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A case study of epistemic order in mathematics classroom dialogue

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Ruthven, Kenneth Borthwick 
Hofmann, Riikka Johanna 


This paper defines epistemic order as the way in which the exchange and development of knowledge takes place in the classroom, breaking this down into a system of three components: epistemic initiative relating to who sets the agenda in classroom dialogue, and how; epistemic appraisal relating to who judges contributions to classroom dialogue, and how; and epistemic framing relating to the terms in which development and exchange of knowledge are represented, particularly in reflexive talk. These components are operationalised in terms of various types of structural and semantic analysis of dialogue which are then applied in conducting a case study of a lesson segment. This study demonstrates how the triangulation of various types of analysis can provide a more nuanced model of epistemic order. It shows that the lesson segment displays a multi-layered epistemic order differing from that of conventional classroom recitation, particularly in passages where the teacher scaffolds indirect exchanges between pupils or manoeuvres exchanges so that pupils take more of a lead in developing knowledge. In passages of the former type, the teacher also introduces a register which acknowledges participants as sense-making subjects exchanging and forming knowledge.



classroom dialogue, dialogic teaching, discourse analysis, initiationresponse-feedback, school mathematics

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Universidad de Granada

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Economic and Social Research Council (ES/F025343/1)
Thanks are due to the Economic and Social Research Council which funded collection of the video data analysed here as part of the epiSTEMe project (grant reference RES-179-25-0003).