Classroom dialogue

Authored by: Paul Warwick , Victoria Cook

The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Dialogic Education

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138338517
eBook ISBN: 9780429441677
Adobe ISBN:


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Classroom interaction is complex. Talk, of various forms, is central to this interaction, but it is ‘slippery’ (to quote a term used by Neil Mercer). Each day, in classrooms around the world, teachers and students use talk for a range of purposes. Teachers can be directive, persuasive, inclusive or challenging, depending on the task or the learning intention; most importantly, teachers work hard to tailor their talk to accommodate the needs and characteristics of the students who are in front of them. Students themselves will use talk to be disputational, playful, collaborative or supportive, again depending on the situations in which they find themselves and the characteristics of their peers. Thus, talk in the classroom is multifaceted, and the use of talk embraces a range of purposes pertinent to the classroom situation. As Mortimer and Scott (2003) have shown, teachers can, in different phases of a lesson, move from a use of talk to engage children in the interchange of thoughts and perspectives, to a situation where a more authoritative tone is taken as the subject narrative is pursued. Talk ‘acts’ themselves can have different purposes and are bound by the contexts in which they are employed. It is within this complicated scenario – the classroom – that a theoretical and practical understanding of what constitutes classroom dialogue is situated.

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