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Dialogic Teaching: Transforming
Classroom Communication
Alina Reznitskaya, Joe Oyler, Monica Glina, Alexandra Major
Montclair State University
Ian Wilkinson
Ohio State University
 The Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of
 Grant # R305A120634
 What Should Kelly Do?
 What is the value of having this kind of discussions for the
WHY: Argument Literacy
To improve students’ ability and predisposition to comprehend,
evaluate, and formulate arguments, or argument literacy
“This, it seems to me, is a fine and noble story to offer as a reason for
schooling: to provide our youth with the knowledge and will to participate in
the great [American] experiment; to teach them how to argue, and to help
them discover what questions are worth arguing about, and, of course, to
make sure they know what happens when arguments cease” (Postman,
1995, pp. 73-74).
HOW: Dialogic Inquiry
 Dialogic Inquiry is an approach to teaching that involves students in
the collaborative construction of meaning and is characterized by
shared control over the key aspects of classroom discourse.
• Philosophy for Children (Lipman,
Sharp, & Oscanyon, 1980),
• Collaborative Reasoning
(Waggoner, et al., 1995)
• Paideia Seminar (Billings &
Fitzgerald, 2002),
• Junior Great Books Shared Inquiry
(Great Books Foundation, 1987)
HOW it works:
Theory and Research
 Theory: Social constructivism (e.g., Vygotsky, Piaget, Wells, Halliday)
 Learning occurs through “the mastery of devices of cultural behavior
and thinking”
 Students internalize the “new tools” or “resources of culture” through
 Research:
 improved reasoning (Kuhn & Udell, 2003; Mercer,Wegerif, &
 enhanced quality of argumentative writing (Applebee et al., 2003;
Reznitskaya et al., 2001),
 increased comprehension and argumentation about text (e.g.,
Murphy et al., 2009).
From Group to Individual Arguments
Response to
My position is…
because the text
However, others
might think…
Monologic-Dialogic Continuum
The teacher has exclusive
control over discussion.
S/he introduces topics,
nominates students, asks
questions, and evaluates
Students participate in the
collaborative construction of
knowledge. They share
control over the key aspects
of classroom discourse.
Dialogic inquiry is largely absent from
 Classroom interactions typically tend towards monologic (e.g., Alexander,
2005; Mehan, 1998; Nystrand, et al., 2003).
 Nystrand describes “orderly but lifeless classrooms” where teachers
continue to “avoid controversial topics” and where students routinely
“recall what someone else thought, rather than articulate, examine,
elaborate, or revise what they themselves thought.”
 Learning to implement dialogic practices presents a serious challenge for
both novice and experienced teachers (Juzwik, Sherry, Caughlan, Heintz,
& Borsheim-Black, 2012).
 WHY: Argument literacy is a fundamental academic and life skill
 HOW: The development of argument literacy is best supported
through dialogic inquiry
 BUT… Teachers rarely use dialogic inquiry in their classrooms.
SO…. WHAT should be done to help teachers learn to use dialogic
 What should teachers know and be able to do?
 How should we teach relevant knowledge and skills?
WHAT Should Teachers Know and Be Able to Do?
 Well-balanced mix of relevant beliefs, knowledge, and skills
Real change happens only when “teachers think differently about what
is going on in their classrooms, and are provided with the practices
that match the different ways of thinking (Richardson et al., 1991, p.
 Theories of knowledge, teaching,
and learning
 Knowledge and skills of
 Knowledge and skills of
facilitation: strategic moves
YEAR 1: Processes
Two sites
4 teachers at MSU
6 teachers at OSU
Bi-weekly study groups
Videotaping and coaching
3 Focus Groups
Systematic Assessment of Classroom Talk: Tools
YEAR 1 Products
 Curriculum materials
Activities, exercises
 Data
Audiotaped study-group meetings
Videotaped classroom discussions
Audiotaped coaching sessions
Teacher ratings of their discussions using observation measures
Audiotaped focus groups
 Years 2 and 3
 Reiterative revisions
 Testing the effects on students’ argument literacy
Study Group Meetings:
Teacher Comments
“I have enjoyed the readings and found they brought me some
clarity. Reading that “students are active meaning makers, who
can progress to higher levels of cognitive development through
their interaction with the environment” was the push my class
needed to start thinking and, with some encouragement, they
started thinking about their own thinking a little more.”
“Each time I come to a session, I am excited by the end to
continue to ponder what we’ve discussed. I feel we are really
getting to the meat of it now. It was particularly helpful when
we demonstrated the method of inquiry and modeled the
discussion through the group. It helped put the pieces together
for me.”
I also really enjoyed having Joe run the one session for the story
"A Trip to the Zoo" and seeing how it can really take so many
turns and how he put it all together.”
“…while the readings are informative, I really feel like that's
where you'd run the risk of losing people.”
“I think one thing I might do differently is in terms of watching
videos as a group; I'm not sure if that helped me at all.”
“When my video is up there, I wanted to kinda talk my way
through it, explain what I did. ‘Why should I do this? What
should I have done there?’ I think that then cuts the time cause
I have so many questions. When it's your video up there you
have a lot of questions about what you're doing.
Videotaping and Coaching:
Teacher Comments
 “Working one-on-one with someone
who regularly uses these strategies will
be awesome.
 I thought coaching to be the most
helpful because it was…watching the
video with purpose. It was almost like
being accountable to watch the video
even though I'd watched the other
videos, but it was just watching it
knowing I had to bring something more
than just whatever came up.
Assessment Tools:
Teacher Comments
About the Accountable Talk Tool:
 “It wasn't harmful. I did find myself thinking about other things. …I
just didn't feel the amount of time it took to kind of fill it out was
equal to how useful it was. It wasn't without use but in terms of how
much went in to filling it out, I don't know how much more sparkling
my thinking about the actual conversation was.”
About the Dialogic Inquiry Tool:
 “Trying to just track all the different, it's just too much stuff
happening in those things. It's so hard to keep track. You do one
thing but you didn't do three other things or whatever it ends up
being. So just focusing specifically on 'did you ask for evidence?' or
‘where could you have found times to ask for warrants’ or