Lead editors: Louis Major and Ruth Kershner
Conclusion: Neil Mercer
Please see Appendix One for contributors’ biographies.
CLICK TO READ PAPER – CLICK TO DOWNLOAD PAPER
This Working Paper is rather different from others in the Faculty of Education’s Working Paper series. Our brief was to showcase the work of the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research (CEDiR) group, which we hope to accomplish by presenting this paper in its dialogue form, in order to illustrate the very processes that we research. In all, this work was authored by a group of 22 staff and doctoral students.
The Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research (CEDiR) group
CEDiR was originally conceived in response to the growing interest of many Faculty members in educational dialogue. Staff and students had been developing various dialogic research interests for several years, with one outcome being a wide range of Masters and Doctoral projects (the titles of some of which are presented in Appendix Two). The Group’s inception in 2015 was also prompted by the recent and impending departures of key professors in the Faculty who have carried out much of the seminal work in the field, namely Neil Mercer, Christine Howe and Robin Alexander. At a time when a global movement of research focussing on the potential of dialogue in transforming education continues to grow, we wanted to ensure that their legacy in this important area would be sustained and built upon into the future by further advancing the reputation of the Faculty as a world-leading centre for interdisciplinary research on educational dialogue. CEDiR’s other key aims are:
- to promote collaboration within the Faculty, within the University, and internationally, by building a network of expert partners;
- strategically develop capacity of researchers at all levels and create a supportive environment for generating and sharing high quality research;
- develop and advance dialogic theory and methodology;
- and engage with and impact on policy and practice, nationally and internationally.
Figure 1. A CEDiR event held at the Faculty of Education in 2017
CEDiR was launched in June 2015 by a group of founding members, including Sara Hennessy, Rupert Higham, Christine Howe, Neil Mercer, Fiona Maine and Paul Warwick. Thirty Faculty members attended the inaugural meeting, confirming significant interest in this area. This vibrant group has grown to well over 70 staff and graduate students at the time of writing, representing a wide range of interests in dialogue. A further group of members are ex-students, local teachers or head teachers. Inclusion of practitioners, interdisciplinary working and a dialogic format are important hallmarks of the numerous CEDiR events we run every term. The group has also forged links with 35 high-profile current collaborators and associates, several of whom have visited during our first three years of operation (details of partners, projects, events etc. are on our website at https://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/groups/cedir/). We are also pleased to say that CEDiR has been further strengthened by the arrival of Professor Rupert Wegerif in June 2017.
Five inter-connected strands are the current focus of CEDiR research activity. Led by core members of the group, this research builds on existing and ongoing work undertaken by members of the already flourishing CEDiR group to consider important contemporary topics relating to dialogic education. Currently, strands are investigating issues relating to:
- dialogic theory and research methodology
- dialogue, professional change and leadership
- inter-cultural and conflict transformation dialogue
- digital technology and dialogue
- classroom dialogue
An overarching concern within CEDiR is with forms of dialogue that support learning in both formal and informal educational contexts. The dialogue we engaged in to produce this paper proved productive for our own learning as we reflected on our research, examined our theoretical understandings, listened and responded to the perspectives of our colleagues and encountered new thinking from the theorists cited. It was a truly stimulating process and has served the original aim of moving our thinking forward as a group, as well as communicating to readers some of the key issues with which we grapple. Our own perspectives on these themes are wide-ranging, as seen through the main body of the paper, where extracts from our dialogues are presented verbatim.
The purpose of this Working Paper
At the start, the main purpose of this paper was to showcase the work of the CEDiR group. However, the decision to approach this in a dialogic way ultimately revealed more than we had expected. We found that the dialogic interaction in itself enabled us to engage in productive and intellectually stimulating discussions as a research group. It was a timely opportunity, as a relatively new group, to distil areas of interest and articulate some of the challenges of researching dialogue. Further, the opportunity to write a Faculty Working Paper prompted us to produce an outcome that would be useful and interesting for others to read. Presenting our discussions in a dialogic form is intended to invite readers to join in the process of developing understanding of educational dialogue. By this we mean that readers can ‘take part’ in our conversations and develop new lines of inquiry. In doing this, we see this Working Paper as having a life beyond its publication date, with the potential to become a catalyst for further discussion about educational dialogue.
Reading this Working Paper
This Working Paper is intended to be read and used by anybody with an interest in the role of dialogue in education. This may include teachers, school leaders, researchers and others beyond academia. We have tried to write it in an accessible style and the structure is flexible. As a whole, the paper is quite long. The idea is that readers can ‘dip in’ and return to the sections they find interesting in any order. See the contents page for the location of the verbatim extracts of dialogue as well as the methodology, analysis and critical discussion.
In the next section, we outline details of the innovative dialogic methodological approach that we used to build understanding and knowledge together. Following this, we present our discussion on the fundamental question: What is educational dialogue? (Theme One), acknowledging that there is no simple or agreed viewpoint in the field, despite many commonalities among the key theorists about what productive dialogue looks like. We then go on to discuss one of the central and persistent educational questions about dialogue: What is the relationship between educational dialogue and learning? (Theme Two). This is followed by consideration of How is dialogue supported and constrained? (Theme Three). Within each theme we offer an introduction to, and overview of, our discussions relating to the nature and definition of educational dialogue. Following the discussion of each line of inquiry, verbatim extracts from the group dialogue are presented. We end with concluding remarks and future directions.
2. METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH
In keeping with the CEDiR philosophy, we were keen to construct this Working Paper in a dialogic fashion. To ensure inclusion of different perspectives and to build knowledge and understanding collaboratively, all CEDiR members were invited to engage in several digital-technology-mediated discussions during the first part of 2017. These discussions were intended to move forward our understanding and to enable CEDiR colleagues to showcase the variety of research that we are directly involved in, or are aware of, in this thriving field. Online discussion forums offer affordances that can support participants’ engagement in dialogue (e.g. Hakkarainen & Palonen, 2003; Staarman, 2009) and exchange of ideas in a higher education context (Caldwell & Heaton, 2016). For the development of our Working Paper, we utilised the asynchronous discussion features available in Moodle, the University of Cambridge’s Virtual Learning Environment. The phased approach outlined below was devised to ensure a ‘dialogic flavour’ to the development of the Working Paper.
Phase One involved an initial discussion in regard to the topic central to the CEDiR Group’s interests, What is Educational Dialogue?. Prompted by the working definition on the CEDiR website that existed at that time, this allowed clarification of each other’s perspectives on educational dialogue and led to the identification of themes that would guide further discussion during Phase Two (see below). Seven elements of the website definition were initially selected by the Editorial Team to represent contrasting views of the meaning, purpose, theory, and context of educational dialogue (see Figure 2). The aim in doing this was to provoke thought, ignite conversation, and open up possibilities for responding in different ways.
Figure 2. A selection of ideas about ‘educational dialogue’ used to initiate the Phase One discussion
Eleven colleagues contributed during Phase One over a 10-day period. The Editorial Team met again once this discussion had concluded. Working collaboratively in the Google Docs web-based document management system, they engaged in an iterative process of thematic analysis of the Phase One discussion to identify key themes that could take our discussion and thinking forward during Phase Two. Five themes were established in this way:
- Definitions, beliefs and practices concerning dialogue
- Investigating features of educational dialogue
- Constraints on dialogue in school
- What is learned through dialogue? Can it be an end in itself?
- Classroom ethos
Phase Two was designed to extend Phase One, employing the five themes (above) as an initial framework. After an invitation to all CEDiR members, a core group of people volunteered to lead discussion for each of these themes (see the coloured thematic boxes, in each section, for details of colleagues who led and contributed to each theme). Discussion threads were set up on Moodle for each theme, including short illustrative quotes from the Phase One discussion to initiate each one.
Discussions in Phases One and Two were underpinned by ‘ground rules’. Identified by Mercer and colleagues as essential for encouraging the sharing of ideas and their critical examination (e.g. Edwards & Mercer, 1987; Littleton & Mercer, 2013), a number of ground rules were collaboratively established and refined as the dialogue progressed. The final set of ground rules, which guided the Phase Two discussion, were:
- Everyone is invited to say what they think about the topic in question.
- Each new contribution should aim to address and build explicitly on previous contributions.
- The aim is to come to a collective understanding of each other’s points of view, acknowledging key points of agreement and difference of opinion.
- Contributions should include reference to relevant research and theory.
- Contributors may ask others for clarification, explanation and elaboration to help the dialogue to develop in a productive way.
- Each turn should be kept to a maximum of 300 words to help the conversation to flow between participants.
In total, 19 Faculty colleagues contributed to Phase Two (although a greater number than this signed up and accessed the forum, and presumably were reading without commenting). These included doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and academic staff. Contributions varied in length and style. The editors encouraged contributors to use relatively short posts to develop a conversational flavour in responding to each other. This worked well in many cases, although the inevitable time lapses made it sometimes hard to catch up. The lengthier posts tended to lack a sense of flowing conversation, but they allowed contributors to include rich detail about thinking and to give detailed examples of relevant research experience. In general, there was a lively sense of interest in what others had to say.
The Editorial Team again met to analyse the Phase Two discussions. Following further collaborative work to thematically analyse discussions, the five themes established during Phase One were collapsed to a final set of three:
Theme One: What is educational dialogue?
Theme Two: What is the relationship between dialogue and learning?
Theme Three: How is classroom dialogue supported and constrained?
These themes make up the remaining sections of this Working Paper. Within each theme, we saw that multiple lines of inquiry were also established. These were identified inductively by members of the Editorial Team through tracing elements of discussion in which participants explicitly referred back to preceding posts (for instance, by naming a previous contributor), or in which they followed up earlier comments and questions using the same language. To ensure reliability, two members of the Editorial Team re-read the discussions in full before meeting to discuss, and collaboratively agree on, several potential lines of inquiry. Further rounds of reading were also undertaken by other members of the Editorial Team. This was followed by a further meeting to agree on the final set of lines of inquiry.
