Engaging Students in Classroom Dialogue

“If an educational goal is to equip students for thinking in adult life, then discourse in school ought progressively to approximate the discourse adults engage in when they are seriously trying to understand something, to reach a decision, to solve a problem, or to produce a design.” Bereiter, 2002, p. 361

I read through a great article about engaging students in a dialogic stance in the classroom where the purpose of conversation is to help students improve their understanding of an idea, topic, or problem and push their thinking forward. However, although students frequently engage in social language exchanges, they do not necessarily have the natural ability to think aloud and share their ideas with others. Therefore, students need to be taught the protocols and guidelines of meaningful dialogue through modelling, teacher facilitation, and opportunities to practice.

Here are some tips for students provided in the article for engaging in dialogue …

  • Listen with an open mind.
  • Consider partners/group members as sources of information.
  • Ask questions.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Be willing to reconsider your point of view after hearing others speak.
  • Focus on the topic.
  • Offer new ideas and possibilities.
  • Build on what others are saying and offer support.
  • Don’t make it personal when you disagree or challenge a comment.
  • Be willing to clarify and explain your point of view.

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