Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Dialogic Teaching and Dialogic Stance: Moving beyond Interactional Form

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Dialogic Teaching and Dialogic Stance: Moving beyond Interactional Form

Article excerpt

The whole is not graspable but it is in some way relatable.

-(Wegerif, in Matusov & Wegerif, 2014, p. E9)

Through classroom interactions that invite, model, direct, and develop cognitive activity and classroom community relations that support safe personal and joint exploration, dialogic teaching and learning have been presented as the antidote to the prevailing recitative discourse that plagues so many classrooms (Alexander, 2008; Burbules, 1993; Wells, 2006). But while there is consensus that dialogic teaching should involve a repertoire of teaching and learning talk patterns and approaches, authorities who enjoin teachers to engage in dialogic teaching generally characterize classroom dialogue in terms of surface features such as open questions. But dialogic teaching is not defined by discourse structure so much as by discourse function. Our research finds that dialogic talk functions to model and support cognitive activity and inquiry and supportive classroom relations, to engage multiple voices and perspectives across time, and to animate student ideas and contributions. We examine and contextualize a particular teaching exchange-one selected for its nondialogic surface features-and show how it can represent dialogic teaching. A teacher adopting a dialogic stance is concerned about setting up and furthering learning talk-exploratory and engaged learning contributions that are central, valued, listened to, and taken up in the learning community. When teachers adopt a dialogic instructional stance, they treat dialogue as a functional construct rather than structural, and classroom oracy practices can thrive.

Instructional stance is evident in (a) patterns of talk-turn-taking norms, types of question-and-response, time students have to talk (Chinn, Anderson, & Waggoner, 2001; Nystrand, Gamoran, Kachur, & Prendergast, 1997; Wells, 1993); (b) agenda setting in talk-who gets to select and control the topic and who has interpretive authority (Aukerman, 2013; Boyd & Galda, 2011); and (c) contingent practices and inter-animation of ideas-how and the degree to which the intentions and ideas of the speaker are taken up in the stream of the discourse (Boyd, 2012; Boyd & Rubin, 2006; Nystrand et al., 1997; Scott, Mortimer, & Aguira, 2006). Taken together, these oracy markers provide an observable manifestation of the degree of dialogism of instructional stance. A dialogic instructional stance (Boyd & Markarian, 2011; Juzwik, Borsheim-Black, Caughlan, & Heintz, 2014; Wells & Arauz, 2006) is a function of how patterns of talk may open up discourse space for exploration and varied opinions, and how teacher and student decision-making about content is presented and discussed. Such decision-making is connected to epistemology-how teachers and students view teaching and learning in terms of "what is known" (knowledge) and the process of "knowing" (and whose knowing is recognized), whether knowledge is viewed as something to be deposited and consumed or as contextual anchoring for thinking and learning, and what a teacher sees as his or her goals (preparation for testing, cultivation of reasoning). A teacher adopting a dialogic stance listens, leads and follows, responds and directs as he or she employs a repertoire of talk patterns across varied instructional approaches (Alexander, 2010; Burbules, 1993) to guide students to think in elaborated and analytic ways.

To discern a dialogic instructional stance such as this requires more than a focus on isolated snapshots of outward appearance. It requires a consideration of the interconnected interactional, cognitive, and relational dimensions of classroom talk (Lefstein, 2010), their simultaneous epistemic and communal functions (Rubin, 1990), and how they support teaching and learning across time and in the classroom environment as a whole (Alexander, 2008). We challenge the notion of surface dialogic features being necessary or sufficient to be equated with or exempted from dialogic teaching. …

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