Pre-service teachers are faced with many challenges when observing elementary classrooms and often jump to critical evaluation based on too little evidence. The authors wondered if pre-service teachers could use observation methods from ethnography and sociology-linguistics to delay their evaluations and interpretations of classroom practice and see from an insider’s perspective. The authors developed a study in which 42 pre-service teachers learned how to observe through this approach and then observed 22 elementary teachers with field notes and interviews. Classroom discourse was central to the research as observers recorded the “talk” during writing instruction. By analyzing the notes, interviews, and summaries, the authors found that pre-service teachers were able to record talk and action in classrooms without critical evaluations. They used quotes from field notes as evidence for their interpretations of what was happening. Their summaries included discussions of how discourse shapes instructional events and how teachers use talk to organize and manage classrooms.
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