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Volume 49, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0034-527X
  • E-ISSN: 1943-2348


While there is consensus that dialogic teaching should involve a repertoire of teaching and learning talk patterns and approaches, authorities who enjoin teachers to engage in dialogic teaching generally characterize classroom dialogue in terms of surface features such as open questions. But dialogic teaching is not defined by discourse structure so much as by discourse function. When teachers adopt a dialogic instructional stance, they treat dialogue as a functional construct rather than structural, and classroom oracy can thrive. Our research finds that dialogic talk functions to model and support cognitive activity and inquiry and supportive classroom relations, to engage multiple voices and perspectives across time, and to animate student ideas and contributions. Employing narrative analysis and cross-episodic contingency analysis, we tell a story in three episodes about how oracy practices promote dialogic functions in a third-grade classroom. We unpack how a particular teaching exchange—one we have selected specifically for its nondialogic surface appearance—reflects dialogic teaching. Findings show how supportive epistemic and communal functions of classroom talk are more important to successful dialogic teaching and learning than are surface dialogic features. We argue it is necessary to look beyond interactional form and unpack function, uptake, and purpose in classroom discourse. There is no single set of teaching behaviors that is associated with dialogism. Rather, teachers can achieve dialogic discourse in their classrooms through attention to underlying instructional stance.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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