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'Explain to your partner': teachers' instructional practices and students' dialogue in small groups

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Collaborative group work has great potential to promote student learning, and increasing evidence exists about the kinds of interaction among students that are necessary to achieve this potential. Less often studied is the role of the teacher in promoting effective group collaboration. This article investigates the extent to which teachers' instructional practices were related to small-group dialogue in four urban elementary mathematics classrooms in the US. Using videotaped and audiotaped recordings of whole-class and small-group discussions, we examined the extent to which teachers pressed students to explain their thinking during their interventions with small groups and during whole-class discussions, and we explored the relationship between teachers' practices and the nature and extent of students' explaining during collaborative group work. While teachers used a variety of instructional practices to structure and orchestrate students' dialogue in small groups, only probing students' explanations to uncover details of their thinking and problem-solving strategies exhibited a strong relationship with student explaining. Implications for future research, professionalĀ development, and teacher education are discussed.

Keywords: classrooms; cooperative group learning; grouping

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057640802701986

Affiliations: University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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