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Edith Cowan University


Theses: Doctorates and Masters

Educational Methods

Classroom discourse; inquiry-based; primary science; education; communications in education

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Improving Classroom Discourse In Inquiry-Based Primary Science Education, Prudence Smith Jan 2013

Improving Classroom Discourse In Inquiry-Based Primary Science Education, Prudence Smith

Theses: Doctorates and Masters

Teachers‟ capacity to use classroom discourse to deepen student learning through sustained conversation is considered crucial to increasing students‟ intellectual development. Learners actively construct knowledge and develop understandings from their shared experiences and via interaction with others (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer & Scott, 1994). However, talk that fosters students‟ capacity to reason is lacking in many classrooms (Alexander, 2006) and, what is more, teachers tend to control the discourse by asking a predominance of closed questions and using a question-answer recitation script which limits the exploration of students‟ ideas (Nystrand, Gamoran, Kachy, & Prendergast, 1997). The purpose of this study was to investigate how teachers‟ beliefs and knowledge about managing classroom discourse and their teaching practice was influenced by their participation in an action-research based professional learning intervention. The guiding framework for the teachers‟ professional learning drew on Mortimer and Scott‟s communicative approaches, which were matched to the phases of scientific inquiry. This study was a part of a larger research project entitled: Enhancing Classroom Discourse in Primary Science Education which utilised mixed methods and interpretive approaches, combining pre- and post-intervention observations and data collections involving a cohort of 12 teachers as well as a set of embedded case studies involving more extensive collection of data with five of the participants. These case studies provided the focus for this study. Analysis of classroom video as well as teacher questionnaire and interview data gathered before, during and after the professional learning intervention provided insights into the impact of the intervention on teachers‟ understandings about: quality talk; the classroom culture needed to support whole-class talk; and, the skills of using puppets to engage students in discourse. A more detailed analysis and coding of the transcripts of whole-class discussions revealed changes to the way the teachers used questioning, discourse moves and communicative approaches to orchestrate sustained

conversations and the resultant impact this had on level of students ...