An Investigation of the Relationships between Thinking Style, Participation in Classroom Dialogue and Learning Outcomes – A Study based in Mainland China

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The study reported in this dissertation investigated the relationships between thinking style, participation in classroom dialogue and learning outcomes. Classroom dialogue is a commonly used method for teaching and learning, and ways/strategies of taking advantage of classroom dialogue to optimise learning need to be specified. The study addresses this issue. Talking has traditionally been viewed as the main way of participation in classroom dialogue, and there is evidence for its learning benefit. However, silent participants have largely been overlooked and little is known about the function of listening with regard to learning. There is arguably a need to investigate the effects of both talking and listening on learning outcome. At an individual level, talking and listening do not serve all students equally well and individual characteristics should be considered when studying how students benefit from diverse participation behaviours. Thinking style, one aspect of individuality, is rarely related to participation in classroom dialogue nor has the corresponding learning outcomes been investigated previously: this will be addressed in the study. The study focuses particularly on high school students in mainland China, a group of people about whom there is relatively little material. A mixed-method research design was adopted, with the quantitative approach dominating. The Thinking Style Inventory - Revised II (Sternberg, Wagner & Zhang, 2007) was used to measure thinking styles. Talking and listening were considered as two forms of participation in classroom dialogue, with systematic observation being employed to collect data on talk and a newly designed questionnaire used to measure listening. Learning outcomes were illustrated through academic achievement and cognitive ability, with the former being measured by final-examination scores and the latter by the Sternberg Triarchic Ability Test (Sternberg, 1993). A series of statistical analyses were conducted and the results can be summarized as follows. Both talking and listening in classroom dialogue were found to be likely to facilitate academic achievement. Thinking style was significantly associated with participation in classroom dialogue. No relationship was found between thinking style and learning outcomes. Students’ thinking styles affected how they benefited from talking and listening, especially in mathematics. This study provides new perspectives on making use of classroom dialogue at both classroom and individual levels.

Howe, Christine
Vermunt, Jan
Participation, Classroom dialogue, Thinking style, Learning outcomes
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Chinese Scholarship Council