chapter  7
25 Pages

Guided construction of knowledge in the classroom: The troika of talk, tasks and tools

ByRICHARD SOHMER , SARAH MICHAELS , M . C . O ’ CONNOR

Over the past two decades, a great deal of research has demonstrated the role of certain kinds of structured talk for learning with understanding. A synthesis of this work can be found in Cazden (2001) and in a recent handbook chapter on classroom discourse (Michaels, Sohmer & O’Connor 2004). We can point to a number of ‘success stories’ in the literature on instructional change and school reform, where elements of academically productive talk are

demonstrated (cf., among others, Ball & Bass 2000; Beck, McKeown, Worthy, Sandora & Kucan 1996; Chapin, O’Connor & Anderson 2003; Chapin & O’Connor 2004; Goldenberg 1992/3; Lampert & Ball 1998; Lee 2007; Minstrell 1989; Rosebery, Warren, Ballenger & Ogonowski 2005). The common thread in these cases is the use of discourse-intensive pedagogical practices combining rigorous tasks with carefully orchestrated, teacher-led discussion. Through talk, students are encouraged to draw on their Lifeworld experience and home-based genres of argument and explication, while being scaffolded into using effective (canonical) representational and discursive tools. These practices have been shown to result in robust academic achievements for students from a range of economic and linguistic backgrounds. Over the past several years, key features of academically productive talk (by both teachers and students) have been cataloged, characterized and subsumed by the term ‘Accountable Talk’ (Michaels, O’Connor, Hall & Resnick 2002). ‘Accountable Talk’ is one of nine ‘Principles of Learning’ developed by the Institute for Learning (IFL – see www.instituteforlearning.org).