Huang & Li What Matters Most: A Comparison of Expert and Novice Teachers' Noticing of Mathematics in China

Huang, R., & Li, Y. (2012). What matters most: A comparison of expert and novice teachers’ noticing of mathematics classroom events. School Science and Mathematics, 112(7), 420 – 432.

Summary: This article describes a qualitative study comparing 10 expert teachers and 10 novice teachers’ noticing skills of a mathematics lesson in China. The teachers were conveniently sampled. The researchers used interviews following a video taped lesson. The findings suggest that novice and experts attend to different events and that experts tended to have more of an awareness of mathematical thinking as compared to novices.

Research Questions:

  1. What important classroom events did Chinese secondary mathematics expert and novice teachers notice in general?
  2. What are possible similarities and differences in noticing of important classroom events between Chinese expert and novice teachers?


“The most frequently attended five aspects of the sampled teachers include the following: (1) developing mathematical knowledge coherently, (2) developing mathematical thinking and ability, (3), students’ participation, (4) use of teaching aid tools, and (5) students’ self-exploratory learning. Moreover, some differences in noticing between expert and novice teachers are identified. Compared with the novice teachers, the expert teachers paid significant and greater attention to developing mathematical thinking and ability, developing knowledge coherently, and developing hi-order thinking; they also paid significant and greater attention to teachers’ enthusiasm and passion, and students’ participation. However, the expert teachers paid significant and less attention to teachers’ guidance” (p. 428).

“Expert teachers focused on developing mathematics thinking and methods while learning basic mathematics knowledge than did novice teachers. Although expert and novice teachers appreciated the roles of using multiple media, only expert teachers notice the side product of the abuse of multiple media. Both expert and novice teachers realized the importance of group learning and manipulative activities, but only expert teachers recognized the appropriateness and necessity of using manipulative activities” (p. 429).

“Overall, compared with novice teachers, expert teachers seemed to notice more mathematically essential aspects (e.g., developing mathematical thinking and methods, mathematical language) and contextual aspects (e.g., appropriateness of using multiple media and using manipulative activities)” (p. 429).




Van Es & Sherin (2008) definition of noticing (as cited in Huang & Li, 2012):

“According to van Es and Sherin, noticing should include three aspects: (1) identifying what is important or noteworthy about a classroom situation; (2) making connections between the specifics of classroom interactions and the broader principles of teaching and learning that they represent, and (3) using what one knows about the context to reason bout classroom interactions” (p. 421).

“Berliner (2001) summarized and highlighted the following differences: (1) Expert teachers excel mainly in their own domain and in particular contexts; (2) expert teachers are more opportunistic and flexible in their teaching than are novices; and (3) expert teachers are more sensitive to the task demands and social situations surrounding them when solving problems” (p. 422).

Huang & Li cite Borko & Livingston (1989) and use the phrase pedagogical reasoning skills to explain that Borko & Livingston found that novices have less refined pedagogical reasoning skills. It is unclear from this article as to where that phrase is Huang & Li or Borko & Livingston’s. I need to find Borko & Livingston article.



Literature on Noticing:

Jacobs, V. R., Lamb, L. L. C., & Philipp, R. A. (2010). Professional noticing of children’s mathematical thinking. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41, 169-202.

Santagata, R., Zannoni, C., & Stigler, J. W. (2007). The roles of lesson analysis in pre-service teacher education: An empirical investigation of teacher learning from a virtual video-based field experience. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 10, 123-140.

Sherin, M. G., & van Es, E. A. (2005). Using video to support teachers’ ability to novice classroom interactions. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13, 475-491.

Sherin, M. G., & van Es, E. A. (2009). Effects of video club participation on teachers’ professional vision. Journal of Teacher Education, 60, 20-37.

Star, J. R., & Strickland, S. K. (2008). Learning to observe: Using video to improve preservice mathematics teachers’ ability to notice. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11, 107-125.



Berlinger, D. C. (2001). Learning about and learning from expert teachers. International Journal of Educational Research, 25, 463-482.

Borko, H., & Livingston, C. (1989). Cognition and improvisation: Differences in mathematics instruction by expert and novice teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 26, 473-498.

van Es, E. A., & Sherin, M. G. (2008). Mathematics teachers “learning to notice” in the context of a video club. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 244-276.