Interactive Teaching in the Primary School: Digging Deeper into Meanings

Interactive Teaching in the Primary School: Digging Deeper into Meanings

Interactive Teaching in the Primary School: Digging Deeper into Meanings

Interactive Teaching in the Primary School: Digging Deeper into Meanings


• What is 'interactive teaching' in primary classrooms?

• What do primary teachers and children do to interact effectively?

• Are there benefits in such interactions to both teaching and learning?

A research partnership of tutors and teachers strives towards answers to these key questions. This book is the story of this intriguing and exciting research project.

The authors examine the practical and theoretical aspects that are key to understanding and undertaking interactive teaching in primary classrooms. The project is unique in using its own interactive processes, 'Reflective Dialogues', to help teachers make sense of their own teaching. This process includes capturing and analysing classroom sessions on video; and cameos of these classroom interactions are discussed throughout the book. The research context is the Literacy Hour in Key Stages 1 and 2.

This new title is key reading for academics, researchers, teacher educators, policymakers and primary school teachers.


Over the last decade, primary teachers in England have come under intense pressure to change the way they teach. At first it was argued that they should engage in more 'direct teaching'. However, in recent years the language has changed and the term 'interative whole-class teaching' is now commonly used by those responsible for reconstructing the primary curriculum, most notably in the case of the English National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. Among those charged with providing advice to teachers about how to operate this pedagogic strategy, however, there appears to be some uncertainty about what exactly the term itself means. For some classroom researchers, a teacher's interactions with the whole class could involve an exchange with a single pupil, provided the rest of children are expected to listen and learn from the experience and the teacher makes his or her expectations clear to the class. For David Reynolds, who chaired the Numeracy Working Party, interactive whole-class teaching was seen mainly to involve question-andanswer sessions, but whether such questions were relatively brief — designed to find out what pupils knew — more opened-ended and probing or a mixture of both remained unclear. Others, notably Tony Edwards and Neil Mercer (see Edwards and Mercer 1987), who have studied teachers' classroom discourse in great detail, wish to exclude what they term 'cued elicitations' — that is, when teachers are attempting to help pupils to learn how to think through the medium of conversation. More recently, Robin Alexander (2000) has stressed the importance of scaffolding these conversations so that, in Jerome Bruner's words, 'the degrees of freedom in carrying out the task are reduced and the pupil can concentrate on the difficult skill which he or she is in the process of acquiring' (Bruner 1996: 42). Alexander notes that in Russian classrooms, for example, an important strategy is to have an extended conversation between the teacher and a pupil during which other children are expected to listen and learn. In China, according to Martin Cortazzi (Cortazzi and Jin 1996), extended class dialogue often takes place between two pupils and one child corrects the other's errors. At present, how such strategies can easily be translated across their respective cultural barriers is, however, uncertain.

It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that these different interpretations are reflected in the explanations that teachers themselves offer if asked to . . .

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