It is important to note that other shorter conversational threads were observed in the data. As these tended to be limited in time and number of participants, they have not been included in the analysis. As was helpfully highlighted by the reviewers of an earlier draft, there is evident potential for further developing these and other lines of inquiry, such as exploring key themes in relation to different linguistic and cultural contexts. In presenting an overview of the forum discussions, social comments between contributors have also (largely) been excluded.
We acknowledge the limitations of the approach we adopted to developing the Working Paper. As will be evident from the varied nature of CEDiR’s five research strands outlined in Section One, the field of educational dialogue is diverse. Our focus here is specifically on the areas of inquiry defined, with this potentially resulting in some productive discussions being constrained or curtailed. We also appreciate that dialogue is an ongoing process and one in which participants continually develop new and richer understanding. For practical reasons, however, we were required to set deadlines, which may have curtailed elements of the discussion or even prevented some colleagues from contributing at all. It is also unclear how group dynamics may have affected the experience of participants, both positively and adversely. Moreover, the public nature of the discussion might have prevented some from getting fully involved, as may have technical issues. This Working Paper therefore presents a snapshot of thinking together about dialogue within the given time period, bearing in the mind the affordances and constraints of the specific technology-mediated context. In the following section, we move on to consider the first of our three themes: What is educational dialogue?
WHAT IS EDUCATIONAL DIALOGUE?
In this section, we consider the first of our three themes: What is educational dialogue? Within the theme, we offer an introduction to, and overview of, our discussions relating to the nature and definition of educational dialogue. Following the discussion of each line of inquiry, verbatim extracts from the group dialogue are presented.
Discussion about the nature and definition of educational dialogue developed in different discussion threads across both phases. As can be observed in this section, several animated and detailed exchanges that appear to reflect some fundamental differences of opinion about the nature and parameters of educational dialogue, emerged, asking both what it is and what it is not. Looking across the Phase One and Phase Two discussions, three main lines of inquiry were established in relation to the question of What is educational dialogue?
- Should we define educational dialogue as that which does occur or that which should occur in educational settings?
- How can dialogue be defined in relation to other processes, such as communication, talk, non-verbal interaction, and particular sets of discourse features?
- Is there a potential conflict between dialogue understood philosophically, as an ethical form of relating authentically to others, and dialogue seen as a pedagogical tool?
1: SHOULD WE DEFINE EDUCATIONAL DIALOGUE AS THAT WHICH DOES OCCUR OR THAT WHICH SHOULD OCCUR IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS?
Here, we question some basic assumptions about educational dialogue: are we thinking about what does happen or what should happen in educational settings? Such questions are of particular interest, as they interrogate the extent to which intrinsic expectations and constraints in any educational setting impose constraints on the dialogue that could possibly occur. Additionally, the questions probe the extent to which a ‘stripped down’ version of the dialogic ideal can still be termed ‘dialogue’.
As the discussions unfold, the conversations seem to converge on a notion of educational dialogue as ‘educationally productive dialogue’, and much subsequent discussion centres on dialogue in formal school settings. But there remain some general questions about the particular characteristics of educational dialogue, the criteria by which it could be defined (and therefore investigated), and the possible reasons for attempting to define and agree on key features. This line of inquiry incorporates reference to current and previous research projects. It also draws on philosophical thinking, such as the views of Bakhtin and others, that ‘dialogue is unavoidable’.
However, the terminological confusion is also seen to present barriers to developing the research field, with some urgent prompting for the research community ‘…to try and get our act together!’. An emerging view of different traditions supports the need for a ‘good enough’ or shorthand working definition of dialogue that both enables investigation, and will in turn be developed through investigation. The discussion of research needs is interwoven with thinking about if there may be, more fundamentally, a lack of clarity about whether the ‘capacity to dialogue’ is part of the human condition (Rousseau), as opposed to a specific human achievement (Kazepides, 2012). So, can dialogue be defined in the absence of an ethical dimension? Of interest, too, is the final turn towards other contexts and purposes of educational dialogue, such as mediation between disputants. This specific line of inquiry remains open at the end, although it connects closely to the two that follow.
The opening contribution challenges an apparent ambiguity in the CEDiR website definition:
Christine: … Does it refer to the dialogue that occurs in educational settings as opposed to other settings, or does it refer to the dialogue that supports educational aims as opposed to the dialogue that is non-productive? … I found that it focuses on a long list of discourse features that are clearly regarded as productive, so I realised that it is the second sense that is of interest. However, I think it’s important not to forget the first sense, for the goals, roles etc. that characterise educational settings (as opposed to other settings and regardless of whether the educational setting is parent-child, teacher-class, coach-team) impose constraints on the forms of interaction that could possibly occur. … I think these constraints mean that the features in CEDiR’s list not only typically do not co-occur in educational settings, but probably could not in principle ever co-occur. There is antipathy between the totality and what educational settings allow. For this reason, I became a little uneasy about the use of the term ‘dialogue’ on the CEDiR website, because it could be read as necessitating the totality of the listed features. How can features that never co-occur and probably cannot co-occur be the subject of empirical analysis? Any presumption of productivity has to be an act of faith, rather than an empirically founded proposition. Moreover, if it is not the totality, which features can be stripped away and the interaction still be regarded as ‘dialogue’? … In truth, I suspect that in everyday parlance we’d happily use the term dialogue for interactions that lack some (and possibly all) of the listed features.
This post prompts the following response, which ends with some agreement about the ‘educationally productive’ factor:
Rupert H: … I can entirely understand how you might find the description of dialogue summarised at the top of this thread as an unattainable ideal, and question both the pursuit and evaluation of it on that basis. For example, if we were to hold that ‘a’ to ‘g’ above are criteria in a strict logical sense, so that talk is dialogue if and only if all are met in each utterance, then I agree that we would have created something Plato might be proud of but that we would never actually see. However, I certainly don’t see it that way and I wonder if anyone in this group does either. I think the term ‘educationally productive dialogue’ is a practical response to this problem – and I suspect that when many of us talk about ‘dialogue’ we are using it as shorthand for our conception of this term. As such, it certainly bears further definition.
A further contribution then moves the conversation towards the need for research evidence about educational value, extending also to consider possible differences for groups and the whole class:
Sara: … Christine comments on the differences between educational and other settings too – and while I agree that not all the recognised features of productive dialogue (assuming we all agreed on what they are) would occur in any single dialogue, they probably wouldn’t in any setting actually? Her question about which features are necessary or typical characteristics of what we recognise as educationally productive dialogue is pivotal – and we certainly need the evidence base. Our ESRC Classroom Dialogue project looks at this to some extent by analysing which features of whole class dialogue are associated with learning gains. More info from peer discussions would also be useful as she points out, although there is already some evidence from her own work and others’; so much work in this field has concentrated on small group work, probably precisely because it is much less constrained without the authority figure’s presence.
A parallel focus on the notion of educationally productive dialogue is taken forward in an exchange between Christine and Rupert:
Christine: … We should make it clear that we are primarily interested in the second of my two interpretations [see Christine’s first entry above], perhaps by rephrasing as ‘What features of dialogue are educationally productive?’ or ‘What characterises educationally productive dialogue?’. I actually think the CEDiR website does an excellent job of listing the candidate features, i.e. the list of features is clearly based on a very comprehensive and thoughtful trawl through the literature. But I think we need to take the features one-by-one, and ask dispassionately about the evidential base for treating them as productive.
Rupert H: … Of all those partial definitions at the top, it seems to me the most potentially stringent is the last: ‘continuous co-construction of new meanings’ – as I think a-f aren’t that lofty or unattainable at all (some, like b, are clearly not designed to be criteria). The bar one sets for g, however, could vary enormously: from demanding an uninterrupted stream of perpetually novel and interrelated ideas, to simply demanding that two or more speakers’ remarks remain implicitly addressed to one another. The latter could be backed up by Bakhtin’s claim, explored further by Matusov (2009), that dialogue is unavoidable: in an epistemological sense we engage in it even when our communications with others are instrumental, objectifying or even violent, simply because responding to our projected understandings of the other, however crude, is the only way meaning can ever be made….
The purpose for defining the concept then arises, as he continues:
Rupert H: … ‘educationally productive dialogue’ is one way of redefining the concept to make it practical and acceptable to our purposes. What substantially underpins this, I think, is another partial definition not on the list: dialogue means engaging with another (or others) as if they really matter (Higham, in press)…. To return to the start, then: I don’t think the partial descriptions at the top of the thread are criteria at all. What we need are empirically verifiable features that fit under those descriptions – supplemented, I hope, by the additional description I’ve suggested. I think SEDA (Scheme for Educational Dialogue Analysis) and its variants represent a good attempt to represent these in a way that can be refined and validated empirically.
