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R7C2 Dialogue: Does teacher-learner talk scaffold understanding to build on existing knowledge and to strengthen dispositions to learn?

‘Whole-class interactive teaching’ describes structured, teacher-controlled but...

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Andrew Pollard
5 May 2010

‘Whole-class interactive teaching’ describes structured, teacher-controlled but pupil-active methods – such as the National Strategies in England aimed to provide. Questioning in challenging, engaging and respectful ways is an important way in which pupil understanding can be extended.

Dialogic teaching takes this further to engage the teacher and learner together and to explicitly use language as a tool for learning (Mercer and Littlejohn, 2007). Research suggests that such responsive scaffolding of learning supports longer-term commitment to learning. Alexander (2006) identified these five characteristics:

collective: teachers and children address learning tasks together;

  • reciprocal: teachers and children listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative viewpoints;
  • supportive, children articulate their ideas freely and confidently;
  • cumulative: teachers and children build on each other’s ideas; and
  • purposeful: teachers plan and steer classroom talk in relation to educational goals.

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