Teaching approaches: Dialogue

From OER in Education

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The term dialogue is intended to imply a deeper level of analysis or explanation than that which concerns itself only with the surface meaning of talk as isolated expressions made by individuals. When we talk about dialogue, we are talking about the joint enterprise of talk, as a cumultative (building up over time) activity which is aimed at some purpose or other. In education, the purpose we are most often interested in is learning, in a rather broad sense.

In classrooms such dialogue occurs in a variety of settings, including whole class work and group talk in group work contexts. Research indicates that the most effective sorts of dialogue

  1. Are often not reflected in classroom talk
  2. Are not simply question and response (IRF) exchanges, but are dialogic in nature
  3. Are mutually respectful, and involve exploratory talk which seeks to build a shared understanding between talk partners (what Edwards and Mercer (1987) termed 'Common Knowledge')

Dialogue is a recuring theme on this wiki, and in particular is covered in context in the sections described above.

You should consider throughout the relationship between dialogue, and assessment. You might find some of the items in the table below to be useful prompts

Assessment for learning

Developing strategies that promote classroom dialogue

Use the table below - 'Features of effective dialogue and associated strategies' and our assessment and dialogue resources to provide prompts to help you think about the characteristics of effective dialogue that

  • feature strongly in your teaching and the strategies used to achieve them
  • are absent or might be improved

Features of Effective Dialogue
Teacher Strategies Everyone is engaged with the dialogue Teacher talk does not over-dominate the dialogue Pattern of dialogue is 'basketball' rather pingpong Dialogue is reciprocal, that is, children respond to and build on what others have said Children's contributions are well- developed sentences or phrases Children are willing to take risks by sharing partial understanding Children are willing to challenge each other's ideas in a constructive way Children demonstrate higher levels of thinking Children reprocess their thinking as a result of dialogue
Rich questions
Big questions
Higher-order thinking questions
Questions linked to resources or tasks
Peer discussion following a question
Wait time after a teacher question
Wait time after a child's response
Varying length of wait time
No-hands-up questioning
Pausing to survey
Eavesdropping on group dialogue
Cue in children using gestures and
Model prompts and body language to encourage continuation
Acknowledge where children demonstrate effective dialogue
Group Work Strategies

Relevant resources

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