Prospective Teachers' Noticing and Naming of Students' Mathematical Strengths and Support of Students' Participation

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This dissertation is a sequential qualitative case study that describes how prospective teachers begin to use strengths-based language and support students’ participation after participating in a digital learning experience on noticing and naming students’ mathematical strengths. The central research question guiding this work is: What feedback statements do prospective teachers (PTs) make before and after they receive explicit support for using strengths-based language and is there evidence of PTs’ sustained learning following this support? First, this study collected and analyzed prospective teachers’ feedback statements to students before and after a digital learning experience on noticing and naming students’ mathematical strengths (LessonSketch). The primary analysis used qualitative thematic coding to describe the type of language (strengths-based, mixed language, deficit-based, or uncommitted) used by six prospective teachers when making feedback statements and to qualify feedback statements. The secondary analysis followed two of the prospective teachers into field placements to determine if there was any evidence of sustained learning (as measured by PTs’ reflections on learning and moves in the classroom to support students’ participation). This study found that most (5 of 6) PTs moved from uncommitted or mixed language feedback statements to strengths-based feedback statements as a result of the digital learning experience. PTs went from mostly emerging strengths-based statements on the pre-assessment (20 of 28 statements) to primarily meaningful strengths-based statements on the post-assessment (22 of 28 statements). The overall finding from the secondary analysis is that while both PTs (Alicia and Marissa) showed positive shifts in their moves to support students’ participation only Marissa found the practice of noticing and naming students’ strengths as fundamental to her learning and teaching practice. On the other hand, both cases highlight examples of Marissa and Alicia, making specific and public feedback statements to position students' contributions positively and assign competence to students. Finally, tensions arise when PTs evaluate students’ responses for smartness while continuing to rank students’ responses and emphasize correctness.