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New study shows benefits of teaching pupils to hold class discussions

14/08/2017 Joanna

School pupils' educational experiences could be improved by teaching them how to take part in engaging classroom discussions.

This is according to a new study from the University of Auckland, which worked to analyse the benefits of a new teaching approach known as Quality Talk, designed to help students get more involved in robust discussions in the classroom.

Through this method, teachers provide students with direct instruction on how to talk to each other and help to regulate the text and topic under discussion, while still giving students the majority of control over interpretative authority and turn-taking.

For this study, as reported by TES, seven English and geography teachers were trained in the Quality Talk approach, which was then applied to eight classes with a total of 203 pupils.

It was shown that teachers did not increase their own use of questions as a result of this approach, but students gradually acquired an ability to ask each other better-quality questions during discussions in class over the course of the study.

One teacher who was quoted in the paper said initial apprehension and affected disinterest quickly gave way to an enthusiasm for meaningful discussion, suggesting that many students have a craving to take part in conversations of this kind, but may lack the skills to do so.

The researchers said: "Although the total number of teacher questions guiding the small-group discussions decreased, the number of student-to-student high-quality questions increased, thus indicating a transfer of learning control to the students - one of the goals of the Quality Talk approach."

This comes after recent research from the Education Endowment Foundation offered evidence that encouraging pupils to argue and debate during lessons can improve their grade performance in English, maths and science.

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