ conversations around video excerpts both in professional development and interview settings. Specifically, we segment transcripts into idea units and then code for “actor,” who the teacher(s) is referring to (student, teacher, other) the “topic” of conversation (math, pedagogy, climate, management), and the “stance” being used to discuss the video (describe, evaluate, interpret). These codes allow us to identify differences in the ways teachers talk about mathematics teaching and learning in the interview and professional development settings.

Data sources for this project include videotapes of video-based professional development meetings, as well as videotaped interviews with participants in which they commented on excerpts of videos of mathematics classes. Classroom observations were also conducted. Such observations were also videotaped and field notes were collected.


One of the main contexts in which our research has been conducted is video clubs — meetings among groups of teachers to watch and discuss excerpts of video from their classrooms. For example, for one year-long video club, we examined teacher learning in three ways: (a) we explored changes in the nature of the teachers’ comments within the video club meetings themselves; (b) we examined differences in participants’ responses on pre and post interviews in which they were asked to describe what they noticed in a series of video excerpts; and (c) we investigated the influence of participating in the video club on the teachers’ instruction. In brief, our analysis of the video club discussions revealed that the teachers came to pay more attention to student thinking from the first to the last video club meeting. Specifically, early on the teachers tended to comment on issues of pedagogy and climate. Later however, the teachers commented more frequently on issues of student mathematical thinking. In addition, we found that the teachers developed increasingly sophisticated ways to reason about student thinking over time. Initially, teachers’ comments about student thinking were quite brief and included simple restatements of a student’s comment. In contrast, in later meetings, the teachers more often examined the meaning of a student’s idea, or worked to synthesize and generalize across the ideas of several students. Analysis of the interview data revealed shifts quite similar to that of the video club discussions. The teachers’ comments in the pre-interview tended to focus on issues of classroom climate. In contrast, in the post-interviews the teachers consistently attended to issues of student mathematical thinking. Furthermore, the teachers shifted from descriptions of what took place in the video excerpts to detailed interpretations of the students’ ideas that appeared.

Finally, analysis of the teachers’ classroom instruction from early to late in the year also highlighted changes in professional vision. We found that, early on, there were few instances in which teachers paused to take note of interesting ideas raised by students. Instead, mathematical ideas or questions raised by a student were often not pursued by the teachers. In contrast, late in the year, the teachers more often considered student comments as objects of inquiry, that is, class time was spent discussing student questions, novel ideas, and errors. This suggests that the practice of identifying interesting student mathematical ideas that had developed in the video club extended to the teachers’ instruction as well. Furthermore, early on, the classroom observations showed teachers engaged in little or no reasoning about student ideas. For example, in several cases teachers were observed restating a student’s idea but without looking into the meaning or purpose of the idea. Later, however, the teachers were observed to engage in more in-depth reasoning, during instruction, concerning the ideas students raised in class. (“So you’re doing partial products as if there’s no decimal point?” “What do you mean ‘two over?’”). These findings suggest that developing new analytic strategies for investigating student mathematical thinking in a video club context can foster the use of such techniques during live instruction as well. We believe this is particularly important given the claims of prior research that having teachers attend closely to student ideas during instruction increases the opportunities for student learning.

Publications & Presentations: 

Sherin, M. G & van Es., E. A.(2009). Effects of video club participation on teachers’ professional vision. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(1), 20-37.

Linsenmeier, K., & Sherin, M. G. (2009). Selecting video clips of student mathematical thinking. Teaching Children Mathematics, 15(7), 418-422.

Colestock, A. & S herin, M. G. (2009). Teachers’ sense-making strategies while watching video of mathematics instruction. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 17(1), 7-29.

van Es, E. A. (2009). Participants’ roles in the context of a video club. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18(1), 100-137.

Sherin, M. G., Russ, R., Sherin, B. L., & Colestock, A. (2008). Professional vision in action: An exploratory study. Issues in Teacher Education, 17(2),27-46.

van Es, E. A. & Sherin, M. G. (2008). Mathematics teachers ”learning to notice” in the context of a video club. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 244-276.

Linsenmeier, K., & Sherin, M. G. (2007). What?, Wow!, and Hmm…: Video clips that promote discussion of student math thinking. Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 10(1), 32-41.

Sherin, M. G. (2007). The development of teachers’ professional vision in video clubs. In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron, & S. Derry (Eds.), Video research in the learning sciences (pp. 383-395). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sherin, M. G. & Sherin, B. L. (2007). Research on how people learn with and from video. In S. Derry, Ed. Guidelines for video research in education: Recommendations from an expert panel (pp. 44-54). White paper commissioned by the National Science Foundation. http://drdc.uchicago.edu/what/video-research.html

van Es, E. A. & Sherin, M. G. (2006). How different video club designs support teachers in “learning to notice.” Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 22(4), 125-135.

Sherin, M. G., & van Es, E. A. (2005). Using video to support teachers’ ability to notice classroom interactions. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13(3), 475-491.

Sherin, M. G., & Han, S. (2004). Teacher learning in the context of a video club. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20,163-183.

Sherin, M. G. (2004). Video volunteers. ENC Focus Review, 11(3), 4-6.

Sherin, M. G. & van Es, E. A. (2003). A new lens on teaching: learning to notice. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 9(2), 92-95.