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.

Effective Questioning Video Series

Questioning enables teachers to explore students’ thinking while they are learning, so that we can respond to their needs in a timely way. Effective questioning makes students’ thinking visible so that we can find out what they know, and what they still need to learn.

The following link will take you to a series of great videos focusing on effective questioning.

There is a viewing guide that helps facilitate your learning about learning goals and success criteria shown in the videos and provides support for trying new practices. The viewing guide is divided into segments for each video and I highly encourage you to use the guide as it can really help you focus as you watch and help you extend your learning. However, before you watch any of the videos, it may be a good idea to use the self-reflection tool, Appendix A: My Questioning Practices to identify what you are already doing well, and an area of questioning practice that you would like to implement or improve.

Please watch the first video using the viewing guide of this series and afterwards, you can choose other videos that may help you progress with your learning goal.