Yet a later set of exchanges suggests that the research field is itself hindered by differences in terminology, except for the more extreme examples of evident ‘monologue’:
Sara: … it is clear that across the field researchers use the term in different ways (see the review by Howe & Abedin, 2013, for instance), from most inclusive (any interaction/turn-taking between participants) to most specific (only for those forms of dialogue where there is now a rough consensus in terms of being construed as productive for learning – succinctly summed up by Tristan and Rupert as ‘when argument, reflection and exploration are promoted’ in an ethos of ‘respect across difference’). Nevertheless, I think even most (but possibly not all) of the first group would probably agree that ‘shouting at someone to stop fiddling with their pencil isn’t dialogue’, it is monologue. They would simply preface more fruitful forms of dialogue with ‘productive’ or ‘academically productive’ or some such in order to make the distinction. Those who use the term more selectively tend to employ other terms, especially ‘discourse’ or ‘classroom discussion/talk’ or ‘talk/discourse moves’ for what they consider to be non-dialogic forms of interaction. I think Mortimer and Scott’s (2003) suggested two dimensions of dialogic-authoritative and interactive-non-interactive communication are helpful here, and unfortunately these are often conflated by other researchers. Because the two dimensions are deemed somewhat independent, communication can fall into any of the resulting four quadrants…
The focus on terminology extends further in more general terms, initiated by Christine’s reflection on writing her commentary on a special issue of the journal Learning and Instruction on ‘Advances in research on classroom dialogue’ which looks at the relationship with learning outcomes:
Christine: … no matter how you define ‘dialogue’ or even ‘educational dialogue’ you will find educational researchers who mean exactly the same as you do but use a different term and you will also find researchers who use the same term but mean something different… This Special Issue refers (at the very least) to ‘effective classroom dialogue’, ‘academically productive talk’, ‘productive classroom dialogue’, and the ‘dialogic mode of teaching’, while to achieve comprehensiveness in the review mentioned earlier (Howe & Abedin, 2013) we found ourselves obliged to use all of the following as search terms in addition to our focal construct of ‘dialogue’: answer, argumentation, communication, conversation, dialogic, discourse, discussion, feedback, ground rules, interaction, interactive, IRE, IRF, language, oracy, question, reciprocal, recitation, speaking and listening, talk and turn-taking. Using fewer terms would have resulted in the omission of research that covers exactly the same range of classroom behaviours as that addressed in at least one of the studies badged explicitly as concerned with dialogue. While on one level terminological choices are arbitrary, differences nevertheless have the potential to create confusion, and make it harder to integrate the work of different researchers.
Sara: … I think that terminology is quite important as the very broad sense of ‘dialogue’ makes it hard to develop the field…and renders the terms ‘dialogic’ or ‘dialogic pedagogy’ virtually meaningless – yet these can be very useful… I conducted a quick experiment a few months back to test my own hypothesis that most do use the term in a more specific sense. I was skimming through all the chapters in the recently published Resnick, Asterhan & Clarke (2015) edited collection while preparing a bid and took the opportunity to be systematic in jotting down the authors’ uses of the term dialogue so as to take a snapshot of the current field (and terms do ebb and flow in popularity of course). Basically, 19 of the 34 chapters mention dialogue beyond their titles; 10 of these 19 predominantly use dialogue to mean productive forms of discourse of the kind we would recognise (although one of these, a highly esteemed researcher who should know better, sloppily includes 2 broad uses as well), 6 further chapters have ambiguous or minimal uses, 3/19 have predominantly broad uses. The other 15 chapters don’t use the term but use alternatives, mainly academically productive talk, discourse, classroom discussions, and accountable talk. This mixture is quite consistent with what Christine reports above too, drawing on Howe & Abedin (2013). Overall it is a somewhat mixed picture then, however the predominant use of the term dialogue is quite evidently in the productive sense. These 10 chapter authors draw on Alexander, Mercer, Bakhtin and others. The introduction/overview to the book by Resnick et al itself very clearly defines dialogue in the specific sense, drawing out features of dialogue and reasoning that we would recognise as productive for learning…
… I guess my other question for the community is, will we ever converge on a (roughly agreed) definition of dialogue – and can we even agree on what dimensions it might cover? What are we sacrificing in the meantime? Do policymakers and practitioners consequently have an even more fuzzy grasp of what dialogue is than the research community?! Is it time to try and get our act together?
Interwoven with this debate about definitions and terminology are questions about ethics:
Farah: … Is it possible that to arrive at a working definition, if not consensus, on the parameters of a description that captures pedagogical dialogue, the philosophical underpinnings need to be first determined. Perhaps we are uneasy about declaring an instrumental definition of dialogue (which is entirely useful to us as researchers seeking to impact learning in classrooms), as dialogic, precisely because it may not meet our philosophical conception of dialogic authenticity. Although, it may be far too idealistic, if we truly have conviction that dialogue is an ethical form of relating to others, then perhaps we need to turn to an examination of the self that relates, and consider the learning process as one which is in some sense, a process of personal growth.
This conception of dialogue may take us back to the aims of a traditional liberal arts education, where the capacity to dialogue is valued as something that is a given in the human condition (as Rousseau, 1979 would have it), as opposed to a specific human achievement (as Kazepides, 2012 would have it). By identifying dialogue as a human achievement, it could be argued that in some sense it becomes a form of techne in the Heideggerian sense, and perhaps this is why, when we research it in its instrumental mode, it becomes difficult to define due to the absence of an ethical element.
The context and purposes are also seem to matter, not just in considering different forms of classroom structures (such as the small group work mentioned earlier), but also in moving towards other domains of dialogue. In extending to consider mediation between disputants, Hilary leaves us with open questions at the end about different traditions and discourses:
Hilary: … Firstly definitions – I would like to share my experiences over the years of trying to define mediation, and what it is and is not. When I first started out as a mediator, fresh from my training, I was very clear about what third parties must do in order to engage in proper mediation between disputants. Unlike arbitrators, for example, they should avoid taking sides or offering solutions. As time went on, I realised that other people who called themselves mediators did not take such a purist stance, and sometimes directly or indirectly offered solutions, or else clearly saw themselves as primarily offering support to the ‘victim’. When I did some more research, it became clear that being a mediator simply means being in the middle and acting as some form of conduit. My training, I came to realise, had prepared me in a particular tradition of community mediation which draws on humanistic psychology. Others who had come from a criminology background, for example, had a different idea about what it is to mediate. Perhaps the same applies to dialogue. Etymologically, the original term contains dia (through) and logue (speech or reason). I found it useful when I googled it to be reminded that the term is not ‘duologue’. Although it contains the idea of conversation between two or more people, the dia is not about duality. Thus the term simply refers to what happens through two or more people speaking in response to each other. This makes it hard to argue that something is more or less ‘dialogic’. We can, however, say that dialogue is closer or further away from Socratic dialogue, or that it is more or less authoritarian. Perhaps the difficulties of definition are more prosaic than we realise, and that it is more a matter of distinguishing which tradition of dialogue we are referring to?
2: HOW CAN DIALOGUE BE DEFINED IN RELATION TO OTHER PROCESSES, SUCH AS COMMUNICATION, TALK, NON-VERBAL INTERACTION, AND PARTICULAR SETS OF DISCOURSE FEATURES?
Asking what is educational dialogue? prompts discussion of how narrowly or widely dialogue may be defined in relation to other processes, such as communication, talk, non-verbal interaction, and sets of discourse features. There is extended debate about if dialogue can or should be defined as a distinctive form of communication with intrinsic links to knowledge construction and academic learning, or whether it better serves as an umbrella term for all human interaction. Consideration of interrelated elements of classroom dialogue leads to some agreement about the difficulty of defining dialogue in terms of specific utterances. The line of inquiry moves towards the re-establishment of a dimensional understanding and interpretation of dialogue, rather than an observable and agreed set of acts or features. This is opened out further with the addition of a multimodal perspective to incorporate dialogue with other forms of communication, rather than in relation to them. If changes in the ‘dialogic space’ occur (e.g. with the use of new interactive technologies), then do new forms of dialogue emerge?
One contribution gets straight to the point in asking ‘where does dialogue begin and end?’:
Rupert H: … I think it’s important not to extend the definition of dialogue too widely to include all forms of talk. Shouting at someone to stop fiddling with their pencil isn’t dialogue. However, I think it’s also possible – and valuable – to extend the concept of dialogue beyond spoken interaction. Beyond the obvious example of sign-language, I think it’s also valuable to distinguish monologic and dialogic approaches to, say, reading a book: you can read it as an authority to memorise, or as a (more or less) reasoned, evidenced voice which you seek to understand and respond to. Thus understood, it’s more productive to think about dialogue as a process than a product, and one that’s founded in relationships of equity, respect across difference and shared focus, rather than happening, say, in the contexts of an education institution.
Tristan: … I would tend to agree; if the term ‘educational dialogue’ is broadened to include all human interactions in the classroom it would cloud the truly ‘dialogic’ events from view. Whilst additional talk data may well be collected by researchers (and participants for that matter), not all utterances will serve to construct new knowledge. Many interactions will in fact hinder the process of coming to a shared understanding and it would be inappropriate to assume they all have the same dialogic ‘heft’.
… On the subject of conceptions of ‘educational dialogue’ in classrooms; as a practitioner, it is clear that many teachers believe that merely asking children to answer closed sentences aloud is ‘dialogue’. The closed initiation-response-feedback (IRF) sequence is well established and gives the illusion of dialogue whilst keeping the narrative of a lesson heading in a predetermined direction. However, it is only when argument, reflection and exploration are promoted that a true dialogue can be constructed and all parties may experience its cognitive effects. This Socratic dialogue may be viewed as idealistic but if new insights are to be generated in schools (as opposed to the mere monologic transmission of ‘facts’), concepts of dialogue that stress the reciprocity of talk must be adopted by educators.
The next post returns to the question of purpose, asking ‘How broad a definition of dialogue is useful?’, and it prompts a lively conversation:
Elisa: I agree with the distinction between dialogue versus talk, dialogue being a particular kind of talk. I also agree ‘talk’ might be restricted in Rupert’s terms because communication includes non-verbal elements, nonetheless I think talk is a useful proxy for what we mean. In attempting to define dialogue in the schooling context… because we don’t only mean talk, or knowledge, or relationships when we say dialogue, we mean a combination of all these, taking place in a certain way. In Littleton and Howe’s (2010) book, Lefstein (2010) proposes four dimensions of dialogue that might be an interesting starting point: ideational (what is done with knowledge), metacommunicational (the ground rules), relational (issues to do with emotions, relationships and power), and aesthetic (discourse genres and how these are used)….Leo Lago and I departed from these dimensions and are working on a model to analyse dialogic teaching in three interdependent dimensions: assumptions (underlying norms, beliefs, goals), teaching instruments/tools (learning objectives, activities, evaluation), and classroom practices (day-to-day events including talk, knowledge and relationships). [As explored in Calcagni and Lago (2017).]
