Expert blind spot among pre-service and in-service teachers: Beliefs about algebraic reasoning and potential impact on engineering education

Anthony J. Petrosino, Prateek Shekhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Mathematical modeling involving algebraic representations plays a crucial role in the problem-solving process and is an integral component of engineering practice. Graduates from science and engineering backgrounds are often recruited to teach engineering-inspired K-12 mathematics courses. However, due to the expert blind spot (EBS), teachers with expertlevel content knowledge might not be able to teach as effectively as expected in their area of expertise. In this article, we report the findings of our study examining EBS among pre-service and in-service teachers engaged in an engineeringinspired teacher training program involving algebraic representational problems. The participants performed a ranking task where they ranked six problems in accordance with the ease or difficulty they felt that students enrolled in a beginner level algebra course would experience when solving them. In addition, an open-ended question asked a representative subset of the participants about their assumptions and explanations behind their indicated rankings. We found no significant differences in the mean scores between pre-service and in-service teachers for all of the six ranking task problems. This suggests that teaching experience does not have an effect on the perceptions of algebraic problem difficulty. These findings replicate and extend the EBS hypothesis that it is well-developed subject matter knowledge specifically that leads high content knowledge pre-service and in-service educators to inaccurately predict student's problem-solving difficulty. The findings suggest that EBS about algebraic problems is resilient to change in spite of teaching experience and training. Implications for K-12 engineering education and STEM integration are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-105
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


  • Expert blind spot
  • K-12 engineering education
  • Teacher training


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