dialogic talking aloud



An initial response to ‘Talking, learning and formative assessment’ – a CPD session presented on 3rd Dec 2010 by Dr Phil Scott of Leeds University.



Dr Phil Scott appealed to us to reconsider our use of talk in the classroom to move away from the teacher and towards the students by using talk ‘as a basis for thought’.


The initiation-response- evaluation model is the most commonly used sequence of exchange as teachers chase the answers they require. Dr Phil Scott argues that we should consider moving towards a ‘dialogic’ or ‘communicative approach’ to increases motivation, understanding and learning.


He offered the following model which he using during lesson observations with student undergoing Initial Teacher Training:





Authoritative view

(Accepted learning)

e.g. Q+A , Presentation, Initiation-Response-Evaluation

e.g. Presentation ‘Lecture’

(Open to different points of view)

Dialogic view

e.g. Discussing



Review: reflect, think aloud?, discuss, inner-voice, summarising


ie ‘interactive’ indicates talk between teacher and student

    ‘non-interactive’ implies speech is significantly between students (although it might be mediated by the teacher).


Perhaps what needed expansion were the authoritative (closed) dialogic (open) categories. In many ways, I could think of these as a continuum, and I’d wonder if the selection they might be thought of as reflecting the degree of ‘certainty’ in the answer sought? There are bodies of knowledge that are closed, accepted, factual which can be efficiently searched out using IRE techniques for purposes of both formative and summative assessment. However, when moving onto opinionated, tentative, interpretational or analytical learning, then a ‘dialogic view’ might be more effective in promoting deep learning. It would be interesting also to think about this dimension in terms of Bloom’s taxonomy too: are the higher order skills more likely to be gained by the dialogic approach?


My view is that we should perhaps move towards this communicative, non-interactive form when it is the most effective way to promote learning, but the example used in the presentation (a discussion on ordering a series of numbers of one and two decimal places) seemed to me to be one in which there was a low level of uncertainty: there is a ‘correct’ answer. Surely this is a case when, having seen students making errors (and there is no ‘nearly right’ here, by the way) the teacher has a formative  or ‘assessment for learning’ opportunity which says the students don’t understand. Here is a case when the most efficient method would be to explain place value again.


The assertion that the dialogic discussion contained in the transcript was ‘deeper learning’ is not entirely convincing either. The claim that it was motivating and powerful might be questioned because it is only an impression and also because it does not take note of the learning of those not speaking. Have other students followed the tentative progress towards the correct answer, or have they simply turned off? Talk in the classroom is difficult to evaluate because study will tend to focus on the participants rather than the ‘observers’.



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