Tatiana: … The other side of this question is: how widely can specific turns vary in dialogicity? For example … perhaps “STOP FIDDLING WITH YOUR PENCIL!” is not a dialogic turn, yet if the response produces a productive dialogue between student and teacher (or student and student), then is the turn defined by the process? If dialogue is a process, and not a product, how able are we to deconstruct each turn under the same definitions? Alternatively, one may say something to promote “argument, reflection, and exploration” but get blank stares or a sullen silence in return. Does this make the turn any less dialogic, if the process of dialogue hasn’t been successfully initiated? …a teacher may say all the ‘right’ things, but still not succeed in fostering a dialogic classroom. If it is a matter of … then what if a teacher has a non-dialogic, authoritative intent, but students still promote and establish a dialogic classroom filled with productive classroom dialogue?
This line of inquiry extends to consider what constitutes ‘dialogue’, with a proposal to re-establish a dimensional understanding and interpretation rather than an observable and agreed set of acts or features:
Rupert H: … Firstly, and probably controversially, I would like to move away from trying to define ‘dialogue’ as a particular set or sequence of communicative acts, either by intention and/or by outcome. Ending up in a position where we’re asking, ‘Is this dialogue or not?” probably isn’t helpful, and suggests recourse to an authority that doesn’t exist. Instead, I would suggest that we have a set of environmental, cultural, interpersonal, attitudinal and behavioural factors that can be interpreted as more or less dialogic in a given circumstance – and, with caution – more generally. The overlap with Lefstein’s (2006) useful categorisation here, but at first glance I’d say not complete… So of each turn or utterance, instead of asking, is this part of a dialogue or not? Does it start one or end one?’ we can ask, ‘by virtue of what qualities / characteristics might we call this dialogic?’ Similarly, we can ask of a situation (such as a lesson activity): how dialogic was this interaction? What were the observable responses that made it more or less so, and what were the reasonably interpretable consequences of those responses? Given the almost infinite complexity of dialogue as an interpersonal phenomenon, identifying and focusing on specific characteristics and their apparent consequences can lend us precision and rigour without the burden of making binary judgements….
Grounding this line of argument in the classroom seems to bring some threads together, with reference back to earlier posts. This line of inquiry is then opened out at the end incorporating ‘dialogue’ with other forms of communication, rather than in relation to them:
Sara: … Tristan’s report of teachers often conflating closed I-R-F with more open-ended dialogue highlights the dangers in terms of perhaps not recognising the distinctive (and useful) functions of these different kinds of interaction within a teacher’s repertoire (cf. Alexander 2008; Mortimer & Scott 2003), nor the need for professional development in this area. We already have other terms like ‘talk’ that can describe the wider form, as we’ve mentioned. However that term can include all sorts, even monologic teacher talk, rather than the joint reasoning, critique and knowledge building we are seeking. … (A)s well as dialogue being a particular kind of talk, could we also argue that talk is a kind of dialogue?! In other words, that dialogue is multimodal and spoken language is just one form. I’ve made the case for this in the context of using technology, which can offer new dialogic spaces – opportunities for rich new forms of dialogue to evolve as learners share, manipulate and critique ideas. Our studies illustrate how an interactive technology environment can highlight differences between learners’ perspectives and help make their thinking processes more explicit (Hennessy, 2011; Mercer, Hennessy & Warwick, 2010). Of course talk is usually present too, but sometimes less so, as other forms of communication come to the fore.
3: IS THERE A POTENTIAL CONFLICT BETWEEN DIALOGUE UNDERSTOOD PHILOSOPHICALLY AS AN ETHICAL FORM OF RELATING AUTHENTICALLY TO OTHERS, AND DIALOGUE SEEN AS A PEDAGOGICAL TOOL?
All of the discussions about defining educational dialogue are underpinned by fundamental questions of purpose, tradition and context, with some acceptance of uncertainty. There is particular debate about relational versus instrumental characteristics of dialogue, relating to questions about authenticity and ‘true dialogue’. The third main line of inquiry focuses on what is seen as a potential conflict between dialogue understood more philosophically, as an ethical form of relating authentically to others, and as a pedagogical tool (which was one of the initial prompts in Figure 2). This raises further questions about the need to examine the ‘self’ that relates in dialogue, suggesting that learning can be seen as a process of personal growth. Formal schooling has intrinsic expectations, demands and constraints, but teachers and students can still have genuine interest in exploring each other’s ideas and learning together. It is suggested that classroom dialogue is not inevitably ‘inauthentic’. Can teachers take professional responsibility to enable children to be heard and treated equally as active participants in classroom dialogue, even with the systemic power imbalances?
The notion of dialogue as a ‘pedagogical tool’ attracted discussion from the start of Phase One:
Ruth: … When looking at the CEDiR working definition of educational dialogue my eye is first caught by the notion of dialogue as a pedagogical tool. This jars with me for some reason, but why? Dialogue might be understood as intrinsic to human experience and education – so what is the problem with seeing it as a pedagogical tool? My first thoughts are that the word ‘tool’ might suggest that a teacher could employ classroom dialogue (or at least the appearance of lively and purposeful conversation) to achieve certain learning outcomes. And in current times in England, many of these outcomes are defined and constrained within the prevailing curriculum and assessment frameworks. So how can the teacher her/himself be engaging authentically in dialogue in these circumstances? How can the students (all or some of them)? Or, whatever the intention, does classroom conversation with sufficient dialogic features become ‘educational dialogue’ with all its unpredictable transformative potential? If schools have more open, inclusive and transformative aims for students’ learning and development then is dialogue a tool or is it the whole workbench, fixings, materials, designs and product?…
Four responses in quick succession extend the discussion towards specific areas of educational concern, such as assessment, and towards underlying assumptions about the relational or instrumental nature of ‘dialogue’:
Ayesha: … I think this is a very interesting starting point for this discussion. I am particularly interested in how dialogue is used for assessment for learning (AfL) purposes and the same question arises – how explicit should teachers’ strategies be? In purposefully using a dialogic approach there are more opportunities for teachers to make AfL type judgements. But should they be setting these up specifically to allow them to make such judgements or should the judgements emerge more authentically from a good session of dialogue? Does the need to make these judgements detract from the authenticity of the dialogue? Or do these judgements improve dialogue because they allow the teacher to see where to go next? Is more pedagogically ‘useful’ dialogue less authentic?
Rupert H: … I agree that there is a potential conflict between dialogue understood more philosophically as an ethical form of relating authentically to others, and as a pedagogical tool. I think the partially instrumental nature of the classroom, and of pedagogy, are important here as you suggest. In an ideal world – at least from a dialogic perspective – the classroom (if it existed at all) would be a space of voluntary association and engagement around pre-existing and emergent problems and areas of inquiry. However, we largely work within a context of compulsory schooling with substantially fixed curricula.
[D]oes this state of affairs allow us to take a partially instrumental approach to pedagogy in relation to dialogue? Do students need to be ‘forced to be free’ by being trained to engage in dialogue, even if partly against their inclination or will? Do we need to engage in dialogic techniques shown generally to be beneficial even if we cannot yet tell whether they will suit the particular children at hand? For me the answer is yes, because of the ethical imperative that sits behind it: even if dialogic pedagogy requires ‘transcendental violence’ (Biesta, 2004) and rough approximations, the alternative is not to support young people to engage in authentic, I-thou relationships with others. This at best supports the development of individual agency as a competitive function to the detriment of collective agency, perpetuating wider inequality and violence.
Lisa: … As to your comment about the use of the word ‘tool’ I also have a difficulty with this because I think it suggests that dialogue can somehow be brought out and used on special occasions rather than being embedded in the classroom. Although this may in some way be the case, in that a teacher may plan for situations where dialogue can be used specifically to enhance learning and therefore may also generate AfL opportunities, maybe regarding dialogue as part of the classroom environment might be more useful. Whilst dialogue is not part of the visible environment it can certainly be regarded as part of an ethos and a way of learning in the classroom, and therefore becomes ever present, rather than a specially employed ‘tool’.
Tristan: … I think that the idea of dialogue as a pedagogical tool is an ideal place for us to start. I really enjoyed Rupert’s ideas on the dichotomy of dialogue in the classroom and this is something I have been increasingly aware of in my own practice. Dialogue would seem to be a “tool” that learners naturally possess (although like any tool, requires practice to be used effectively) and Vygotsky (1962) would have us believe that it is through the acquisition and use of our inner dialogue that the construction of new ideas and understanding occurs.
I am convinced that dialogue is a tool for thinking and learning but not necessarily teaching. If it is indeed a pedagogical tool (one that can be implemented by teachers), it is only rarely used to co-construct knowledge, a process that is impeded by the implicit hierarchy that exists between teachers and students. Reciprocal, cumulative and expansive dialogue can only exist in classrooms where it is cultivated by a teacher and there are many factors that may prevent this; not least the prescriptive curricula found in most settings. Indeed, Wegerif (2013) argues that even the concept of the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) is not dialogic. Despite participants appreciating and taking into account one another’s positions, the ‘novice’ will still be working towards an already established (monologic) truth determined by another.
The notion of ‘authenticity’ re-appears at several points, raising questions about what this might mean in the formal school context:
Courtney: … Children clearly have a natural tendency to interact, communicate, and converse with others, for many purposes, including learning and building understanding of the world around them. It seems that there is some consensus here that the use of educational dialogue as a sort of strategy or intervention to promote specific, imposed learning outcomes has the potential to spoil the authentic essence at the core of dialogue….
Sara: … The discussions about authenticity of dialogue in those inevitably constrained conditions of schooling have been very thought provoking. It may in one sense be ‘inauthentic’ because certain subject knowledge and understandings need to be developed in demonstrable ways. However, given that in the CEDiR Group (and wider research community) we are interested in educational dialogue, i.e. that which takes place within educational settings, all of which have concrete learning objectives and most have associated assessment measures, perhaps it can be construed as ‘authentic’ in the sense that participants are genuinely interested in exploring each other’s ideas, in developing better understandings, and in joint knowledge building? Even if an authoritative voice (of teacher/expert) is sometimes introduced within the flow of the dialogue in order to focus it towards curriculum aims.
There are some emerging concerns about children’s role in classroom dialogue:
Courtney: … my main worry is that teachers may not explicitly acknowledge that children bring their own set of goals and their own desire for understanding to a dialogic activity. In this way, teachers can become too directive in their involvement, deciding what knowledge is to be obtained, instead of allowing children to actively build new knowledge based on sincere interest and engagement in the discussion. Tristan made the point that the use of educational dialogue can be constrained by classroom hierarchy of teacher and students, which further impedes the co-constructive nature of authentic dialogue. However, I take a more optimistic stance on the potential for teachers to reflect on their role in dialogic activities in order to actively avoid these pitfalls and to instead assume a role that supports children in accomplishing their own goals ….I think dialogic activities can be reframed as a way to help children develop the ability to more actively engage in dialogue with peers, making the ability to successfully participate in dialogue in and outside the classroom more of an end in itself, rather than for a means to an alternate curricular end (perhaps this might prompt a further discussion about dialogue as an end in itself).
This connects with exploration of underlying classroom ethos, referring back to an earlier comment from Rupert:
Tatiana: … I want to clarify (and perhaps problematize) the points about equity and respect. Ideally, I absolutely agree that ‘dialogue [is] a process…that’s founded in relationships of equity, respect across difference and shared focus’, but I struggle with the thought that this may be saying that dialogue is impossible (or unlikely?) in unequal power relationships. I worry that this may inadvertently suggest that those with power extend that power over dialogue absolutely. Surely, there is room for those with less power (/those oppressed) to establish, guide, facilitate, promote, and conduct dialogue, even despite attempts from the powerful to silence. Is dialogue possible where oppressive power exists? (Is this not the status quo of countless institutions in our world?) And how do dialogic/non-dialogic turns affect the larger dialogicity of words exchanged in such contexts?
In conclusion, Farah picks up on earlier questions about defining dialogue in relational rather than instrumental terms, with reference to educational aims and assumptions about learning social relations and personal growth:
Farah: … Is it possible that to arrive at a working definition, if not consensus, on the parameters of a description that captures pedagogical dialogue, the philosophical underpinnings need to be first determined? Perhaps we are uneasy about declaring an instrumental definition of dialogue (which is entirely useful to us as researchers seeking to impact learning in classrooms), as dialogic, precisely because it may not meet our philosophical conception of dialogic authenticity. Although it may be far too idealistic, if we truly have conviction that dialogue is an ethical form of relating to others, then perhaps we need to turn to an examination of the self that relates, and consider the learning process as one which is in some sense, a process of personal growth. [Ahmed and Lawson, 2016]
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATIONAL DIALOGUE AND LEARNING?
In this section, we turn to one of the central and persistent educational questions about dialogue: What is the relationship between educational dialogue and learning?. Building an understanding of the relationship between educational dialogue and learning is no doubt integral to the uptake of educational dialogue in classroom settings and policy initiatives. Yet, as noted by the discussants, research in this area often takes the form of relatively small-scale studies in particular contexts. Particular problems can arise when measurable outcomes are expected or desired, given the acknowledged diversity of approaches in this field and the intrinsic difficulties of measuring talk, learning, and achievement. However, there is a growing body of evidence, including some promising larger-scale correlational approaches, that appears to support a relationship between identifiable aspects of educational dialogue and certain student outcomes. This notably includes recent research findings from Howe et al’s ESRC-funded Classroom Dialogue Project which investigated teacher-pupil dialogue in English, maths, and science lessons.
One of the five Phase Two discussion threads asked: What is learned through dialogue? Can it be an end in itself?. This was introduced by a quote extracted by the editors from the Phase One discussion, with the intention of provoking contributors to further consider the educational purposes and outcomes of dialogue:
I think dialogic activities can be reframed as a way to help children develop the ability to more actively engage in dialogue with peers, making the ability to successfully participate in dialogue in and outside the classroom more of an end in itself, rather than for a means to an alternate curricular end (perhaps this might prompt a further discussion about dialogue as an end in itself).
A parallel Phase Two thread focused on: Investigating features of educational dialogue. This was introduced by a quote from Phase One that calls for understanding of the features of educational dialogue that may make dialogue productive for learning:
…we need to take the features (of dialogue) one-by-one, and ask dispassionately about the evidential base for treating them as productive. Have they ever been shown to support student learning, reasoning, attitudes etc?
Phase Two threads were initially framed by three perspectives:
- Is dialogue an end it itself?
- What may be learned through dialogue (e.g. subject matter and/or dialogue/thinking/reasoning skills themselves)?
- How can we identify through research the features of dialogue that are productive for learning?
In response, the discussion followed three main lines of inquiry. The first two explore the relationship between educational dialogue and learning. Both of these then converge on methodological questions, to form the third:
- Which aspects of dialogic encounters make dialogue a natural medium for learning?
- What are the conditions, attitudes, or orientations that are required for genuine educational dialogue to take place?
- How might certain methods and outcomes evidence the role of dialogue in learning?
In this way, the overarching question about the relationship between educational dialogue and learning is explored in Phase Two through the use of two discrete, albeit conceptually intertwined, discussion threads.
As evidenced within the discussion threads that follow, there is a working list of necessary features that appear to make dialogue a natural medium for learning, and this list has generated support from those in and beyond CEDiR. However, there is also a sense of urgency to establish consensus on the core characteristics of educational dialogue. This task is far from straightforward: it involves consideration of a variety of purposes and contexts within which learning and dialogue converge. Nonetheless, consensus is an important first step in uniting a seemingly fragmented field.
As we see below, there is a general agreement about the conditions under which productive dialogue takes place, including factors related to pre-existing dialogic skills, attitudes, interpersonal and cultural conditions, structures of participation, types of support, and technological tools that enable access to all participating members. However, it is difficult to establish research designs that effectively account for such variables, as they are often intertwined with each other and are context specific. The contributors begin to think creatively about novel approaches to measurement, and express an eagerness to continue to do so in order to better conceptualize and communicate how genuine dialogue can foster learning in diverse educational settings. There is massive methodological diversity within the field, and there is value to be gained from collating the wide variety of relevant research on the apparent outcomes of dialogue, which include curricular learning, reasoning and attitudes.
This is a rather short line of inquiry, but it is important, because it incorporates two perspectives that set the scene for subsequent discussion. One discussion begins with the notion of dialogue ‘as a natural medium for learning’, drawing first on the work of Kazepides (2012) and then turning to Dewey (1916). This thinking is developed in terms of the human disposition to engage with others, based on a positive orientation towards difference. Principles of curiosity and openness to difference come to the fore, with the suggestion that dialogue and learning go hand in hand: ‘to be more dialogic means to be more open to learning’ (Phillipson & Wegerif, 2017). Meanwhile, a parallel discussion in a different thread begins by raising questions about the features of dialogue that enable it to contribute to learning, with a view to moving research forward. This contribution challenges the notion of an essential dialogue-learning link. It is suggested that while there is evidence that certain aspects of the dialogic process demonstrate its relationship to learning, we should also note the role of individual reflection in extending and consolidating learning. Both of these perspectives then lead to extended discussion about research methodology, which is developed as a key line of inquiry in its own right (see Line of Inquiry 3 below). Meanwhile another strand of conversation turns to look more specifically at the conditions, attitudes, and orientations required for genuine dialogic engagement to take place in educational settings.
One conversation begins by outlining key principles of curiosity and openness to difference, suggesting that dialogue and learning go hand in hand:
Rupert H: … Speech is a (the?) distinctive human characteristic – an evolutionary marvel. However, speech is not dialogue. Dialogue, as Kazepides (2012) argues, is a ‘refined human achievement’: a positive orientation towards difference in the other and the world that transcends biological caution and embraces a dialogic conception of the self. Dialogue is thus a natural medium for learning, since that disposition to value and engage with difference engenders curiosity and empathy towards the person or matter at hand. Its motivation is intrinsic and affective, unlike the way much learning is framed around extrinsic motivators – punishments and rewards. For Dewey (1916), thinking is not an abstract skill but a form of intelligent response to the encounter with difference.
Sara: … So there is no dichotomy between curriculum learning and learning to think and learn together with others, they go hand in hand? At least that’s what I think I am arguing in a paper I’m currently co-authoring (Mercer, Hennessy & Warwick, 2017) so other timely views are welcome! As Rupert Wegerif puts it, teaching and learning are through and for dialogue. A nice quote from his brand-new book – like Rupert H emphasising openness – follows:
‘“Being better at dialogue means learning how to ask better questions, how to listen better, hearing not only the words but also the implicit meanings, how to be open to new possibilities and new perspectives, while of course learning how to think critically about new perspectives through comparing different points of view. More than all these specific skills… to be more dialogic means to be more open to learning’” (Wegerif & Phillipson 2017).
