Dialogic teaching: Talking to Learn

Marion Engin
Sheffield Hallam University

One of the main premises of dialogic teaching is that teachers and learners use language to harness their powers of thinking (Alexander, 2010). Dialogic teaching is cumulative, supportive, reciprocal, collective, and most importantly, purposeful (Alexander, 2010). A dialogic classroom is one in which learners are encouraged to interact with each other, pose questions, defend their positions, and work together to co-construct knowledge (Mercer, 1995, 2000). Dialogic pedagogy also supports talk which is accountable to the group, to knowledge, and to reasoning (Michaels, O’Connor & Resnick, 2008). Such a classroom can be a challenge for learners who are operating in a second language as well as learning content. This presentation will describe a project in which the presenter integrated a dialogic teaching approach to a semester-long MA TESOL module on Second Language Acquisition with international students. The students were presented with the concepts of dialogic pedagogy and oriented to the main principles and structures. During the module the students were engaged in a variety of different structured activities which developed and supported the students’ skills in asking questions, challenging others, building on ideas, articulating their own arguments, and defending their position. Data were gathered through audio recordings of classes, interviews, stimulated protocols, and module assignments. Results suggest that as well as the actual talk, affective, cognitive, and structural features play a significant role in creating an effective dialogic classroom. This presentation offers insights into the power of talk in a formal, classroom space and presents learning points to all staff regardless of discipline.
Alexander, R. (2010). Dialogic teaching essentials. Retrieved from http://www.robinalexander.org.uk
Mercer, N. (1995). The guided construction of knowledge: Talk amongst teachers and learners. Multilingual matters.
Mercer, N. (2000). Words and minds: How we use language to think together. Psychology Press.
Michaels, S., O’Connor, C. and Resnick, L.B. (2008). Deliberative discourse idealized and realized: Accountable talk in the classroom and in civic life. Studies in philosophy and education27(4), pp.283-297.