Dialogic Teaching aims to improve pupil engagement and attainment by improving the quality of classroom talk. Teachers are trained in strategies that enable pupils to reason, discuss, argue and explain rather than merely respond, in order to develop higher order thinking and articulacy. The programme uses video review, print materials and in-school mentoring to support teachers’ practice across English, maths and science lessons.
Improving children’s learning by improving the quality of classroom talk.
Sheffield Hallam University
Staff deployment & development
Language and literacy
We know that the nature and quality of teaching practice in the classroom has a big impact on pupil learning. Pilots of dialogic teaching in the UK have suggested that it can change teachers’ practice, and there is other evidence that cognitively challenging classroom talk can lead to gains for pupils in language, mathematics and science, but this is the first trial of this approach.
This trial found consistent, positive effects in English, science and maths for all children in Year 5, equivalent to about 2 months additional progress. The result was similar when looking only at children eligible for free school meals. This is consistent with other EEF trials focusing on cognitively challenging talk, such as Philosophy for Children, and Thinking, Doing, Talking Science. The consistent results across subjects and the lack of any subject specific content in the training suggest that the approach may improve children’s overall thinking and learning skills rather than their knowledge in a given topic.
The majority of teachers felt they needed more than two terms to fully embed the approach in their classrooms and thought it would have more impact over a longer time period.
EEF will explore options for testing the approach using a model that could be made available to a large number of schools.
An addendum to the report was published in April 2019, which did not find an impact on KS2 results. No process evaluation was conducted as part of this follow-up, and it is likely that many schools did not implement the programme in Year 6, prior to the KS2 testing.
Children in Dialogic Teaching schools made two additional months’ progress in English and science, and one additional month’s progress in maths, compared to children in control schools, on average. The three padlock security rating means we are moderately confident that this difference was due to the intervention and not to other factors.
Children eligible for free school meals (FSM) made two additional months’ progress in English, science, and maths compared to FSM children in control schools. The smaller number of FSM pupils in the trial limits the security of this result.
The intervention was highly regarded by headteachers, mentors, and teachers who thought that the Dialogic Teaching approach had positive effects on pupil confidence and engagement.
The majority of participating teachers felt that it would take longer than two terms to fully embed a Dialogic Teaching approach in their classrooms. It could therefore be valuable to test the impact of the intervention over a longer period.
This intervention requires teachers to change classroom talk across the curriculum, supported by training, handbooks, video, and regular review meetings with mentors. Future research could aim to differentiate the effects of these different elements.
Full project description
The aim of the intervention was to raise levels of engagement and attainment across English, maths, and science in primary schools by improving the quality of teacher and pupil talk in the classroom. The approach, termed ‘dialogic teaching’, emphasises dialogue through which pupils learn to reason, discuss, argue, and explain in order to develop their higher order thinking as well as their articulacy. The intervention was developed and delivered by a team from the Cambridge Primary Review Trust (CPRT) and the University of York. Year 5 teachers in 38 schools, and a teacher mentor from each school, received resources and training from the delivery team, and then implemented the intervention over the course of the autumn and spring terms in the 2015/2016 school year. Following the intervention, pupils were tested in English, mathematics, and science. This efficacy trial compared the 38 schools (2,492 pupils) in which the intervention took place with 38 control schools (2,466 pupils). During the intervention, the evaluation team also carried out a survey and interviews with a sample of teachers, mentors, and heads, plus case-study visits to three intervention schools.