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How can instructional videos help develop the mind of learners?

OSU Research Matters is a bi-weekly look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

You might think all secondary and undergraduate level mathematics teachers have the same base level of knowledge. However, that is not the case.

In this episode, Meghan Robinson speaks with Dr. Michael Tallman, an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Oklahoma State University. His research investigates the relationship between teachers' subject knowledge and their pedagogical actions.


Dr. Michael Tallman
Phil Shockley
Oklahoma State University
Dr. Michael Tallman

TALLMAN: Pedagogies is just very broadly defined as the method and practice of teaching. And one of the things that I'm really interested in is how content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge interact. What kinds of instructional strategies or ways of structuring the learning environment or acting in the classroom as a teacher are facilitated by the teacher's understanding of the content that they teach.

ROBINSON: Understanding pedagogical practices is only part of Dr. Michael Tallman’s research. His other focus is creating multimedia learning resources to help student comprehend mathematics at the secondary and undergraduate levels. Even though they are separate areas of study, they are very much connected.

TALLMAN: Quite a lot of my work has demonstrated simply giving or supplying teachers with high quality instructional resources or curricula doesn't guarantee that the teachers are positioned to implement them with fidelity, and so there's a lot of overlap between teachers interaction with curricula and different learning resources and the potential for them to extend their knowledge base to effectively use these things to support students.

ROBINSON: You’d think all calculus professors would have the same base knowledge, however, Dr. Tallman explains instructors each have different was of conceptualizing content.

TALLMAN: If a teacher is positioned to communicate, not just what it means to understand a mathematical idea, but is also cognizant of the process by which a student might construct a similar conception, and is aware of the kinds of experiences that a learner has to go through to engage in the conceptual activity that's involved in building a mathematical meaning. They're much better positioned to engender that kind of constructive process. So much of instruction at the secondary and post-secondary levels is based on sort of implicit expectations that perception is sufficient for learning, that if students can see the procedure being demonstrated, can listen to explanations, they're necessarily positioned to internalize these understandings and skills.

And there's so much research in the education literature that demonstrates that that's just not the case. Student learning is a product of the actions of the learner. The central objective of a mathematics teacher is to engage students in the precise activity that enables them to abstract and to generalize and ultimately build the conceptions that we want them to build.

ROBINSON: Dr. Tallman’s instructional videos also help develop the mind of the learner. He and his colleagues have created 96 [videos] to date that are all grouped by topic to help students understand ways of reasoning in mathematics education.

TALLMAN: We've done a lot of thinking about how to structure the video watching process in ways that position the learners to be active and not passive, and not just sort of passively perceive the information that's being represented on the screen. One of the ways that we do that is to introduce each video set with what we call an intellectual need provoking video. It's a scripted dialogue of two students that are expressing their own way of understanding some novel task, some problem that the students don't already know the solution to. And the viewer's task is to critically evaluate the ways of understanding expressed by the two students in this introductory video. In subsequent videos, the narrator will convey what was perhaps deficient about that, or will introduce a counterexample that will make the student become far more interested and engaged and active in the video watching process. Our initial design of these videos did not include these intellectual need provoking introductions, and we noticed that after having done that, students are far more curious why the way they thought about it wasn’t initially correct.

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Meghan Robinson is the host of OSU Research Matters and the Multimedia Reporter/ Producer for Inside OSU, the official streaming platform of Oklahoma State University.
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