A Dialogic Teaching Approach: Talk Moves to Deepen Students’ Understanding in the Geography Classroom, pp. 10 of 12

As the interaction chains extended, a shift can be observed in the classroom discourse whereby students started asking questions in a candid and spontaneous manner (turn 85 and 87) – no probing by the teacher was required. This shows high productive engagement and genuine participation in the class discussion.

Implications for Teaching and Learning

Intentionally set up student-initiated talk in the classroom

Introducing student-initiated talk in the classroom creates an avenue for teachers to ask questions to assess students’ learning and at the same time create a safe environment that encourages students to give more elaborated responses. Moreover, student-teachers are seen to be more receptive to feedback given by peers and are more responsive to the comments made in class. Student-initiated talk in the classroom allows for spontaneity in asking questions in an organic manner. By appointing a student-teacher in the class, the teacher hands part of the responsibility of thinking back to the students by getting them to respond to the prior utterance. Through reflective tosses (Zee & Minstrell, 1997), it helps to bring the students’ knowledge into explicit public view where various points of view are considered and the students are able to monitor their own thinking. This engages the whole class in the discussion where genuine curiosity is sparked due to the comfortable environment to ask questions spontaneously.

Inculcate a habit of ‘thinking out loud’ in class

According to Alexander (2008), the teacher’s role is to manoeuvre classroom discourse to offer cognitive challenge for sustained thinking. In the geography classroom, students could be scaffolded to make connections with their own experiences and discuss areas where new content seems to clash with pre-existing knowledge. The teacher should intentionally provide opportunities for explicit ‘student performances’ of understanding by the student-teacher. Discussions and explanations led by student-teachers should be a central part of lessons in the classroom, where their formulation of geographical conceptions and thoughts are verbalised and further expanded upon (and self/co-corrected) during the lesson by the teacher and their peers. Students should be expected to ask questions as well as to be ready to answer the questions posed by their peers. Questions not only enable students to engage in productive thinking, but their verbalised thought processes also provide a valuable indicator to the level of comprehension of content and happenings in class.

Teacher modelling – teacher and student as learners

There is a need to shift away from the ‘teacher as teacher’ and the ‘student as student’ mindset and instead look beyond that to see teachers and students both as learners in the geography classrooms. It has been shown that talk amongst students is important and can make significant contributions to learning (Mortimer & Scott, 2006). However, research has shown that simply putting students together in groups to communicate to solve problems is insufficient to ensure they will use dialogue effectively (ibid). Hence, the teacher needs to be actively involved – but not as one holding full control and power to knowledge as a teacher, but occasionally as the position of a ‘student’ as well. An example can be seen in Excerpt 6 where the teacher becomes the ‘student’ and hands the position of the teacher to a student, Tim. Referring to turn 83 and 91, the actual teacher acting as a student effectively modeled to the class how they should be thinking critically and how they should be asking questions in class. The teacher can take a step down from his/her position as the ‘head’ of knowledge construction to be alongside with students to co-construct knowledge with students and model dialogic talk as a student.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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