Prospective teachers’ analysis of a mathematics lesson: examining their claims and supporting evidence


This study examined elementary and secondary prospective teachers’ (PTs’) abilities to analyze a classroom lesson in order to make claims about student thinking around specific mathematical learning goals based on relevant and revealing evidence. Previous research suggests PTs have some skills in analyzing evidence but apply them inconsistently. Our goal was to describe in more detail the strengths and weaknesses in PTs’ ability to analyze evidence of student thinking. Results indicate that PTs can make some appropriate claims about student learning in a lesson transcript, but more often make overly broad and general claims. PTs were able to support their claims with specific student work but often used poorly aligned evidence. PTs also often explicitly recognized the shortcomings of evidence from the lesson transcript, but then relied on that evidence to make claims about student thinking. Finally, PTs’ background, such as number of teacher education courses completed, does not appear to strongly influence their ability to make claims and support them with evidence, though secondary PTs were more likely to recognize the limitations of evidence than elementary PTs. These results have implications for teacher educators, pointing to the importance of designing interventions to help PTs look beyond the most visible and salient features of a lesson when analyzing student thinking.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Participants could omit any question. Participants who omitted 3 or more questions were considered as not completing the study; their responses were not analyzed. Because participants could omit questions, table percentages may not always sum to 100.

  2. 2.

    We consider these subgoals one possible list; other decompositions of the learning goal are possible though these matched the responses in our data. See Morris et al. (2010).

  3. 3.

    These labels are merely meant to qualitatively describe the kind of evidence presented in the sections, not to imply that they represent categories of student responses. For example, Relevant Explanation section contains student work which is best characterized as a correct answer, but we do not claim that PTs would respond similarly to other relevant explanations.

  4. 4.

    This was deliberately left vague. We recognize that, for example, 0.351 could have been read in different ways. We were open to PTs citing this as a place where they needed more evidence, though none of them asked for this.


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This work is supported in part by a grant from Central Michigan University; the ideas expressed are those of the authors alone. Initial, incomplete results of this work were originally presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

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Correspondence to Christine M. Phelps-Gregory.

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Phelps-Gregory, C.M., Spitzer, S.M. Prospective teachers’ analysis of a mathematics lesson: examining their claims and supporting evidence. J Math Teacher Educ (2020).

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  • Prospective teachers
  • Teacher education
  • Analyzing teaching
  • Lesson experiments
  • Analyzing evidence