The Digest edition 2009/2 : Talking to learn: dialogue in the classroom

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This Digest is focused on research studies about using classroom talk for improving learning, and particularly on the use of teaching methods incorporating classroom dialogue. A selection of websites is listed and a full reference list provided. Links to those references for which full-text online access is freely available are also included. Classrooms are full of talk: some commentators have even suggested that schools are ‘saturated’ with it. There are different types of classroom talk for a range of different purposes. An international research study conducted in primary classrooms in five countries (the ‘Five Nations Study’) has demonstrated the powerful learning effects of skilfully used ‘dialogic teaching’. This approach has been defined as classroom teaching where teachers and children both make substantial and significant contributions through which children’s thinking on particular ideas and or themes is moved forward (Mercer & Littleton, 2007). Another description of dialogic teaching identifies a number of aspects: … collective, supportive and genuinely reciprocal; it uses carefully-structured extended exchanges to build understanding through cumulation; and throughout, children’s own words, ideas, speculations and arguments feature much more prominently (Alexander, 2005).

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