In a webinar with The Education Hub, Dr Jacinta Oldehaver (University of Auckland) discussed her research into how utilising dialogic pedagogical approaches can positively support the engagement and learning of Pacific students, particularly in relation to literacy instruction, in English-medium schools. Here are some of the key ideas discussed in the webinar:
Dialogic approaches take students beyond low-level, closed-loop question-and-answer discussions, and support them to deepen their thinking, initiate questions, and engage with multiple perspectives. Traditional classroom approaches to discussion tend to be teacher-dominated and follow an ‘Initiate-Response-Evaluation’ (IRE) model, in which a teacher asks a question, a student responds, and the teacher provides an evaluation of that response by saying something like ‘yes, that’s correct’. Dialogic approaches move teachers and students beyond this model towards discussions that include both teacher-student and student-student talk, and involve active listening in order to respond to and build on what others have said. Some of the key characteristics of a dialogic approach include student-initiated questions, deep, extended thinking, the exploration of multiple perspectives, and the use of multiple, often multi-modal texts. One objective of a dialogic approach is to shift the locus of control from teachers to students, while maintaining the teacher’s active involvement.
Dialogic approaches are built around the three Rs: rules, repertoire, and resources. Rules comprise a co-constructed set of norms and protocols that establish the students’ roles and responsibilities in a dialogic discussion. It is important that both students and teachers are involved in designing these rules, and that teachers model them. Repertoire refers to the range of talk strategies and tools, including the talanoa framework, that students can employ in discussion, such as explaining their reasoning and using evidence to support their arguments. Resources describes the range of texts that are chosen to form the basis of or provocation for the discussion. It is important that these resources are deliberately chosen to be culturally relevant, extend on students’ existing knowledge, and encourage deep thinking about a range of perspectives. It is also valuable to use multi-modal texts alongside each other, and to support students’ engagement with the texts (for example, teachers may read aloud written texts that are above the reading level of students, to enable them to engage with the concepts without being hampered by the limits of their decoding ability. Digital tools can also be used students for whom English is a second or additional language).
Dialogic approaches align well with and can be adapted according to the talanoa framework of Tongan and other Pacific cultures. Jacinta has adapted the talanoa research methodology developed by Timote Vaioileti to develop a reconceptualised model for understanding and promoting dialogic approaches (the Pacific Dialogic Indicator Tool). The model depicts classroom talk as a continuum from monologic beginnings (‘vave’) to a deeply dialogic form of classroom discussion (‘tālanga laukonga), and values the journey through the layers of the discussion as essential to developing and extending students’ thinking. You can read more about this tool here.
Talanoa and dialogic teaching benefit all students because, when they are talking, they are thinking. Ensuring that the ‘rules’ have been effectively co-constructed by the class and modelled by the teacher ensures that the discussion is manageable in large groups. It also provides a mechanism to include the quieter students who are less likely to contribute to class discussions, while moderating and valuing the contribution of those who may tend to dominate. The norms and protocols for dialogic teaching also support all students to learn to actively listen to others, in order to extend and deepen the discussion. Dialogic teaching can be used with students of all ages, and indeed it is valuable to introduce these approaches from the first year of primary school, so that students develop and hone their skills throughout their years of schooling.
Recommended further reading
Alexander, R. (2020). A Dialogic Teaching Companion. Routledge.
Kim, M.Y., & Wilkinson, I. (2019). What is dialogic teaching? Constructing, deconstructing, an reconstructing a pedagogy of classroom talk. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 21, 70-86.
Oldehaver, J.L. (2018). Developing a ‘culturally validated’ dialogic indicator tool: A reconceptualised analytical framework using talanoa to code classroom talk. Waikato Journal of Education. 23(1), 15- 41.
Vaioleti, T. M. (2016). Talanoa research methodology: A developing position on Pacific research. Waikato Journal of Education, 12(1).