Postponed: Teacher-Student Dialogue in Classrooms: What Really Matters for Positive Student Outcomes

11th May 2020 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Public Seminar

Speaker: Christine Howe, University of Cambridge

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room A

Convener: Katharine Burn

Audience: Public

Please note that this seminar has been postponed. Please check the website at a later date for any further updates.

About The Series


The Department of Education’s Public Seminar Series are held on a termly basis throughout the academic year and are designed to engage wider audiences in topical research areas from across the department. Seminars are free to attend and held on most Mondays during term from 5pm. Each seminar is convened by a member of the department and speakers include academics from across the department, the wider University, as well as internationally recognised professionals from across the globe.

All upcoming seminars are publicised, in advance, on the department’s event pages and where possible recorded and made available on the University’s podcast site.

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Seminar Abstract


For at least two millennia, the dialogue that occurs during teaching has been spotlighted as critical for student outcomes, with many features identified as potentially productive. Yet while benefits from some of these features have been demonstrated in contexts of small-group interaction amongst students, their relevance to teacher-student dialogue remains unclear. The consequence, in the UK at least, has been dramatic and continuing shifts of policy, and considerable uncertainty amongst teachers. Recognizing an urgent need for clarification, the ESRC recently funded a team at the University of Cambridge to probe the issue in depth. The seminar will focus on the empirical study that the team conducted and the results they obtained.
The study involved 72 demographically diverse Year 6 classrooms (students aged 10 to 11 years). Lessons (each c.60 minutes) were video recorded, with analyses based on two lessons per classroom (covering any pair of literacy, mathematics or science). All teacher talk was analysed for use of supposedly productive features, as was student talk during interaction with teachers. With potentially contaminating extraneous factors taken into account, variation in patterns of dialogue was related to end-of-year measures of student attainment, reasoning and educationally relevant attitudes. A small cluster of dialogue features turned out to make a significant difference to student outcome, implying simplification of current theorizing, a focused and manageable approach to teacher professional development, and ideally an end to repeated, confusing, and arbitrary shifts in educational policy.


About the Speaker


Christine Howe is Professor of Education (Emerita) at Cambridge University. Her research lies at the intersection of psychology, education, and linguistics, with major interests including children’s communicative, linguistic and peer relational skills, children’s reasoning in science and mathematics, and dialogue and learning during peer collaboration and teacher-led instruction. Christine’s work has been supported by the ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme, Nuffield, UK Government and various local authorities, and has resulted in seven books and over 200 peer-reviewed articles and chapters. Christine has extensive editorial experience, and she has held local-, national- and international-level appointments relating to research and research training.