Improving the quality of pupils’ talk, questioning and thinking during group work

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  • Improving the quality of pupils talk, questioning and thinking during group work
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  • Key issue addressed by the study The researchers explored the effects of coaching student teachers on how to structure and model pupils higher-order group talk in English They also assessed the impact on pupils learning
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  • What changed when the teachers guided group work? The pupils: were more focused participated more equally asked a greater number of questions including high-order questions engaged in less off-task talk improved the quality of their reasoning through group talk
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  • What did the children think about the group work? Children felt they: spoke more and were more on task had improved their questioning could expose their thinking without worrying about negative consequences: you dont have to hide your thoughts
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  • The five teaching and learning approaches that engaged pupils Setting ground rules Guided learning Avoiding evaluation Allowing time Encouraging autonomy
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  • How did teachers set ground rules and guide learning? Ground rules for group work included involve everyone and ask for reasons Teachers repeated the rules to help children get in the habit of asking questions and including everyone Guiding learning, for example, meant re-reading key lines of a text to frame childrens analysis
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  • Avoiding evaluation, allowing time and encouraging autonomy Teachers did not evaluate pupils contributions so they turned to each other for responses waited for all pupils to stop talking before intervening allowed pupils to lead the discussion as they gained confidence
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  • What did effective dialogue look like? Girl 1: Why do you think its a sad poem? Boy 2: I just think its a sad poem. Its about a dog. Girl 1: But why is it sad? Why do you think its a sad poem? Girl 2: Come on Nick. Why do you think its sad? (Encouraging) Boy 2: Because its about a dog and hes hungry and he cant get any food and hes asleep on the beach.
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  • Who were the children in the study? Six Year 7 classes at five schools in Sussex The groups were mixed-sex ability groups (high, middle and low)
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  • How was the information gathered? The researchers based their findings on recordings of childrens talk notes from observations interviews teacher lesson evaluations The researchers used four indicators of higher-order thinking to compare childrens talk at the beginning and end of the 10-week period analytical thinking, eg identifying implied meanings in a text evaluation, eg using phrases such as I think synthesis, eg extrapolating from whole text to assess the extract at hand hypothetical thinking, eg using phrases such as if and may
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  • How can teachers use the evidence in this study? One of the main challenges for teachers promoting effective group talk was refraining from dominating the discussion. You may find it useful to record a group discussion in your lesson. What are the features of your interventions that encourage pupils to ask questions of each other, and what features dampen it?
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  • How can school leaders use the evidence in this study? Do you have a good understanding of the kinds of talk that take place in classes in your school? You may want to encourage teachers to video group discussions in their classes to build a detailed picture of the extent to which pupils ask questions and highlight possible next steps.
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  • Follow-up reading Study reference: Sutherland, J (2006) Promoting group talk and higher-order thinking in pupils by coaching secondary English trainee teachers in Journal of Literacy 40 (2) pp. 106-113 You might like to read a longer summary of effective teachers of literacy on the TLA website: ffective%20early%20literacy%20teaching%20in%20the %20first%20years%20of%20school.pdf ffective%20early%20literacy%20teaching%20in%20the %20first%20years%20of%20school.pdf ffective%20early%20literacy%20teaching%20in%20the %20first%20years%20of%20school.pdf