- What is Accountable
- What are ways teachers can
encourage Accountable Talk?
- Dr. O'Connor explains
"Teachers can make classroom talk academically rigorous."
-Cathy O'Connor, Boston University
We know that promoting classroom discussion and talk that have certain features can result in particular kinds of academic beneﬁts, such as improved word knowledge. Rich teacher-student discussion also supports the development of students’ reasoning and supports their abilities to express their reasoning. Using discussion or ‘academically productive talk’ (APT) during your Word Generation session provides you with opportunities to model processes for deriving information from a text as well as creating reasonable hypotheses about the meaning of unknown words. Using discussion in the classroom also provides a mechanism for connecting new words to prior knowledge and experience.
Can classroom talk help learning?
- Accountable talk refers to the ways that teachers skillfully encourage their students to think deeply, articulate their reasoning, and listen with purpose.
- Many believe talk is very useful for students as they learn. There is evidence of this world-wide. Those who are committed to teaching for understanding are also committed to engaging students in this type of classroom discourse.
- Using talk in this manner is a complex professional skill for a classroom teacher. It is also underexamined in the profession.
What is challenging about this way of teaching?
- Teachers are simultaneously responsible for the following:
1. Making what is said intelligible with special attention paid to new and complex content
2. Managing coherence so that instruction maintains a logical flow among students with many perspectives
3. Maintaining student engagement and motivation, going beyond simply listening to inspire real interest and commitment to ideas
4. Ensuring equitable participation so that all students are heard, not just the naturally vocal
Establishing this type of discourse-intensive classroom takes serious commitment from the teacher.
How do teachers get started using these talk moves?
- The revoicing move can be introduced into teaching without fanfare.
- Students can learn revoicing techniques with explicit coaching.
- Revoicing is highly effective yet simple.
- Students usually want to explain themselves when given the opportunity and they improve with practice.
- Some students will appear uncomfortable at first.
- Teacher can consider announcing to class that talk will be used in new ways and describe what students might expect.
- After initial trial period with talk moves, teachers shift to a stage of implementation during which the students receive explicit information about the moves and their purposes.
- Students may balk at the expectation that they develop the ability to listen and to even repeat classmates' contributions.
- The "agree/disagree" move can be problematic with students who perceive it as unfriendly to disagree with classmates -- teachers can find creative remedies to this issue.
- Students develop an understanding over time that disagreement with an idea is different from personal criticism.
Classroom discussion is comparable to a chess game. Teachers need to think strategically about conversational actions.
- Seemingly straightforward conversations can be leveraged to become authentic checks for intelligibility, coherence, engagement, and participation.
- These moves are not intended to be a fixed list, but rather a starting point for discussion.
Ask a student to elaborate on what she said, or ask another student to "add on" or "say more" about a classmate's contribution.
- This move is helpful whether or not the teacher understands the initial contribution.
- Sometimes this move is overlooked because it is so straightforward.
- Students enjoy having a platform from which to start their comment.
Students restate a contribution of a classmate either verbatim or paraphrased.
- Useful when an idea is out on the floor and teacher wants more engagement.
- Repeating, even when reformulated in your own words, requires another layer of thinking.
- It is somewhat challenging to repeat classmates' contributions.
- The expectation that students be able to repeat contributions is useful. Students are "on call" and must attend to conversation.
- Even teachers find the task challenging in meetings, etc.
- This move changes the level at which people listen.
Student asked to provide an example or counter-example of his or a classmate's contribution.
- This move is particularly useful in math, but also in other subject areas.
- Calling upon other students to provide examples serves as an effective check for understanding.
- Counterexamples are productive in math when disproving a claim, etc.
Teacher asks student whether they agree or disagree with a comment, then also asks why.
- It is important to add the "why" when using this move.
- The yes or no question of "Do you agree or disagree?" is a good start point to engage students in the deeper thinking of "why?"
- Effective move to control and encourage close attention to classmates' contributions (even in graduate school!).
Teacher asks students to explain how or why they came to their position.
- Move can also referred to as "press for reasoning."
- Pressing can include asking why, requiring evidence, citing text, questioning methods, etc.
- There are many variations of this move.
- Ultimate goal is to open a student's reasoning process to the rest of the class so that others can learn and respond.
Teacher allows quiet thinking time for students to develop responses.
- While not technically a "talk" move, wait time is equally important.
- It is important to provide students time to think.
- Waiting for a student response may feel uncomfortable to some, but with practice is becomes natural.
- Moving on rapidly is not always to most beneficial choice for students.
- Students who are normally quiet can provide especially insightful responses if teacher uses wait time.
- The idea that this puts undue pressure on students is false.
- This move allows more students to participate and builds confidence in those less accustomed to speaking out.