Improving Talk for Teaching and Learning

This programme aims to improve the quality of classroom talk as a means to increasing pupils' engagement, learning and attainment. It will develop and test a training programme which uses video, print materials and in-school mentoring. The approach, termed ‘dialogic teaching’, is based on the belief that the improvement of classroom talk requires attention to the speaking skills of the teacher as well as to children's developing oral capacities. It emphasises dialogue through which pupils learn to reason, discuss, argue and explain as well as merely respond, in order to develop their higher order thinking as well as their articulacy. The intervention will be developed by Professors Robin Alexander and Frank Hardman.

Why are we funding it?

Oral language interventions consistently show positive benefits on learning, including oral language skills and reading comprehension. There is also evidence that cognitively-challenging classroom talk can lead to gains in language, mathematics and science. Pilots in Barking and Dagenham, Bolton, and North Yorkshire have shown that the approach is feasible, and leads to changes in teaching practices and learning outcomes. Building on promising studies, a more rigorous evaluation of the impact of dialogic teaching on children’s learning is needed before the initiative is taken to scale.

How are we evaluating it?

The evaluation will be conducted by a team from Sheffield Hallam University, led by Tim Jay. The project involves a phase of development work to define the materials and training, and pilot these in around 10 schools. The main trial is structured as a randomised controlled trial involving around 80 schools.

Click here to view the evaluation protocol.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2016.