This article is about academically productive talk and how to achieve it in a classroom setting. Although the focus in on improving discussion and thinking around science concepts, it can apply to any subject.
I read this article because it completely compliments and supports the Paideia method that we have been using with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group this year.
(From the article)
Four necessary and foundational goals that underpin academically productive discussions:
- Help individual students share, expand and clarify their own thoughts.
- Help students listen carefully to one another.
- Help students deepen their reasoning.
- Help students engage with others reasoning.
Too often in a classroom, discussion about a subject is only at a surface level and deep thinking about concepts and ideas by students is never reached. The teacher usually asks a question with a single right answer and calls on a student to respond. The teacher indicates whether the answer is correct and then moves onto another question. This approach does not encourage students to take risks or develop critical thinking skills.
Academically productive talk is about students being fully engaged in a discussion, sharing ideas, listening to others, and taking risks. It is also about conversation being focused and coherent, based around a given idea or issue.
Well established ground rules are needed for talk. I feel that this was accomplished during term 1 when the Year 5 & 6 Extension students were constantly reminded about what a Paideia style discussion looked and sounded like. They were given plenty of opportunities to practice thinking and talking about an issue or topic.
The end of term Paideia seminar consolidated their learning and understanding of the Paideia method and about the issue of pollution. The students reflected on the seminar and talked about the areas that needed improvement. Some of the reflections mentioned that a couple of students had dominated the conversations and that they needed to be more inclusive of others by taking turns and encouraging others to participate more.
More importantly the students realised that they needed to build on other students arguments and points of view. They tended to have lots of individual disconnected ideas which is talked about in the article. We looked at ways in which they could connect their combined ideas by listening thoughtfully, building/piggy-backing on ideas, clarifying etc.
By the middle of Term 2 (just recently) the students were able to show that they could build on arguments and use effective language in their discussions e.g. ‘ Can you clarify...’, ‘I agree with ___ because…’, I’d like to piggyback on ____ idea because…’ and so on.
The answers were more focused, specific and varied. Students were thinking more with little prompting to inspire conversations. The topic that was put to the students was about ‘fake news’. Some students were interested in using their background knowledge of the recent terrorist bombings to talk about the idea of ‘fake news’. The students talked about the evidence that was needed. They understood that providing proof was important and they could give examples of what to look out for. They could identify some of the key indicators of ‘real news’ items e.g. footage, photos, interviews with witnesses, reliable sources etc.
The biggest difference from last term was that more students were confident enough to share their ideas. Last term there were at least 3-4 students who could speak confidently and most of the group tended to keep quiet. Now there are 3-4 students who still need to build their confidence while the rest of the group are confident to share their ideas freely.