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The Right to Speak: Understanding Student Engagement in Dialogic Instruction

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There is a growing corpus of evidence on the benefits of students’ participation in academically productive talk, which shows that this kind of instruction can increase students’ scientific reasoning skills and learning outcomes, including near and far transfer (e.g. Mercer, Dawes, Wegerif & Sams, 2004; Adey & Shayer, 1993; Topping & Trickey, 2007). However, some students, particularly those that have been underserved by the education system, may initially find it difficult to participate in this kind of classroom talk. In this talk I will examine understudied aspects of dialogic instruction: silence and low participation in talk. I examine the question of precisely what it means to be silent in academically productive dialogue, drawing on a series of studies investigating student engagement in Accountable Talk discussions (Resnick, Michaels & O’Connor, 2010). We use Accountable Talk to refer to rigorous teacher-lead discussions that scaffold student reasoning and thinking about subject matter, in which students are socialized into a discourse community that is accountable to knowledge, the standards of good reasoning and the community. Using mixed methods (qualitative and computational), I examine participation patterns in Accountable Talk discussions over time and perceptions of the enablers and barriers for ‘going public’ with one’s thinking in these discussions. The findings help to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities for supporting instructional change through Accountable Talk in urban school settings.

This talk is part of the All Faculty of Education Seminars series.

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