27 SES 11 B, Communication and Learning in the Classroom
Troubles with Dialogic Teaching. How to Situate Dialogue Back in Classrooms
Classroom discourse has become one of the key topics of educational science. Many authors have a long-term research interest in forms of talk in the classroom and their educational functions (Alexander, 2001, 2006; Cazden, 1988; 1999; Hall, 1998; Lemke, 1988; Littleton & Howe, 2010; Mehan 1979, 1984; Mercer, 1995, 2000; Mercer & Howe, 2012; Mercer & Sams, 2006; Mesa & Chang, 2010; Nystrand et al., 1997, 2001; Scott, 2008; Wells, 1993, 1999, 2009).
Already for several decades, specialist literature has been showing an inclination towards dialogic forms of teaching. Dialogic teaching is mostly defined as such manner of communication in the class that promotes activity, deepens thinking and enriches understanding (Alexander, 2006). Principles: (1) authentic questions: these are open questions which aim to reveal a pupil’s ideas and opinions and to which there is no pre-given answer; (2) uptake describes a situation in which the speaker builds on what has been said by the previous speaker and thus increases the coherence of the dialogue; (4) teacher’s feedback of higher order comments not only on the correctness or incorrectness of a pupil’s response but it provides a more elaborate feedback on the content of the pupil’s response; (5) open discussion describes a sequence that includes at least three participants who react to each other (Applebee et al., 2003; Nystrand et al., 1997;).
This paper examines dialogic teaching in Czech lower secondary schools and shows whether Czech teachers use forms of dialogic teaching in their practice. It is based on an analysis of empirical data obtained from two successive research projects. The first one, called Communication in the Classroom (2009–2011) and its aim was to describe current state of educational communication in humanities subjects at Czech lower secondary schools. Data were collected through field ethnographic research using the method of video studies (Lefstein, Snell, 2014). This research has shown that Czech teachers are strongly biased in favour of dialogic teaching and consider it an ideal way of educational communication, but their real communication techniques are far from this ideal – teachers ask close questions of low cognitive demandingness; pupils' contributions to the communication are very short; no discussion takes place as the IRF structure (Mehan, 1979) is continuously maintained.
The follow-up project Teacher and Pupils in Dialogic Teaching is being carried out (2013–2016) and is based on action research directed at surveying of the possibility of implementing dialogic teaching in the practice of teachers.
Lefstein (2010) claims that educational literature presents dialogic teaching as a remedy for a whole number of problems and that it should increase the quality of education and learning, cultivate pupils’ thinking, democratise schools and empower pupils. However, literature renders dialogic teaching in such an idealised way that it is very difficult to realise dialogic teaching with all its attributes in everyday practice. Teachers who attempt to do so are limited by the curricula of their schools and their own skills. Lefstein (2010) therefore advises to develop the concept of situated dialogue (in the sense of dialogue which is situated into the environment of the real classroom where teachers have to face real limits).
One of the key objectives of the first phase of the project Teacher and Pupils in Dialogic Teaching is thus the effort to examine, in collaboration with the participating teachers, the conditions under which dialogic teaching can be realised in common Czech classrooms, to determine the boundaries and limitations that teachers are faced with in their attempts at realising this form of teaching and to identify the stimuli that might facilitate their development.
Alexander, R. (2001). Culture and Pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education. Oxford: Blackwell. Alexander, R. (2006). Towards dialogic teaching. Rethinking classroom talk. Cambridge: Dialogos. Applebee, A. N., Langer, J., Nystrand, M., Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-Based Approaches to Developing Understanding. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 685–730. Cazden, C. B. (1988). Classroom discourse. The Language of Teaching and Learning. Portsmouth: Heinemann. Hall, J. K. (1998). Differential Teacher Attention to Student Utterances: The Construction of Different Opportunities for Learning in the IRF. Linguistics and Education 9(3), 287–311. Lemke, J. (1988). Genres, semantics, and classroom education. Linguistics and Education, 1(l), 81–89. Lefstein, A. (2010). More helpful as problem than solution. Some implications of situating dialogue in classrooms. In K. Lefstein, A., Snell, J. (2014). Better than Best Practice. Developing teaching and learning through dialogue. London: Routledge. Littleton, & Ch. Howe (Eds.), Educational Dialogues. Understanding and promoting productive interaction (pp. 170–191). London: Routledge. Littleton, K., & Howe, Ch. (Eds.) (2010). Educational Dialogues. Understanding and promoting productive interaction. London: Routledge. Measor, L. (1989). Critical Incidents in the Classroom: Identities, Choices and Careers. In Ball, S.J. & Goodson, I.F. (Eds.), Teachers' Lives and Careers (pp. 61–77). Lewes: The Falmer P. Mehan, H. (1979). Learning Lessons. Social Organisation in the Classroom. Cambridge: Harvard. Mercer, N. (2000). Words and Minds. How we use language to think together. London: Routledge. Mercer, N. & Howe, C. (2012). Explaining the dialogic processes of teaching and learning: the value of sociocultural theory. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 1(1), 12–21. Mercer, N. & Sams, C. (2006). Teaching children how to use language to solve maths problems, Language and Education 20(6), 507–528. Mesa, V., & Chang, P. (2010). The language of engagement in two highly interactive undergraduate mathematics classrooms. Linguistics and Education 21(2), 83–100. Nystrand, M., Gamoran, A., Kachur, R., Prendergast, C. (1997). Opening Dialogue. Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom. NY: TCP. Sikes, P. (1989). The Life Cycle of the Teacher. In Ball, S.J. & Goodson, I.F. (Eds.), Teachers' Lives and Careers. Lewes: The Falmer Press, 27–60. Scott, P. (2008). Talking a Way to Understanding in Science. In N. Mercer (Ed.). Exploring talk in schools: inspired by the work of Douglas Barnes (pp. 17–37). London, SAGE. Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic Enquiry: Toward a Sociocultural Practice and Theory. Cambridge. Wulf, Ch. et al. (2010). Ritual and Identity. London: Tufnell.
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