Moving the Discussion Forward Through Surprises and Dilemmas: Teacher Learning in Academic Discussion

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Moving the Discussion Forward Through Surprises and Dilemmas: Teacher Learning in Academic Discussion

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Title: Moving the Discussion Forward Through Surprises and Dilemmas: Teacher Learning in Academic Discussion
Author: Hsiao, Ling ORCID  0000-0002-7223-539X
Citation: Hsiao, Ling. 2015. Moving the Discussion Forward Through Surprises and Dilemmas: Teacher Learning in Academic Discussion. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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Abstract: Academic discussion deepens learning when students share multiple perspectives, challenge propositions, and build on each other’s ideas to develop their own understanding (Michaels, O’Connor, & Resnick, 2008; Cazden, 1988). But academic discussion is rare in practice, suggesting that teachers are not implementing effective ‘talk moves,’ or discussion-based strategies to foster genuine dialogues (Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, & Gamoran, 2003). How do teachers learn to respond to students effectively in academic discussion?
This dissertation aims to describe the process by which teachers learn to teach using discussion in their own classrooms after professional development. It follows six teachers implementing a new curriculum, Word Generation, that uses discussion and debate to deepen students’ reading comprehension. Teachers were filmed conducting classroom discussions with their own students and then interviewed about their experiences, particularly how they made decisions on what to do and say in response to student contributions or events that emerged in the discussion. While developing the craft of dialogic teaching (Boyd and Markarian, 2011), teachers also encountered surprises and dilemmas, two types of teaching uncertainties that tested and influenced their professional growth.
Findings showed that teachers mastered more effective discussion teaching skills when they learned to manage or resolve their uncertainties. In fact, surprises and dilemmas were important sources of experiential learning for the teachers who used their experiences of uncertainty to see and respond successfully to student contributions. The dissertation is comprised of two main articles. The first study analyzes the role that surprise plays in changing teacher perceptions of student abilities in academic discussion. The second is a case study exploring one teacher’s teaching dilemmas, and how, in order to resolve competing instructional goals, he attained more sophisticated techniques that fostered productive student talk. These findings shed light on how professional educators can support teacher implementation of academic discussion when surprises and teaching dilemmas are addressed in professional development.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:14121809
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