Meanwhile a parallel discussion raises questions about identifying the features of dialogue that enable it to contribute to learning, with a view to moving research forward:
Christine: … Based on current literature, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that educationally productive dialogue includes: being open to new ideas and change of mind; listening and attunement to others; being responsive to and valuing others’ contributions; cumulatively building on / elaborating / synthesizing / following up others’ ideas; exploring difference, comparing and evaluating alternative perspectives, working towards reconciliation, negotiating consensus; challenging and critically questioning others’ ideas; exploring possibilities collectively through creative thinking. But I can immediately see gaps too, e.g. those who emphasize ‘exploratory talk’ would probably wish to see more explicit recognition of ‘justifying viewpoints with reasons in response to challenge’. The exhaustiveness of my list doesn’t matter at this stage in the game: the point is simply that we need some form of list if we are ever to get started.
This contribution then challenges what others see as the essential dialogue-learning link, pointing out the role of individual reflection in extending and consolidating learning:
Christine: …. For instance, ‘challenging and critically questioning others’ ideas’ consistently proves to be helpful, as does ‘working towards reconciliation, negotiating consensus’. However, while productive reconciliation/consensus has to be achieved (as opposed to initiated) at some point, achievement doesn’t itself have to be dialogic: it can occur just as effectively (often more effectively) through individual reflection hours/weeks/months after group work is complete. So I’d be a little skeptical about ‘cumulatively building on’ too.
These alternative perspectives both then develop into a related line of inquiry about research methodology (see Strand 3 below). Meanwhile another strand turns to look more specifically at the conditions, attitudes and orientations required for genuine dialogic engagement to take place in educational settings, as seen in the next section.
2: WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS, ATTITUDES, OR ORIENTATIONS THAT ARE REQUIRED FOR GENUINE EDUCATIONAL DIALOGUE TO TAKE PLACE?
The discussion here begins with reflection on the cognitive skills and interpersonal habits required for genuine educational dialogue to take place. Certain habits and conditions are seen to enable both purposiveness and openness, which in turn are the foundation of dialogic skills. The idea of a ‘conducive climate’ is then developed to include the essential teacher-learner relationship, seeing the teacher as a co-learner and facilitator in the classroom, not merely a transmitter of the curriculum. In parallel, another thread of conversation draws attention also to the classroom participation structures required for student engagement in productive educational dialogue, taking the example of a research project in which an interactive whiteboard (IWB) was used to help create the conditions for productive group talk to take place. Yet questions remain about how to demonstrate learning outcomes with this type and scale of classroom research. This prompts later reflection on the relative ease of systematically exploring factors in group work, compared to investigation of whole-class learning and teaching. Thus, these first two lines of inquiry lead jointly to the third, asking how certain methods and outcomes might evidence the role of dialogue in learning.
This conversation begins with reflection on the cognitive skills and interpersonal habits required for genuine educational dialogue to take place:
Rupert H: … It [dialogue] requires having an end in view so that the situation at hand, and the unknown, perplexing or surprising elements within it might be understood and directed towards that desired end. All our actions have purposes, more or less examined and justified. By understanding the activity or phenomenon of dialogue as fundamentally a response to difference, rooted in a disposition of openness, we are drawn to focus on creating the cultures and attitudes from which genuine dialogue springs. From this perspective, ‘dialogue skills’ are better understood not as atomised personal qualities but as habits of authentic response built in favourable interpersonal and cultural conditions. Without both the conditions and the habits, no dialogue is possible….
Sara: … [I] would likewise say that dialogue skills are dependent on being built up – and subsequently applied – within a conducive climate for dialogue and a meaningful learning context.
This notion of a ‘conducive climate’ prompts attention to the teacher-learner relationship:
Farah: I would like to extend the idea of orientation to teacher professional identity. If teachers approach dialogic practice as an end in itself, then perhaps their understanding of the teacher-learner relationship may be extended, by viewing the teacher as co-constructor of knowledge, or seeing the teacher’s role as facilitator of cognitive and affective development of the learner through a dialogic relationship, as opposed to seeing the teacher as transmitter of a curriculum. This orientation may then impact classroom practice and facilitate deeper understanding of subject knowledge, as well as the cognitive skills and ethical habits outlined in Rupert and Sara’s comments.
This wider focus is further extended in a parallel that thread draws attention to the classroom participation structures:
Ruth: … In classroom experience there are also questions about who participates in conversations and what type(s) of participation may help or hinder learning – linking, I suppose, to questions about how classroom ethos and participation structures may influence student participation in dialogue…
….I remember in the IWB and collaborative group work project with Neil (Mercer) and Paul (Warwick) we focused mostly on seeing whether and how primary children’s collaborative use of the IWB for group learning facilitated productive talk (using Mercer et al’s framework of exploratory, cumulative and disputational). This was on the assumption that such talk supported learning, but we didn’t look at learning outcomes systematically within that project. So there may be a sense in this type and scale of project (and others) that the chains of argument connecting dialogue and learning have to be ‘joined up’ from a number of different studies (which makes sense if we see research endeavour as cumulative).
In a later response, the conversation returns to methodological issues:
Christine: … In the context of small-group work amongst students, it is relatively easy (note only ‘relatively’) to explore identified features systematically. It is possible to organize groups (and group tasks) in a fashion that allows: 1) manipulation of the frequency of one feature while holding the frequencies of the others constant; 2) assessment of the implications of the manipulation for learning outcomes.
These first two lines of inquiry therefore converge on the third, asking how certain methods and outcomes might evidence the role of dialogue in learning, as seen next.
Given the embedded nature of dialogue within individual dispositions, interpersonal orientations, and cultural settings, the teasing out of dialogue and its relationship to curricular learning is far from simple. In this line of inquiry, which again straddles both discussion threads, contributors explore how to establish a firmer research base linking dialogue to learning. There are several interlinked elements. The first specific matter of principle concerns the feasibility of measuring latent variables like ‘orientation’. There is agreement about both the potential usefulness and the difficulty of doing this. In parallel, and more generally, attention is drawn to the sheer diversity of research objectives and approaches that have resulted in the development of a substantial but highly fragmented evidence base. Contributors make it clear that there are both massive constraints and opportunities in the accumulation of evidence, much of which stem from the open system within which educational research takes place. It is acknowledged that strengthening the evidence base presents several challenges, which research has only just begun to unravel. Yet the discussion ends on an optimistic note in outlining how current work is moving forward. There is also a final indication in this section that engagement in the dialogue itself helps to connect experiences and move thinking forward by bringing relevant memories to mind.
There are several opening gambits to this line of inquiry, including these:
Rupert H: … What I would like to see is a set of activities / questionnaires that could ‘measure’ or indicate the extent to which those cultural conditions, and those dispositions, are being realised. How might we do this?
Sara: Critical reasoning skills are often a desirable outcome but there is also some evidence that dialogic teaching approaches can foster development of substantive knowledge too, especially from UK and Mexico. Note that a special issue of Language & Education edited by van der Veen & van Oers and just published (2017, 31:1) focuses on precisely this relationship. However the evidence remains patchy and mainly small-scale. Hence the focus of our ESRC project team (Howe, Mercer, Hennessy, Vrikki & Wheatley) on exploring whether more dialogic (primary) teaching is in fact related to core subject learning gains on standardised tests – but also on scientific and general reasoning tests.
Questions about measurement come to the fore:
Farah: I agree that approaching dialogue as an orientation will help us to navigate these questions. I am less inclined to think that it is possible to ‘measure’ or quantify the orientation, although I agree that indicators are useful.
Sara: …Regarding measures, it would be great to try to develop some more sophisticated rating scales (I agree it is not easily quantifiable!)… in the ESRC project we do rate every lesson overall on a 3-point scale according to how teacher-led it is and how much student participation we see; we developed the descriptors in these dimensions based on some of the draft global indicators we developed for the British Academy project as part of development of SEDA. We could share our present instrument if anyone was interested, but it probably needs further development to cover all indicators.
More generally, in another interchange, attention is drawn to the sheer diversity of research objectives and approaches in this field:
Ruth: …Methods for investigating features of educational dialogue depends on both the aims and the conventions in the relevant research area…. Some researchers focus primarily on what may be seen as dialogic forms of learning and teaching and knowledge construction – often with an intervention involved (e.g. the introduction of classroom ‘ground rules’, to take one familiar example). So research is likely to include data on students’ cognitive, social and affective processes as well as observable features of communication. Other researchers focus differently on what may be seen as naturally occurring dialogue in educational settings, using approaches like conversation analysis, corpus linguistics, linguistic ethnography, critical discourse analysis, and so on, commonly asking questions about how language and communication reveal, represent and develop power relations, social bias and identity in that setting (including questions also of whose knowledge is seen as valuable in school). Researchers in both of these broad areas face considerable difficulties in interpretation and coming to definitive conclusions, not least because of the multiple influencing factors in the immediate, wider and historical contexts of experience…
Maria: …My first reaction would be that, while there is a lot of research on classroom dialogue, evidence to date tends to be somewhat suggestive rather than conclusive, largely due to the fact that studies tend to be small-scale. Nevertheless, there is evidence suggesting a link between productive forms of dialogue and student learning. In discussing this further, however, I think it is important to distinguish between contexts of dialogue within the classroom. Most evidence comes from the context of student group work. There is also considerable work on teacher interaction with individual students (including work on scaffolding). Teacher-orchestrated dialogue on the other hand has been studied less.
Of course, we hope that the outcomes of the ESRC project will shed more light on these questions and determine whether there is any impact on all three aspects in question: student learning, reasoning and attitudes.
