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Implementing dialogic education approaches in Chinese science classrooms: A design-based research



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Long, Yun 


Education systems across the world are increasingly employing dialogic education to equip students with 21st-century skills. Dialogic education seems to hold promise for promoting students’ collaborative, critical and creative thinking. A growing body of research has, therefore, focused on the implementation of dialogic education approaches in different contexts. However, dialogic education in China is a new research area where more research is needed. Science education in China aims to promote students’ scientific literacy and employs group work to enhance students’ learning outcomes; therefore, science classes provide a natural setting for implementing more dialogic approaches. Science education in China is a relatively newly established curriculum; hence, there is great interest in how to improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning of science. My study, therefore, focuses on the contextualisation of implementing dialogic education in science classes in Chinese primary schools. Design-based research (DBR) was employed to conduct this study by incorporating an exploratory study and two iterations as part of the iterative design process. A classroom intervention was devised underpinned by design principles based on dialogic education. These principles were derived from a literature review and the findings of the exploratory study. A coding scheme for analysing dialogues in Chinese science classes was developed by employing a Grounded Theory approach based on the classroom observations and interviews conducted during the first iteration. The exploratory phase involved interviews with Chinese science academics, classroom observations and semi-structured interviews conducted in collaboration with the teachers and students of four Chinese primary schools. Interviews with Chinese science academics were carried out to gain a basic understanding of current Chinese science education. Classroom observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed to develop the prototype of the intervention. In Iteration One, seven teachers participated in the process, and six of them carried out three reflective teaching cycles to promote their classroom dialogues. The Teacher Scheme for Educational Dialogue Analysis (T-SEDA) scheme was used to measure the effectiveness of their classrooms, and the results revealed improvements in their classroom dialogues. It was also argued that silence, a phenomenon that is often seen in Chinese classrooms, should be carefully considered in understanding Chinese dialogic education. For a more contextualised analysis, a new coding scheme was developed based on the data collected in the first iteration. In Iteration Two, data were collected from another Chinese city, and six teachers from the same school participated in the intervention and carried out another three reflective teaching cycles. The data were analysed using the newly developed coding scheme which showed gradual improvement in the effectiveness of the teachers’ classroom dialogues. The contributions of my study can be summarised from theoretical and practical perspectives. Theoretically, the study demonstrates that constructive silence should be considered as a form of dialogic engagement, especially in the context of education in China. To make the silence constructive, teachers need to employ techniques that help students to make their thinking heard or seen. Further, I argue that introducing scientific terminologies can be vital for widening and deepening dialogic space as it can help with setting the foundation of dialogic space. In terms of practical contributions, the tested design principles for implementing dialogic education in Chinese classrooms can be a guide for future research. In addition, the newly developed coding scheme for analysing classroom dialogues in Chinese science classes can contribute to contextualising dialogic education in the Chinese context. It can be used as a reference for assessing what Chinese science teachers can do to improve the quality of their classroom interactions.





Wegerif, Rupert


dialogic education, design-based research, Chinese context, science education


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge