Skip to main content

Teacher Monitoring Routines

The Goal
During our VFF conversations, we noted that a number of puzzling issues arose during the part of the lesson where teachers handed off the math to students and circulated about the classroom. For this reason, we have pursued a close analysis of this phase of the lesson.

Teachers frequently build on group work to encourage students to talk more during class and make sense of mathematical ideas. Such learning is promising but also complex to facilitate, as there is a tension between teacher intervention and student autonomy. On one hand, teachers want to scaffold students’ mathematical conversations. On the other, they want to let students engage in math together and see each other as a resource for learning. After noticing that teachers manage group work in a rich variety of ways, we decided to gain a better understanding of teachers’ classroom circulation and interactions with small groups.

Research Questions

  • How do experienced mathematics teachers monitor groupwork?
  • What is the relationship between the nature of teachers’ interactions with the small groups and the nature of the groups’ conversations before and after the interaction with the teacher?

How Are We Addressing Our Research Questions?

For our first research question, we offer a framework for teachers’ monitoring routines as a sequence of moves. We use this framework to examine teachers’ interactions with student groups and teachers’ overarching circulation patterns.

We build on this framework to better understand the choices teachers make regarding:

    • ways of moving among students and conversational initiation
    • conversational entry
    • the focus of the interaction
    • when and how to exit the interaction
    • conversation participation patterns

For our second research question, we plan to follow small-group conversations throughout the lesson and learn whether interactions with the teacher disrupt or reproduce issues of status and inequitable participation, and whether these interactions with the teacher leverage students mathematical talk.

So What?
While supports exist to aid teachers in building student-centered classrooms, this analysis highlights key points in this work, uncovering the complexity of circulation and interactions during students’ group work. As we better understand these patterns and their relation to student learning, we can develop clearer ways to support productive mathematical talk during this crucial phase of lessons.

1 2



  • Ehrenfeld, N., Jasien, L. & Metts, E. (2019, October). Instructional dilemmas during groupwork monitoring – when, where and how (not) to intervene? Burst session at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference, Nashville, TN.
  • Ehrenfeld, N. & Horn, I. S.* (2019, June). Teacher Monitoring Routines: Understanding Pedagogical Judgments During Students’ Collaborative Learning. International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Lyon, France.
  • Ehrenfeld, N. & Yong, D. (2019, March). Making sense of groupwork. Workshop at Math for America Los Angeles institution. Los Angeles, CA.
  • Ehrenfeld, N., Marshall, S. A., Chen, G. A. (2019, Feb) Teachers’ judgments during students’ groupwork. Presented as part of an extended session Toward Emancipatory Pedagogies in the Research, Teaching and Learning of P-20 Mathematics at the Twenty-Third Annual Conference of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. Orlando, FL.
  • Ehrenfeld, N., Horn, I. S. (2018, September). Exploring Groupwork Monitoring Routines. Invited Participant, Workshop on Diversifying and Deepening Engagement and Learning in STEM: Bringing Together Dutch and U.S. Scholars. The Hague, The Netherlands.

*The authors contributed equally to this paper