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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 Education
Grant # R305A120634

What Should Kelly Do?

What is the value of having this kind of discussions for
the students?

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
Students internalize the new tools or resources of culture through
improved reasoning (Kuhn & Udell, 2003; Mercer,Wegerif, & Dawes,1999),
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 said
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 classrooms
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

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. 579).

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



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 weve 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 waswatching 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 whatever.