27 SES 11 B, Communication and Learning in the Classroom
The study accounted for in the paper contributes with empirical data from Norwegian secondary school classrooms elucidating the following research question: What kind of meaning construction is carried out in classrooms in schools with high and low student achievements? The theoretical foundation of this study lies within the German Didaktik tradition, or Allgeimeine Didaktik (Hillen, 2011; Klafki, 2001; Midtsundstad & Willbergh, 2010; Westbury, Hopmann, & Riquarts, 2000), which was established as the leading professional language of teachers and teacher education in the nineteenth century in Germany and the Nordic countries (Hopmann, 2007). School as an institution promoted the need for autonomous teachers to adapt the national curriculum to the local schools. Didactics is in this way understood as a teacher’s professionalized art of argument and deliberation over how to construct interpretations of curriculum perceived as meaningful by the students. Hence, the purpose of teaching is to make visible interpretations of subject matter, making a connection to the life world and experiences of students and their future prospects (Comenius, 1627; Herbart, 1806). Students do not encounter the curriculum itself; on the contrary, they encounter the curriculum as classroom communication: Talk taking place in the classroom will turn into different stories of curriculum, representing various local interpretations and local meaning. Interpretations of subject matter uttered in the classroom during whole-class activity are further shared by teacher and students, building the unique class’ culture as a common memory (Willbergh, 2011). Consequently communication in different classrooms will hold varying degrees of meaningfulness from a Bildung-perspective and this may or may nor correlate with high student achievements.
In international research the topic of meaning construction in classroom talk is dominated by the linguistic perspectives on semantics, discourse analytic studies and studies of systemic functional linguistics, studies of evaluative feedback and questioning techniques in classrooms. The linguistic studies do not discuss results related to student achievements.
Other researchers have done studies linking talk to individual learning (Staab, 1991; Lardner, 1989; Mills, 2009), from cognitive perspectives (Lorenz, 1980) and in the US tradition of instructional design (Merrill, 2002; Parrish, 2009). Instructional designers are oriented to student achievements as individual learning outcomes and do not see the perspective of shared talk on subject matter in whole-class activities. Neither linguists nor instructional designers investigate how meaningful teaching is constructed in different national and regional contexts.
The contextual perspectives is also absent in the abundance of research from the perspective of subject matter didactics, especially related to language learning and mathematics. Research on student achievement is dominated by statistical analyses such as international comparative assessment of student achievement (PISA, 2013) and statistical correlation between school results and students socio-economic background (Colemans, 1966). The tradition of school effectiveness has pointed to factors within schools as explanations of student achievement, but mainly through quantitative research and mixed methods (Mortimore 1991; Sammons 1998).There are also research seeking to explain student achievements by teacher effectiveness (Noor et al, 2010; Chingos and Peterson, 2011) and by the role of teacher professionalism, teacher organizations and educational leadership (Hargreaves, 2012; Hargreaves and Shirly, 2008).
The paper’s contribution is qualitative data on how meaningful teaching is constructed by classroom talk on subject matter in whole-class activities, embedded in different regional and national contexts and the possible correlation with student achievements.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research. London: Sage. Hillen, S., Tanja Sturm & Ilmi Willbergh (Eds.). (2011). Challenges facing contemporary didactics: Diversity of students and the role of new media in teaching and learning. Münster: Waxmann. Hopmann, S. T. (2007). Restrained teaching: The common core of Didaktik. European Educational Research Journal, 6(2), 109-124. Klafki, W. (2000a). Didaktik analysis as the core of preparation of instruction. In I. Westbury, S. T. Hopmann & K. Riquarts (Eds.), Teaching as a reflective practice. The german didaktik tradition (pp. 139-159). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Klafki, W. (2000b). The significance of classical theories of bildung for a contemporary concept of allgemeinbildung. In I. Westbury, K. Riquarts & S. T. Hopmann (Eds.), Teaching as a reflective practice : the German didaktik tradition (pp. 85 - 107). Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates. Klafki, W. (2001). Dannelsesteori og didaktik - nye studier (B. Christensen, Trans. 2nd ed.). Århus: Forlaget Klim. Westbury, I., Hopmann, S. T., & Riquarts, K. (2000). Teaching as a reflective practice : the German didaktik tradition. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
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