by Daniel Yong
Imagine a classroom where students did not feel afraid to speak exactly what they were thinking. A space for them to interrogate both the texts they are reading and the interpretations of these texts by their peers. Where debate is common practice, welcomed, and highly encouraged by the teachers in the school. That is what one could expect by incorporating dialogic pedagogies into the classroom. For the purpose of this article, I believe an introduction of who I am needs to be outlined. In my short five year career as a teacher, I have been invited by school leaders and academics from Charles Sturt University, the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA) and Western Sydney University, to participate in action research projects and presentations, focusing on student voice and talk in the primary classroom, and the clear links to improved literacy outcomes. To be honest, when I was asked to be involved in the project, this practice of teaching was foreign to me. People actually researched about classroom talk? Surely every educator does this? But as I got deep into the studies, it became clear that classroom talk needed to be executed in a systematically structured way, in order for the creativity and processes for critical reading to become successful. The fruits of this process? Improved student outcomes in literacy.
What exactly is dialogic pedagogies?
Before skipping ahead and exploring the processes, we need to truly understand what these two words mean. Dialogic simply refers to communication. Communication as we know, refers to a social process involving one speaker and one listener. Here’s a question for you, how many times do you forget to listen when a conversation reaches a climatic point? The term pedagogies on the other hand, is one of those buzz words thrown around in the education sector. But sometimes I do question, do we actually know what it means? The reason for this is because the term is very broad. However, my interpretation of this word is that it refers to the processes that we do as educators to enable students to learn. If we marry the two words together, dialogic pedagogies, we understand it to mean how we enable our students to learn through the process of conversation.
Requirements and protocols
To set the foundations for a dialogic classroom, we need to first build a strong rapport with our students. If they do not feel safe and comfortable around their teacher, they will not open up. In addition, the teacher must create a classroom environment that allows for views to be challenged. It should also be noted that the teacher must keep their own views and ideas to themselves to allow students to discover meaning and reach that eureka moment. In addition, teachers need to facilitate the conversation and mediate points where the conversation is either at a boiling point, or going off tangent. What about the students that shy away during whole class discussions? Support them to ensure that they are listening and have built up enough understanding of the text to report back to smaller groups. Know your students and how they learn. Sound familiar?
Can it be applied into other learning areas?
Most likely you already incorporate it without realising that you do! For example, when implementing number talks during mathematics, what exactly are students doing when they are critiquing or explaining a strategy to solve a problem? Think about. See! Right there, is quality classroom talk enabling students to get a full grasp of the learning at hand.
Daniel Yong (@mrdanielyong) is a classroom teacher at Parramatta Public School.