Ruth: …. I hadn’t quite realised that in the ESRC project you’re looking at student attitudes as well as learning and reasoning. I can see that it certainly makes sense to do this. Are you looking at attitudes to school in general? Does this include students’ attitudes to group work, which would of course be relevant to their engagement in dialogue […]
Christine goes on to highlight the importance of controlled versus naturalistic research design in the generation of a viable evidence base, with an optimistic contribution:
Christine: …Identifying the features of dialogue that are productive for learning is not an inductive task: there are literally an infinite number of ways in which samples of dialogue could be codified, so inductive methods will not give us the answer. We need hypotheses.
…While cycles of highly controlled but artificial experiments followed with naturalistic but looser interventions are possible for small-group interaction, they can’t readily be used to explore whole-class teaching. It’s naturalism or nothing, and without the backcloth of experiments this can be extremely challenging…Intervention methods are especially problematic in whole-class research because you have no a priori grounds for anticipating what any control group will do, particularly when ideas about productive dialogue have been circulating around the educational community for some considerable period of time (and control teachers may already be using them)…
The alternative is to exploit naturally occurring variation (one of the methods that Ruth signals), correlating frequencies with student outcomes, and this is the method that we’re using in the ESRC project. As Maria said, our outcome measures cover curriculum subjects (maths, literacy and science), reasoning, and attitudes (to school and self-as-learner). The potential drawbacks are: 1) we are at the mercy of the variables on our list being ones that teachers actually use; 2) likewise we are at the mercy of teachers varying over their usage of variables that they do use; 3) we need to take account of numerous other variables that are likely to be related to dialogue and/or outcome. As regards the ESRC project, there are some variables that seldom get used – synthesizing for instance – but the other two problems look tractable, so we’re reasonably optimistic about interesting results…
The conversation then prompts another participant’s personal memories of previous research, leaving an open-ended conclusion:
Ruth: …I think that your ESRC project correlational approach is really interesting in offering a way to exploit naturally occurring variation. And I’ve just realised at the very moment of writing this that years ago, as a Masters student, I trialled an applied behaviour analysis approach that exploited natural variation (in group discussion) with a visual graphing technique. The idea was to plot intervention variation as it occurred in real time, rather than setting up a structured A-B-A-type intervention programme. If the outcome plots split according to intervention-type this could be taken as an indication of different intervention effects. It was called the ‘alternating treatment design’ I think, and I must look back at it and see if there’s any potential connection to dialogue analysis (e.g. in looking for patterns in how conversations develop in different group structures or other distinctive ‘treatments’ ).
HOW IS DIALOGUE SUPPORTED AND CONSTRAINED?
In this section, we consider our final theme, How is dialogue supported and constrained?. Two threads (How do wider constraints on teachers and schools influence educational dialogue? and What are the essential features of a classroom ethos that enables dialogue to thrive?) were initiated at the start of the Phase Two discussions. These questions were posed following the analysis of Phase One discussions, which revealed multiple contributions that raised issues relating to the realisation of dialogic education in practice. For instance:
Reciprocal, cumulative and expansive dialogue can only exist in classrooms where it is cultivated by a teacher and there are many factors that may prevent this; not least the prescriptive curricula found in most settings.
What are the necessary features of the ‘fully dialogic and inclusive classroom ethos’… which is the essential foundation for any episodes of dialogue to be able to take place? This goes beyond specific ‘talk moves’ to characterise — and develop — the climate where dialogue might thrive and the dispositions, values and intentions that underpin it.
Two lines of inquiry were established after an analysis of these complimentary discussions:
- Constraints and limitations relating to educational dialogue
- Approaches to supporting educational dialogue
When considering the wider constraints on educational dialogue, the role of high stakes written external assessment was highlighted as a major contributing factor. Whilst acknowledging the difficulty, and expense, of assessing talk, the lack of national policy support for dialogue and oracy skills was considered to be telling. There was agreement that policy makers must be made to think again, if their curricula are to deliver the enhanced critical thinking skills that contemporary employers value. Novel assessments may also be required in order to encourage school leaders to buy-into a dialogic pedagogy, given the emphasis they necessarily have to place on external measures of learning.
Accepting that external assessment places limitations on classroom dialogue, discussants were prompted to reflect upon the importance of oracy in education. There was a consensus that oracy relates to a set of communication skills, including listening, that can be explicitly learned, and that these skills may also be constrained by external factors. The experiences of oracy children have in their homes are chief among them, but the oracy, or lack thereof, of all adults and children they interact with will impact on learners’ skill sets. A range of tools was highlighted that may help promote oracy in educational settings (for example, the Oracy Skills Framework developed by CEDiR researchers: Mercer, Warwick & Ahmed, 2017).
For any school-based dialogic intervention to become effective, established leadership is crucial. In order for educators to overcome the constraints placed upon dialogue in the classroom, school leaders must clear the path for them to do so and support their efforts. Of course, the logistics, budget, and timetabling required to enable teachers to engage in this professional development may, however, be considerable. Existing frameworks and materials (such as those developed by the Leadership for Learning network) can help to support school-based colleagues to realise their intention to promote dialogue, as well as be a potentially valuable resource for establishing professional dialogues between educators themselves.
The internal factors at play in the constraint of dialogue were also considered. Limits are not only placed on classroom dialogue by external authorities, such as the leaders, parents and policy makers discussed thus far, but also by educators themselves. These stem from the inherent contradiction of dialogic practice whereby a teacher must cede control of the knowledge building process whilst often having a predetermined learning outcome in mind. This thread of discussion was resolved by contributions that highlighted the means by which internal power structures are created and maintained, and thus serve to prohibit classroom dialogue.
In both of the discussion threads curated in this phase, contributors spoke to one another about their solutions to the constraints on classroom dialogue, outlined in the first line of inquiry. They offered examples of tools that have the potential to overcome these constraints and agreed that the skills required for classroom dialogue to be productive, such as listening, could be explicitly taught and learned. The tools required to successfully implement a dialogic pedagogy were considered by the group. These included the establishment of principles (e.g. ground rules for talk) in order to provide a common language and coherence in a classroom. The Cambridge Oracy Assessment Toolkit and T-SEDA schemes were highlighted as ways in which teachers could assess and reflect upon dialogue in their lessons.
During the discussion, the group accepted that only certain phases of a typical lesson can be dialogic, and that more ‘traditional’ monologic elements will continue to play a role in education (particularly when the subject narrative needs to be driven forwards). However, where it is practical, teachers must feel emboldened to relax their epistemological stance in order to direct children to explore and take ownership of their own knowledge. The group reached consensus that dialogue between adults in and around the classroom was of paramount importance to this end, as teachers must be supported in their efforts by all stakeholders, if they are to relinquish some of their authority and allow classroom dialogue to flourish. This led to the potential for Lesson Study as a means to promote educational dialogue and a culture of collaboration, both professionally and within the classroom, to be considered. It was suggested that engaging groups of teachers in educational research on dialogue might be a means of prioritising productive dialogue in the classroom. Other strategies ,such as ‘the tuning protocol’, were also offered for consideration in order to support the wide range of adults in and around classrooms to communicate more productively with one another, thereby promoting productive talk with and between their students.
It is heartening to see this working paper emerging from CEDIR, not least because it embodies so well the interests of a group of colleagues who have come together to pursue research on the nature and functions of dialogue in educational settings. It is also good to see the various themes and issues within this field of investigation set out so clearly – and to see those involved in this applied field of educational research practising what they preach in setting out the ‘ground rules’ for their own collaborative discussions!
Four years ago, Lyn Dawes and I published an article reviewing the history of research into classroom talk as a medium for teaching and learning (Mercer & Dawes, 2014). We concluded that, more than forty years after the work of pioneers like Flanders, Barnes and Cazden, and partly thanks to developments in technology, we know significantly more about communication in the classroom between teachers and their students. Work from within the CEDiR group has provided some of the key evidence in this respect. As researchers who work with teachers (rather than doing research on teachers), we can confidently encourage those practitioners to develop a more critical awareness of how they use talk as the main tool of their trade; and we can direct our students who are learning to teach towards the kinds of talk strategies habitually used by the most effective teachers. We also know much more about the potential value of talk for collaborative learning, and what teachers and students can do to make group work more productive. Our advice and guidance is increasingly sought by policymakers, school leaders and practitioners internationally. On a less positive note, we must recognize that despite an accumulating wealth of relevant evidence, educational policy makers in the UK (or at least in England) still seem to have little awareness and understanding of how addressing the quality of classroom talk can improve the quality of classroom education. So we must continue our efforts, both in carrying out research and in maximising its impact. I believe that those efforts will be more satisfying and successful if we work collaboratively, as our own research suggests people should.
Neil Mercer, February 2018
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Farah Ahmed is co-convener of the CEDiR strand: Intercultural and Conflict-transformation Dialogue. She is a school leader and has recently completed a PhD study that uses the scheme for educational dialogue analysis to evaluate the quality of classroom dialogue generated in halaqah (circles of learning) in Islamic-faith primary schools in the UK.
Meaghan Brugha is a Research Assistant and a student representative with the CEDiR group. She is completing her PhD in the Faculty of Education with a research focus on dialogic pedagogy in blended learning environments for refugees pursuing higher education. Meaghan also works part-time for a research consultancy, Jigsaw Consult, based in London.
Elisa Calcagni is completing a PhD focused on school-based professional development to promote dialogue in primary mathematics classroom in Chile. She is one of the student reps for CEDiR and part of the T-SEDA team.
Hilary Cremin is a Reader in the Faculty. She researches, writes and teaches about peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities. Her most recent work seeks to deepen understanding of restorative interventions in schools through the coding and analysis of teacher-mediated dialogue following peer conflict. She has also worked as a community mediator.
- Developing Restorative Approaches to Conflict Dialogue in Schools: Analyzing teacher-mediated dialogue following peer conflict. (Faculty of Education Research Development Fund: 2017-18. Cremin).
