Creating a supportive environment for classroom dialogue

Knight, Simon (2014). Creating a supportive environment for classroom dialogue. In: Hennessy, Sara; Warwick, Paul; Brown, Lloyd; Rawlins, Diane and Neale, Caroline eds. Developing Interactive Teaching and Learning Using the IWB. Open University Press.



This chapter first considers the role of dialogue in classroom contexts, and the importance of open-ended dialogue in contrast to more traditional, closed questioning sequences. I briefly discuss the role of dialogue in individual psychological development, focussing on its importance for conceptual development in whole classes and small groups in the context of the classroom. A common – closed – sequence of classroom talk is first outlined, and then discussed in the context of ‘dialogic talk’ – talk which is more open, builds on prior knowledge, is supportive and collaborative in nature. The use of ‘exploratory talk’ – talk which focuses on the use of reasoning to build mutual understanding – is also outlined in this context.

1. What role does dialogue play in learning?
2. What form does dialogue typically take?
3. How can we make dialogue more effective?

The second part of the chapter discusses some ways to promote effective dialogue in classroom contexts. Some suggestions for creating and identifying an effective environment for classroom talk are discussed. I highlight the importance of ‘ground rules’ for talk, and some key words teachers might look for and emphasise in encouraging the use of ‘exploratory talk’. I then discuss some ideas for ways to start effective talk in classrooms, including the use of Talking Points and effective questioning. This chapter aims to give some background on effective dialogue of relevance to subsequent chapters, which will consider particular features of the interactive whiteboard in the context of dialogue.

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