Some (relatively) new articles on dialogic pedagogy

So, what have I been working on since finishing Better than Best Practice?  I’ve been primarily occupied by two studies: an investigation of Israeli primary pedagogical practices and a collaborative design-based implementation research study on teacher professional discourse and leadership (reports about both studies, in Hebrew, are available here and here, respectively).   On the basis of the first study, we’ve written four papers related to dialogic pedagogy, three of which have been accepted for publication.  The first two focus on the concept of voice, and what it means to have a voice in the classroom.  We recommend reading them as a pair: the first develops the theoretical basis for our approach to voice and how voices are typically realized (or not) in Israeli primary classrooms; the second explores a case study of the emergence of pupil voice, and implications for dialogic pedagogy.  Both articles were published in special issues devoted to dialogic pedagogy.  This is a good opportunity to thank the guest editors — Sue Brindley, Mary Juzwik, Alison Whitehurst, who edited the special issue on International Perspectives on Dialogic Theory and Practice for L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, and Mari Haneda, who edited the special issue for Language and Education — and to recommend the other articles in these issues.

Segal, A., & Lefstein, A. (2016). Exuberant, voiceless participation: an unintended consequence of dialogic sensibilities? L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, 16 , p. 1-19.

One approach to dialogic pedagogy focuses on the interplay of voices: Whose voices are expressed and attended to in classroom discourse? And how do these voices play off of one another in creating new ideas and meanings? In particular, to what extent are students empowered to express their own voices, rather than reproducing the teacher or textbook’s authoritative discourse? We explore these questions using data from a linguistic ethnographic study of mother tongue Hebrew language lessons in two Israeli primary schools. The lessons are lively, with exuberant student participation, and on multiple occasions teachers encourage students to express their own ideas and to build on one another’s contributions. Though students frequently announce their intentions to undertake dialogic speech acts, these declarations are usually ritualistic and hollow, as students animate the teachers’ voice rather than offering independent or original perspectives. This paper discusses this phenomenon, revealing a potential conflict between the realization of student voice and other dialogic imperatives.

Segal, A., Pollak, I. &  & Lefstein, A. (in press). Democracy, Voice and Dialogic Pedagogy: The struggle to be heard and heeded. Language and Education.  (This is not yet available on-line; drop me an e-mail if you’d like to read it.)

Dialogic pedagogy is widely viewed as an excellent means of educating students for civic participation in deliberative democracy. While many intervention-based studies have researched dialogic teaching and learning, we know very little about the enactment of dialogic and related ideas “in the wild,” in regular classrooms.  This paper contributes to the naturalistic study of dialogic pedagogy through close examination of an episode of sustained student engagement with and argumentation about a controversial social issue in an Israeli primary school classroom.  In particular, we focus on the emergence and interaction of voices, defined as (a) opportunity to speak, (b) expressing one’s own ideas, (c) on one’s own terms and (d) being heeded by others.  While the norm in Israeli classrooms is exuberant, voiceless participation, in the rare classroom episode examined here we find students – and their teacher – engaged in heated, multivocal deliberation. We follow the struggles of marginalized students to be heard and heeded, exploring the conditions which ultimately allow for the actualization of student voice, and the accompanying pedagogical challenges and dilemmas.

The following paper draws on data from the Towards Dialogue study, the study of Israeli pedagogy, and a study my colleague Hadar Netz conducted in gifted classrooms in the United States. 

Netz, H. & Lefstein, A. (2016). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Disagreements in Classroom Discourse: Comparative Case Studies from England, USA, and Israel.  Intercultural Pragmatics, 13 (2): 211–255.

How do cultural and institutional factors interact in shaping preference structures? This paper presents a cross-cultural analysis of disagreements in three different classroom settings: (1) a year 6 (ages 11–12) mainstream class in England, (2) a fifth-grade class of gifted students in the United States, and (3) a fourth-grade mainstream class in Israel. The aim of the study is to investigate how disagreements are enacted in these settings, exploring the influence of cultural communicative norms on the one hand and pedagogical goals and norms on the other. The study highlights culture-specific discursive patterns that emerge as the teacher and students manage a delicate balance between often clashing cultural and educational motives.

Finally, I’m pleased to say that we’ve finally finished (and published) a paper that develops the critical topic of the actual and possible relationship between dialogic pedagogy and high stakes testing.  We raise the issue in Better than Best Practice, but didn’t really have a chance to really develop it, until now:

Segal, A., Lefstein, A. and Snell, J. (in press) Dialogic Teaching to the High Stakes Standardized Test? Research Papers in Education.  (This is not yet available on-line; drop me an e-mail if you’d like to read it.)

Within current educational discourse, dialogic pedagogy is diametrically opposed to teaching to the test, especially the high stakes standardized test.  While dialogic pedagogy is about critical thinking, authenticity and freedom, test preparation evokes all that is narrow, instrumental and cynical in education. In this paper we argue that such positioning of dialogic pedagogy as antithetical to testing is detrimental to attempts both to foster dialogue in classrooms and to constructively manage the high stakes standardized tests that are compulsory in so many schools. Drawing on an extended case study of dialogic teaching in one London primary school, we argue that while standardized testing is indeed an impediment to dialogic pedagogy, it does not follow that dialogue is impossible or undesirable within the testing context. By adopting an ironic stance towards the test, teachers can fulfill test preparation mandates while maintaining dialogic ideals and practices.

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