- Preparing UK and Ugandan Educational Professionals to Work with Students in/from Settings Affected by War and Trauma. (Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Fund: 2016-18. Cremin).
- Learning Communities for Peace Evaluation – Spain, Sweden, Greece, Croatia, UK, Belgium, France. (Evens Foundation, Belgium: 2017-18. Cremin, Tsuruhara).
Courtney Froehlig is a PhD student in the Faculty of Education investigating how Nursery and Reception teachers can leverage small-group reading and guided dialogue to support children’s social reasoning and perspective-taking. Alongside her research, Courtney is working with children’s centres and primary schools in Cambridge to conduct community workshops with the aim of promoting reading and dialogue around stories in the home: thepanoramaproject.org.
Sara Hennessy is Reader in Teacher Development and Pedagogical Innovation, and Deputy Director of Research, in the Faculty. She co-founded the CEDiR group. Her research interests focus on classroom dialogue to support subject learning and inquiry, and how this can be mediated by educational technology use and teacher professional development.
- Classroom dialogue: Does it really make a difference for student learning? (2015-17)
- A tool for analysing dialogic interactions in classrooms (2013-2015)
- Using a research-informed professional development workshop programme to impact on the quality of classroom dialogue using the interactive whiteboard (2014)
Rupert Higham is Lecturer in Educational Leadership at the UCL Institute of Education. While at Cambridge, he co-founded the CEDiR group and co-convened an international centenary conference on Dewey’s ‘Democracy and Education’. His research is on values-led school improvement, responsible leadership and educational dialogue, in theory and practice.
- PI: An evaluation of Round Square’s IDEALS (2015-2016)
- A tool for analysing dialogic interactions in classrooms (2013-2015)
Christine Howe is a developmental psychologist who after a long career in Psychology was appointed Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge in 2006, a position from which she has recently retired. Her research interests include children’s reasoning in science and mathematics; children’s communicative, linguistic and peer relational skills; dialogue and learning during collaborative group work and whole-class teaching; and young people’s experiences of racism and discrimination. She directed a recently completed, ESRC-funded project entitled Classroom dialogue: Does it really make a difference for student learning?
Tristan Igglesden is the Director of Studies at an independent preparatory school and an EdD student at the Faculty of Education. His doctoral work focuses on the affordances of Learning Management Systems (such as Google Classroom) that support classroom dialogue.
Ruth Kershner is Lecturer in Psychology of Education and Primary Education. She is co-convenor of the CEDiR ‘Classroom Dialogue’ strand and a member of the development team for the T-SEDA resource. Her research interests include dialogic and relational approaches to inclusive pedagogy, and the development of dialogic research methods.
- A tool for analysing dialogic interactions in classrooms (2013-2015)
- Perspectives on diversity and belonging in primary classrooms: Supporting Early Career Teachers in the development of inclusive pedagogy (British Academy/Leverhulme: 2013-14. Kershner & Black-Hawkins).
- Interactive Whiteboards and Collaborative Learning in Primary Science. (ESRC: 2007-09. Mercer, Kershner, Kleine-Staarman, Warwick).
Leonardo Lago is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. His current interest is in promoting classroom dialogue in Brazilian primary school through researcher-teachers partnership. Formerly, he worked as a Physics teacher in secondary education and developed research on Science Education and Activity Theory during his Master degree.
Lisa Lee is a freelance educational researcher with particular interest in dialogue and STEM subjects. She is a qualified primary teacher and has undertaken a Masters degree in Education, Researching Practice at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. She was part of the T-SEDA team.
- Classroom dialogue: Does it really make a difference for student learning? (2015-17)
- A tool for analysing dialogic interactions in classrooms (2013-2015)
- Research for Cambridge Maths Hub into the use of Singapore style textbooks in primary mathematics lessons
Fiona Maine is Senior Lecturer in Literacy Education at the Faculty. She is one of the co-founders of CEDiR and co-convenes the Dialogic Theory and Research Methodology strand. Her research is primarily concerned with ‘dialogic readers’ and how children talk and think together as they make meaning from visual and multi-modal texts. She is currently leading a British Academy/Leverhulme project investigating peer interactions in different reading contexts (2016-2018) and is just about to start a large Horizon 2020 European project focusing on the promotion of cultural literacy through the teaching of dialogue (DIALLS 2018-2021).
Louis Major is a Research Associate based at the Faculty. He is interested in the use of digital technology for educational purposes, in particular the role of technology in supporting educational dialogue. He is currently the lead Cambridge-based RA on the Digitalised Dialogues Across the Curriculum (DiDiAC) project. He also co-leads CEDiR’s Digital Technology and Dialogue research strand that focuses on the interaction between dialogue in educational settings and digital technologies.
Neil Mercer is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge, where he is also the Director of Oracy Cambridge: the Hughes Hall Centre for Effective Spoken Communication and a Life Fellow of the college Hughes Hall. He is a psychologist with particular interests in the use of talk for thinking collectively, the development of children’s spoken language abilities, and the role of teachers in that development. He has worked extensively and internationally with teachers, researchers and educational policy makers.
Sue Swaffield is a Senior Lecturer (Educational Leadership and School Improvement) at the Faculty of Education. She co-founded the Leadership for Learning Cambridge Network that has ‘dialogue’ as one of its five key principles. Dialogue is central to LfL projects as well as her other main research interests of Assessment for Learning and Critical Friendship.
Maria Vrikki is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Cyprus. Her research interests focus on productive forms of dialogue in teacher-student interactions and teacher-teacher interactions in professional development contexts. Maria’s current project examines the effect of teacher-student dialogue on student achievement, in combination with other established factors of teaching effectiveness.
- Promoting quality of teaching: A comprehensive and dynamic framework (2018-present)
- Classroom dialogue: Does it really make a difference for student learning? (2015-17)
- Teacher Learning and Lesson Study in Mathematics (2014-16)
Sharon Walker is a doctoral student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her current research concerns UK government policy in higher education and race equality. Previously, as part of the Underground Mathematics project, she researched the role of classroom dialogue in promoting students’ mathematical thinking and learning.
Paul Warwick is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the Faculty. He has research interests in the interactions between technology and dialogue; science education; and teacher learning. He is currently the UK Principal Investigator on the Digitalised Dialogues Across the Curriculum (DiDiAC) project, and co-leads CEDiR’s Digital Technology and Dialogue research strand. Previous projects have included Using a research-informed professional development workshop programme to impact on the quality of classroom dialogue using the interactive whiteboard (2014), and he is a member of the Thinking Together project.
EXAMPLES OF MASTERS AND DOCTORAL WORK RELATING TO DIALOGUE UNDERTAKEN AT THE FACULTY (2012-2016)
In this section, a small selection of examples, drawn from a wider field of relevant graduate work relating to dialogue, are included to give a sense of the range of topic interests undertaken by the Faculty’s Masters and Doctoral students.
|2015||Psychology||Hurtado, J. / ‘Classroom talk and student participation: Exploring productive interactions in two Chilean classrooms with children from different socio-economic backgrounds’.|
|2014||Educational Research||Song, Y. /An Investigation of the relationship between thinking style and participation in classroom dialogue among secondary school students in mainland China.|
|2013||RSLE||Unthiah, A. /The effects of collaborative dialogue on lexical acquisition of L2 English learners in Spain: a mixed methods study|
|2012||Educational Research||Knight, S. /Finding knowledge – the role of talk in collaborative information retrieval.|
|2016||Researching Practice||Dennis, D. / Dialogic learning in online environments: a case study of advanced level students studying epistemology|
|2015||Researching Practice||McCullough, M. / Profiles of dialogic talk in teacher-student and student-student interactions: a exploratory study|
|2013||Primary||Kite, P. /Some children are more equal than others: How can the introduction of ground rules for whole class discussion support access and engagement|
|2013||Researching Practice||Horsley, A. /Mind the Gap: To what extent does bridging the gap between classroom dialogue and writing enhance students’ learning.|
|Caldwell, T. / Developing learning dialogues to support primary pupils’ mathematical learning|
Ongoing and recent doctoral projects:
Farah Ahmed. Pedagogy as Dialogue between Cultures: Exploring Halaqah (circle time), an Islamic oral pedagogy enabling autonomy and a culturally coherent education for Muslim children in a pluralist society.
Annabel Amodia-Bidakowksa. Disciplinary dialogues: Examining the influence of subject cultures on classroom dialogue and learning outcomes in English primary schools.
Meaghan Brugha. Dialogic pedagogy for refugee higher education.
Elisa Calcagni. Professional dialogues to foster dialogic pedagogy in mathematics: design and trial of a school-based teacher professional development program in Chile.
Christina Chinas. Mediation of teachers’ learning through talk within a professional learning community: a case study in Cyprus.
Courtney Froehlig. Supporting early educators to challenge children’s correspondence bias in talk around stories using a dialogic intervention framework: A critical-design ethnographic approach.
Tristan Igglesden. The affordances of Learning Management Systems that support dialogue.
Laura Kerslake. A design-based project investigating the factors impacting on the success of a Philosophy with Children intervention in primary schools.
Leonardo Goncalves Lago. Putting dialogue to work in Brazilian primary school: from teacher education to science lessons.
Ana Rubio Jimenez. The exercise and development of self-determination of students with intellectual disabilities through the facilitation of dialogic spaces.
Ana Laura Trigo Clapés. Dialogic teaching for students with conditions within the autism spectrum.
Toshiyasu Tsuruhara. Relational transformation through dialogue: Conflict mediation meeting in a secondary school in the UK.
Yu Song. An investigation of the relationships between thinking style, participation in classroom dialogue and learning outcomes – a study based in Mainland China.