dialogic teaching

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Teaching, usually in primary education, through dialogue between teacher and pupils and between pupils themselves, which thereby places an emphasis on speaking and listening as well as on thinking skills, clear lines of enquiry, and pupil engagement. In operational terms this may mean teachers encouraging pupils to give extended, rather than brief, answers and to pose their own questions. It may involve allowing pupils the time to reflect upon questions and answers before responding, and calling upon named individuals for answers, rather than encouraging the classroom ‘bidding’ process of raised hands. However, the dialogic approach is more than the sum of these sorts of strategy. It demands that there be a balance in the pupil–teacher dialogue so that the teacher's input does not dominate; and it relies upon a positive teacher–pupil relationship, which may be reflected in a number of ways, including the utilization and arrangement of classroom space. In these ways and more, dialogic teaching recognizes and builds upon the cognitive potential of classroom talk.

The pedagogy underpinning this approach to teaching places an emphasis on five principles: reciprocity, or the sharing of ideas between teacher and pupils; cumulation, or the careful building of arguments or lines of enquiry by linking the ideas of all those contributing to the dialogue; cooperation and collectivity, with pupils working together with the teacher or in groups; supportiveness, which encourages all to feel accepted and included; and purpose, in that the dialogue is intended to achieve specific educational goals.

Evidence from pilot projects in London and Yorkshire suggests that dialogic teaching supports inclusive learning, in that it encourages quieter or less able learners to contribute with confidence. It forms part of the UK government's Primary National Strategy and the strategy for Key Stage 3.

Further Reading:

R. J. Alexander Education as Dialogue: Moral and Pedagogical Choices for a Runaway World (Dialogos, 2006).

Subjects: Education.

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