Classroom Dialogue and Learning

Dr Victoria Cook, Dr Louis Major, Dr Sara Hennessy with Farah Ahmed, Elisa Calcagni and other colleagues from the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research Group (CEDiR) | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Dialogic Teaching - Group dialogue

Different types of educationally effective talk in groups have been identified. Dawes, Fisher and Mercer (1992) first distinguished between ‘exploratory’, ‘cumulative’ and ‘disputational’ talk. Exploratory talk, which is similar to the concept of ‘accountable talk’ developed in the United States (Wolf, Crosson & Resnick, 2006), has been judged to be the most educationally effective type of talk in groups (Littleton & Mercer, 2013). Exploratory talk may be defined as talk in which:

  • everyone engages critically but constructively with each other’s ideas;

  • everyone offers the relevant information they have;

  • everyone’s ideas are treated as worthy of consideration;

  • partners ask each other questions and answer them, ask for reasons and give them;

  • members of the group try to reach agreement at each stage before progressing;

  • to an observer of the group, reasoning is ‘visible’ in the talk (Littleton & Mercer, 2013, p.16).

This is in contrast to ‘cumulative’ talk, in which ideas are shared and accepted in an uncritical way, or ‘disputational’ talk, which is characterised by disagreement and competition rather than co-operation (Littleton & Mercer, 2013).