Discursive interactions in a Brazilian primary school: an exploratory case study
This thesis studies the adherence of a talk-intensive approach to teaching and learning in the Brazilian context. While classroom talk is often classified as monologic due to being narrow and controlled by teachers, educational research has identified a kind of collaborative and cognitively productive talk that positively affects learning outcomes. This dialogic talk is rare in most classrooms. Many teacher professional development programmes have been designed to bridge this gap. This project builds on this vast literature to explore three key aspects in the development of a more dialogic classroom talk: small-group work, conceptual learning, and whole-class teaching. To produce such a dialogic case, an intensive, small-scale, researcher-led intervention was implemented in one primary school. The programme lasted for three months and consisted of three modules, each focusing in one of the aspects highlighted above. Data consisted of pre-post knowledge tests, audio recording of small-group work, video recording of whole-class teaching, and interviews. Classroom talk was analysed through both quantitative and qualitative methods. Within the Brazilian research field, this study is arguably the first with such aims and scope. In small-group talk, students spent only half of the time talking about the task’s content, when they used one third of dialogic utterances. Group talk features varied reasonably across tasks and no positive variation was found regarding dialogicity. It is argued that the students did not appropriate the use of ground rules for talk effectively. Although statistically significant, only small effects were found on students’ learning (knowledge tests). This result was discussed in relation to the role of different teaching modalities, talk formats, and classroom climate in promoting the co-construction of knowledge. The investigation showed how talk served as a means for learning. More specifically, five types of explanatory sequences were identified when teachers and students collectively built scientific explanations. In whole-class teaching, episodes of teachers’ dialogic practices were analysed and revealed which conditions favoured such emergence. Overall, this research sheds light on the potentialities and challenges of dialogic practices in a Brazilian primary school. The study contributes with new empirical data by systematically mapping groups’ and teachers’ discursive practices over seven tasks and nine lessons. Pre-designed classroom materials were very productive in fostering dialogic talk and teachers made many different decisions to render their own lessons more dialogic. Finally, the broad scope of this thesis—connecting professional development, use of classroom materials, student learning, and classroom talk— allowed putting forward recommendations for future intervention such as duration, pace, content, data-based reflective inquiry, and dialogic culture.