DIALOGUE FOR LEARNING: REFOCUSING TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS ON CLASSROOM INTERACTION
Classroom talk and developing dialogue in classrooms, as a quality and essential pedagogical practice, remain ‘taken-for-granted’ and an under examined dimension of pre-service teacher education courses. Despite the understanding that quality interaction and dialogue is integral for achieving efficacy and inclusivity for students in classrooms, it is rarely the subject of overt, continuing and in-depth instruction in teaching courses. In fact, it seems that explicit instruction, along with opportunities to ‘practise’ engaging in quality dialogue with students in classrooms, receives little dedicated space across the subjects of pre-service education courses, leading to a tendency for pre-service teachers to enact a default practice in placement classrooms based on replicating known patterns of interaction of those observed and those experienced in their own education (Love, 2009). This paper argues for designed-in opportunities for ‘classroom talk’ to be theorised and practiced in authentic ‘practice-sites’.
The paper reports preliminary findings from an empirical investigation of pre-service teacher’s development of skills in classroom interaction at four levels of practice: between teachers and students in classrooms, between classroom students as peers, between pre-service teachers, and between pre-service teachers and classroom teacher mentors. Specifically, the paper presents findings from a faculty-wide initiative involving first year Bachelor of Education students from one rural/regional university in NSW, Australia. The research investigated the impact that a focus on the role of dialogue for learning - both in university subjects and practising in classroom sites - has on 124 first year education pre-service teachers’ interaction practices with students in their professional experience placements.
The research used and explored new developments in practice theory, aiming to achieve innovative rich characterisations of individual and extra-individual aspects of teaching practice, that is, the cultural-discursive, social-political, material-economic dimensions (described as ‘practice architectures’ by Kemmis and Grootenboer, 2008). Results demonstrate a notable impact that focused instruction about classroom interaction and dialogic pedagogy has on:
-the efficacy of dialogue pre-service teachers engage in with students in classrooms in their professional experience.
- their ability to recognise, critique and make overt changes in their own interactions.
-how pre-service teachers describe the meta-level of teaching as they orient strongly to the socio-cultural dimension of teaching and learning in contemporary school contexts. Particularly, pre-service students recognised the ’fundamental’ role of classroom interaction as a ‘vehicle for thinking and learning and engaging in the social world’.
-understanding the theory-practice nexus – advancing the nature and content of student’s written assignment as students demonstrated changed insights into the role of the teacher and classroom interaction by making explicit connections between the theoretical content material in discipline subjects and their practical experiences in classrooms.
The evidence presented has important implications for the design and focus in teacher education courses.