Original Research

Novice and expert Grade 9 teachers’ responses to unexpected learner offers in the teaching of algebra

Julian Moodliar, Lawan Abdulhamid
Pythagoras | Vol 42, No 1 | a624 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v42i1.624 | © 2021 Julian Moodliar, Lawan Abdulhamid | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2021 | Published: 15 December 2021

About the author(s)

Julian Moodliar, School of Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Lawan Abdulhamid, School of Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


In South Africa, limited studies have been conducted investigating responsive teaching and little is known about how teachers respond to unexpected events ‘in the moment’ that did not form part of their planning. In this article, we report how a Grade 9 novice and expert teacher responded to unexpected learner offers during the teaching of algebra using a qualitative case study approach. Three consecutive lessons for each teacher were video recorded, transcribed and analysed. Our units of analysis for episodes were teachers’ responses to unexpected learner offers and we coded the responses as ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’. Indicators used to highlight the degree of quality of the response were ‘minimum’, ‘middle’ and ‘maximum’ if a response was coded as appropriate to a learner’s offer. Once lessons were analysed, the first author conducted video-stimulated recall interviews with each participant to gain insight into the two teachers’ thoughts and decision-making when responding to unexpected learner offers. The findings from this study illustrated that the novice teacher failed to press learners when their thinking was unclear, chose to ignore or provided an incorrect answer when faced with an unexpected learner offer. Conversely, the expert teacher continuously interrogated learner offers by pressing if a learner offer was unclear or if she wanted learners to explain their thinking. This suggests that the expert teacher’s responses were highly supportive of emergent mathematics learning in the collective classroom space.


Responsive teaching; unexpected events; contingency; secondary school; algebra; novice and expert teachers


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Crossref Citations

1. Teacher Follow-up on Learners’ Initial Response to Teacher Questions
France Machaba, Chipo Mangwiro
African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education  vol: 28  issue: 1  first page: 120  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1080/18117295.2023.2297127