Often attributed to the philosopher and teacher Socrates, classroom dialogue, whether teacher to student or student to student, has been considered essential pedagogy for centuries. Even as we move boldly into the 21st century and focus on communication as an essential skill, we continue to acknowledge the importance of dialogue in the classroom. Does it really make a difference in student learning?
University of Cambridge researchers Christine Howe, Sara Hennessy, Neil Mercer, Maria Vrikki, and Lisa Wheatley conducted a study to find out the answer. To determine an answer, the team filmed 72 classrooms of 10 to 11 year-old students in a variety of urban and rural settings. The total number of students observed was 1700. Classroom dialogue was analyzed and standardized achievement data from the 1700 students was analyzed. The major findings indicated three aspects of dialogue that strongly predicted performance on the standardized tests administered:
- Elaboration – Students who were encouraged to elaborate and build upon prior knowledge or others’ ideas fared better on the standardized exams.
- Questioning – Students who were encouraged to question and reason fared better on the standardized exams.
- Student participation – Classrooms where student participation was high produced students who fared better on the standardized exams.
To learn more about the study, visit http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/classroomdialouge/. As you prepare for your classroom next week, find ways to encourage elaboration, encourage questioning, and encourage student participation. You and your students will benefit greatly!