Episode 6. ‘What does fear mean?’

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This episode is about one classroom’s response to a predicament facing teachers who seek to enact dialogic teaching and learning in their classrooms. On the one hand, dialogic pedagogy rests on the assumption that children learn best through participation in rich and challenging classroom discourse, and therefore requires that all pupils be encouraged to participate in such activity. On the other hand, English primary education is dominated by the idea that pupils have inherent, stable, context-independent abilities – e.g. ‘bright’ and ‘intelligent’ versus ‘low ability’ and ‘inarticulate’ – and only the former are considered capable of participating productively in dialogue. In the episode we explore how teacher and pupils manage this conflict in practice, and consider the implications this has for levels and patterns of pupil participation and for pupils’ evolving identities. In doing so we raise issues about the relationship between discourses about pupils and instructional practices; the importance of identity to learning; and the impact of high-stakes testing on classroom dynamics.

Following our analysis of the episode we include guest commentaries by Pie Corbett, educator and author, whose poem, The Owl, is the focus of class discussion in the episode; Melanie Cooke, researcher and lecturer in the Centre for Language and Communication, King’s College London; Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur, Associate Professor in Human Development Learning and Culture at the University of British Columbia; Louai Rahal, a PhD student in the Human Development, Learning and Culture programme at the University of British Columbia; and Glenda Moss, Chair of the Division of Teacher Education and Administration at the University of North Texas at Dallas.

Here’s the full transcript for this episode.