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close this bookTeaching (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 34 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentOfficers of the International Academy of Education
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. A supportive classroom climate
View the document2. Opportunity to learn
View the document3. Curricular alignment
View the document4. Establishing learning orientations
View the document5. Coherent content
View the document6. Thoughtful discourse
View the document7. Practice and application activities
View the document8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement
View the document9. Strategy teaching
View the document10. Co-operative learning
View the document11. Goal-oriented assessment
View the document12. Achievement expectations
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences
View the documentThe International Academy of Education

6. Thoughtful discourse

Questions are planned to engage students in sustained discourse structured around powerful ideas.

Research findings

Besides presenting information and modelling application of skills, effective teachers structure a great deal of content-based discourse. They use questions to stimulate students to process and reflect on content, recognize relationships among and implications of its key ideas, think critically about it, and use it in problem solving, decision making or other higher-order applications. The discourse is not limited to rapidly paced recitation that elicits short answers to miscellaneous questions. Instead, it features sustained and thoughtful development of key ideas. Through participation in such discourse, students construct and communicate content-related understandings. In the process, they abandon naive ideas or misconceptions and adopt the more sophisticated and valid ideas embedded in the instructional goals.

In the classroom

In the early stages of units when new content is introduced and developed, more time is spent in interactive lessons featuring teacher/student discourse than in independent work on assignments. The teacher plans sequences of questions designed to develop the content systematically and help students to construct understandings of it by relating it to their prior knowledge and collaborating in dialogue about it.

The forms and cognitive levels of these questions need to be suited to the instructional goals. Some primarily closed-end and factual questions might be appropriate when teachers are assessing prior knowledge or reviewing new learning, but accomplishing the most significant instructional goals requires open-ended questions that call for students to apply, analyse, synthesize or evaluate what they are learning. Some questions will admit of a range of possible correct answers, and some will invite discussion or debate (e.g. concerning the relative merits of alternative suggestions for solving problems).

Because questions are intended to engage students in cognitive processing and construction of knowledge, they should ordinarily be addressed to the class as a whole. This encourages all students, not just the one eventually called on, to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully to each question. After posing a question, the teacher needs to pause to allow students enough time to process it and at least begin to formulate responses, especially if the question is complicated or requires students to engage in higher-order thinking.

Thoughtful discourse features sustained examination of a small number of related topics, in which students are invited to develop explanations, make predictions, debate alternative approaches to problems, or otherwise consider the content’s implications or applications. The teacher presses students to clarify or justify their assertions, rather than accepting them indiscriminately. In addition to providing feedback, the teacher encourages students to explain or elaborate on their answers or to comment on classmates’ answers. Frequently, discourse that begins in a question-and-answer format evolves into an exchange of views in which students respond to one another as well as to the teacher and respond to statements as well as to questions.

References: Good & Brophy (2000); Newmann (1990); Rowe (1986).