The use of video in classroom research: Window, lens, mirror

Year: 2019

Author: Clarke, David, Chan, Man, Ching, Esther, Mesiti, Carmel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Video can be employed as a research tool within a variety of research paradigms. This workshop uses current video-based research projects to demonstrate different ways in which video can be used in research and to raise questions concerning the status of video records of classroom events vis-à-vis any interpretive accounts that might be constructed using such records as a source of data.

The choice to use video has important methodological and theoretical entailments. Decisions about video use must be made carefully. In this workshop, four possible conceptions are offered to characterise the role of video in classroom research: (i) as a window through which to see the classroom; (ii) as a lens with which to focus on selected aspects of classroom activity; (iii) as a mirror catalysing teacher and student reflection on their practice; and (iv) as a distorting mirror, in which the researcher sees a representation of their own values and perspectives reconstituted as classroom data. The key verbs corresponding to the four metaphors outlined above are: see, focus, represent, andreflect. Accounts of video-based research make use of all four of these perspectives, sometimes in relation to the same study. Use of any one of these verbs (and metaphors) not only identifies the status of the observed object but also designates the essential nature of the activity of the researcher (the observer), signifying a key research act and a distinct form of associated researcher agency.

Three current research projects provide the illustrative examples: (i) The Learner’s Perspective Study (an international comparative study of well-taught mathematics classes in over a dozen countries); (ii) The Social Unit of Learning project (an experimental study of social interaction during collaborative problem solving in mathematics); and (iii) The Lexicon Project (an investigation of the pedagogical vocabulary of mathematics teachers in nine countries). Each project provides examples of key methodological decisions and techniques related to the use of video for research in and about mathematics classrooms. The workshop will provide examples of how video was used in the process of generating data for each study, the analytical approaches employed, and the nature of the interpretive accounts and the conclusions resulting from the different analyses. Our intention is to share the techniques by which video can be employed to research mathematics classrooms, and also to raise some of the important issues associated with the analysis and reporting of such research.