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Investigating the Use of Dialogue in the Construction of Scientific Understanding in the Junior Primary Classroom
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posted on 14.03.2017by Ann Rebecca France
has been increased recognition of the importance of dialogue in science
learning over the past decades, linked with a greater use of dialogue as a
pedagogical tool in teaching science (Mercer & Dawes, 2014). Arguments
centre on a predictive prevalence in students developing higher level thinking
when dialogue is used effectively. However, evidence suggests that many primary
school teachers lack the knowledge and skills to promote effective dialogue
that produces higher level thinking in their students. To investigate this
problem, this case study examined the use of dialogue in the development of
scientific thinking and understanding in the junior primary classroom of an
inner city, Catholic, primary school in Melbourne, Australia. The specific
purpose of the study was to identify how four junior primary teachers’
perceived dialogue when implementing deep-level learning in their science
classrooms and to record their dialogic patterns with their students. The study
utilised a purposive sampling technique to invite teachers who had participated
in professional development on scientific literacy to take part in the study.
In-depth interviews were conducted with four teachers and three classroom
observations of up to six students were recorded in each class, resulting in 12
observations altogether. A talk analysis framework using existing literature on
effective classroom talk was developed and applied to classroom observations to
identify dialogic patterns. The data analysis identified three key findings.
The first relates to teachers’ beliefs about dialogue and the development of
scientific understanding; the second relates to dialogue as a process that
supports deep thinking, and the last relates to the central role of the teacher
as a dialogue facilitator. These findings suggest the need to increase
teachers’ professional development and awareness of the importance of dialogue
in deep-level teaching and learning in science lessons.