Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue
reviewed by Jody Piro - October 26, 2016
Title: Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue
Author(s): Lauren Resnick, Christa Asterhan & Sherice Clarke (Eds.)
Publisher: American Educational Research Association, Washington
ISBN: 0935302409, Pages: 480, Year: 2015
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According to the editors of the book, Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue, [t]alk is a privileged form of learning (p. 3). For the authors, academic talk produces enduring learning in environments and inspires every student to participate. The editors, Lauren Resnick, Christa Asterhan, and Sherice Clarke and their contributors articulate vibrant visions of classrooms where academic talk, whether termed dialogue, deliberation, or argumentation, undergirds a broader social mission aimed at including all students in learning opportunities. With teacher guidance and peer engagement, the authors demonstrate that students ideas, questions, and flourishing perspectives are taken up in class talk. Through varied forms of dialogic pedagogy, students encounter, deviate, and bridge divergent views through counterclaims and alternative interpretations. Most significantly, academic talk has the capacity to foster both intellectual development and educational achievement.
Socializing Intelligence emerged from collaboration among contributors at an American Educational Research Association conference in 2011. Scholars working from different theoretical and methodological viewpoints compiled varied research and perspectives on academic talk and this volume is the outcome. Starting with an introduction and prologue and ending with an epilogue, the five sections of the book provide an expansive overview of conceptual essays and research concentrated on academic talk and dialogue in learning spaces.
Section 1 is titled Effects of Dialogic Participation in and Beyond the Classroom. In it, topics related to traditional subject matter knowledge connect with dialogic teaching to demonstrate an impact on student achievement.
Section 2 is Dialogic Classroom Cultures. For this collection of chapters, the authors engage with what cognitive gain through dialogic learning actually looks like in the classroom by focusing on the teacher and authority, ways of knowing, and student voice.
Dialogue in the Digital Age is the third section. These chapters examine the ways that academic talk influences and is influenced by technology.
Section 4 is titled Theoretical and Methodological Accounts of Learning and Development Through Dialogue. Two questions are addressed here: what are the social and cognitive processes through which structured academic dialogue builds intellective competence, and how can we explain these effects?
Section 5 is Scaling Dialogic Practice Through Teacher Development. This final section addresses the scaling of dialogic teaching by examining the complexity of supporting teachers to pay attention to student ideas forwarded in discussion.
In the prologue, Hugh Mehan and Courtney Cazden state,
[w]e do not know from the information in the teacher-student exchanges alone what the students have learned toward particular curricular objectives. We also do not know if there is any correlation between the extent of individual students verbal participation and their learning. (p. 30)
Their challenge elicits the theses of the remaining authors chapters and is summarized by Robin Alexander as the following: dialogic pedagogy is academically productive in that it results in cognitive and communicative gains transfer from one curriculum domain to another and offers larger benefits for social cohesion, cultural engagement, and democratic vitality (p. 429).
In an era of standards and accountability requiring evidence of student learning, the chapters in this volume demonstrate that the confirmed benefits of academic talk are compelling. Academic dialogue successfully navigates students and teachers linguistic, cultural, and class differences, and this volume elucidates empirical evidence that structured classroom discussions produce enduring learning. For example, Adey and Shayer (Chapter Ten) report on a study showing that students who discussed science problems with teachers outperformed similar peers who did not have the discussion intervention in both mathematics and English. Koedinger and Wiese (Chapter Twenty-Two), in considering Adey and Shayers transfer between science and English, suggest that reasoning skills behave as units of knowledge that converge to form understandings between subjects. Wilkinson, Murphy, and Binici (Chapter Three) report earlier research that Scottish elementary children who discussed philosophical problems outperformed controls groups on nonverbal and quantitative reasoning abilities. Therefore, learning transfer between subjects and abilities resulting in growing intellectual competence among learners may be the ultimate consequence of academic talk in dialogic classrooms.
In Chapter Thirty-Four, Resnick and Schantz address why certain forms of educational practice within discussion-based instruction enhance learner outcomes by considering three possible explanations. First, they suggest that students may learn specific skills that become accessible in other contexts, such as when students use meta-processes like discussing the discussion. They indicate that meta talk may be a skill that improves with increased use.
Second, Resnick and Schantz discuss the I Can Learn explanation, which implies that students who inherently believe that they can learn are more likely to do so. Consequently, when the classroom culture fosters student dialogue and risk taking, an atmosphere supporting a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006) becomes dominant in classroom culture. Student talk encourages this growth mindset ethos.
Finally, the culture of argumentation may explain why discussion-based learning leads to enhanced learner outcomes. In classrooms that encourage a culture of argumentation, students challenge each other, demand evidence, are open-minded, and may change their viewpoints or become more flexible about perspectives as they learn more and are surrounded by varying and divergent standpoints.
This volume ends with a call to replicate the types of interventions depicted in the book. Further, the authors message to readers is not to replace all didactic instruction with dialogic instruction, but rather to include several instances each week of well-planned discussion at regular intervals. As a whole, this volume is a call to action for teachers. The authors remind practitioners that active involvement in discussion is a fundamental element of learning. Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue will stimulate thoughtful reflection and is a comprehensive supplement to the knowledge base on academic talk in dialogic learning spaces.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.