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2.2 Evaluating discussion (continued)

Activity 4: Evaluating discussions (2)

5 hours 0 minutes

The quality of discussion amongst students can be evaluated by carrying out the following activity.

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2.1 Evaluating discussion

The discussion of talk amongst children in Chapter 6 of Words and Minds is concerned with the adequacy of that talk for ‘getting things done’. The next activity will allow you to attempt a reduced version of a similar evaluation. It will also allow you to compare your evaluation with that provided by one of the unit team (in comments following each example). And, finally, it may also allow you to consider the extent to which you feel such evaluations are valid and useful.


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1.2 Development through dialogue

Reading

1 hour 0 minutes

Now read Chapter 6, ‘Development through dialogue’, of the set book Words and Minds. As you read, pay special attention to:

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1.1 Persuasion, control and argument

The Reading below contains examples of interaction that you may or may not be familiar with. The book that it comes from is concerned with how people use language in many kinds of situations to solve problems and get things done. Before examining ways in which teachers can help students develop their understanding and use of spoken language, it may be useful to step outside the classroom and consider some of the ways that language is used in everyday life as a means for ‘getting things done
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you will have:

  • gained an understanding of ways that spoken language is used to create joint knowledge and understanding, and to pursue teaching and learning;

  • considered the educational implications of some recent research on teaching and learning in face-to-face interactions;

  • tried out some approaches to analysing the spoken language of teaching and learning.


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Introduction

This unit draws attention to the value of a sociocultural understanding of spoken language in the processes of teaching and learning. It focuses upon how language can be used for persuasion, control and argument, and how dialogue can act as an aid to development. Along with some background reading and activities this unit offers opportunities for the evaluation of some selected classroom talk.

This material is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Language and literacy in a
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Acknowledgements

The following extracts are from the Study Guide which forms part of an Open University, UK, MA in Education course E841 Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Worldwide and part of LING 936, 937, 938, units of programs in Applied Linguistics of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

These materials were produced and developed jointly by The Open University and Macquarie University. First published 2000, Reprinted 2001.

Copyright © The Open University and Macquarie
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2 Vygotsky and socio-cultural psychology

Copyright © 2000 The Open University and Macquarie University

The principal historical figure behind socio-cultural psychology is Lev Vygotsky, who lived in Moscow during the 1920s. By all accounts he was an unusual man, a many-talented individual who directed plays and wrote about subjects as diverse as art, neurophysiology and Marxist theory. But his main occupation was as an educational psychologist, mainly working with children who had severe physical and mental disabilities. Inspi
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • develop your understanding of the process of teaching and learning in classrooms, and the role of language in that process;

  • appreciate how a sociocultural approach can be used to make critical, constructive analyses of classroom interaction in a variety of second language learning contexts;

  • use this knowledge to reflect on second language learning processes in the classrooms you know.


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3 Lesson delivery

The way in which we deliver our lessons will have an impact on the students' interest and engagement in the work. If we appear enthused and excited by the subject that we are studying, then at least some of this enthusiasm will inevitably rub off on our class.

The successful teacher will deliver his or her lessons with a sense of:

  • Pace: keeping the class and the learning moving forwards.

  • Clarity: knowing where th
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6.3 Meaning in action and interaction

Earlier in this unit you considered the importance of manipulating and articulating information in order to understand it. This kind of behaviour is at the heart of constructivist and social-constructivist theory. The idea that we learn and understand what we are able to organise and make sense of is not just a theoretical viewpoint, as the next Activity demonstrates.

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6.1 Knowledge and society

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton (Letter to Robert Hooke, 1676)

At the foreground of this final part of the unit is one of its more important themes – that knowledge is something held, developed and perpetuated both by and in the context of communities, societies and cultures. Newton's declaration to Hooke (above
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5.7 Summary

This section of the unit has made you aware that:

  • science is formed by a community of practice, creating knowledge and requiring a special language for its communication;

  • there is a difference between objective scientific methods and subjective ways of knowing;

  • political power influences scientific discoveries, and scientific knowledge is always socially embedded;

  • public understanding and perception of scien
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5.4 A brief history of scientific revolutions

We now go on to look at the history and traditions of scientific discovery. As an early years practitioner, you will find this survey useful in helping you to challenge the prevailing perception of science as ‘absolute truth’.

What we call science was once regarded as ‘magic’, ‘alchemy’ or ‘conjuring’. Such knowledge was viewed as ‘black magic’ and feared as a satanic art (Woolley, 2002). In part this may have been because, in the Middle Ages, scientific ideas were e
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5.3 Objectivity and subjectivity, induction and deduction

The purposes of scientific enquiry are to describe, explain, predict and control (Reaves, 1992). Through scientific training, natural curiosity is developed into objective, empirical (experience-based) study involving observations and controlled experiments which constitute the methods of scientific enquiry that lead to scientific knowledge.


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4.3 Thinking mathematics

‘Thinking mathematically’ is something that everyone does. It involves:

  • problem-solving and decision-making;

  • logical reasoning;

  • communication (including using diagrams, charts, graphs and symbols);

  • making connections and recognising common characteristics;

  • using mathematical tools, including calculations and measures.

Much of the mathematical thinking done in ever
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3 Language, mathematics and science in context

In the opening part of this unit we argued that, as human beings, we are constantly engaging with the world through mechanisms called ‘ways of knowing’, and that three important ways of knowing are language, mathematics and science. Although it may be easy to see what makes language, mathematics and science different from each other, in real-life contexts they are rarely used in isolation. We tried to show this by using shopping as an example of an everyday activity that can involve all t
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2.6 Context and language variation

As well as contributing to meaning, context can also influence the actual words and sentences that we use. Do you sometimes say ‘Hi’ and at other times say ‘Good morning’? Do you have a ‘telephone voice’? This variation in language may be done deliberately, but often it is not. There are two main reasons as to why we adjust the way we speak:

  • to fit in with our audience or what we feel they expect of us; you may use ‘professional’ langu
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2.3 ‘English’ as a school subject

In official UK curricula, language appears as a curriculum subject under a range of labels. In all four UK countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – the curricula for the 3–5 years age range (ACCAC, 2000a; DENI, 1997; QCA/DfEE, 2000; SCCC, 1999) include the word ‘language’ in the subject title. In the formal school curriculum, the subject is known as ‘English’ or ‘English Language’ (ACCAC, 2000b; CCEA, 2004; DfEE/QCA, 1999a; SOED, 1991). Wales, Northern Ire
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1.1 An overview of the unit

The relationship between observation of children and educational theory is central to the teaching of this unit: the theory should help you make sense of what you observe, while your observations should help you make sense of the theory. This perspective is reflected in the activities you will find in the blocks of study material. We recommend that you keep a notebook as you work through the unit. You can use this both for the activities that you do at home and for those that involve observat
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