Education experts say talking is integral to learning

Issue date: 09 July 2009

teacher image Education experts from the University of the West of England concur with key elements of the recent Primary Review (Sir Jim Rose - May 2009) report issued by the Department for Children, Families and Schools (DCFS) that pin points the importance of talking as a means to successful learning.

The Primary Review states that 'primary schools should make sure that children's spoken communication is developed intensively within all subjects and for learning across the curriculum.'

In their recent publication 'Using talk effectively in the primary classroom' Dr Richard Eke (Joint Head of Academic Development, UWE) and John Lee (Reader in Education, UWE) have demonstrated the how good teachers do use and can use language and understanding to engender positive talking experience in the classroom.

Richard Eke explains, “Freeing up teachers to teach and emphasising how children can learn through well managed dialogue is central to learning. There are many examples in our book to demonstrate this. For the past decade the prescriptiveness of the curriculum has inhibited teachers from seizing the moment and managing tiered learning opportunities to develop children's communication ability in lessons.

“We are delighted that Sir Jim Rose has recognised this vital component in the teaching mix as it is the key strand that threads a link through all areas of learning. A child who is enabled to communicate effectively is a child who has the key tool to succeed in all areas across the curriculum. But this is a tool to be nurtured and encouraged.”

The book is essentially a critical tool for teachers to help engender a keen insight into ways that dialogue can be used constructively in the classroom. Aimed at trainee and practicing teachers 'Using Talk effectively in the primary classroom' looks at how good teachers use language and suggest activities that will inspire.

John Lee comments, “The research for our book was conducted in schools where teachers are faced with testing conditions in both inner city schools in areas of significant social deprivation and mixed age ability classes in rural schools. We have taken examples of good teachers seizing the moment to demonstrate how children can deepen understanding of any subject if encouraged to talk through an idea or a problem.”

An example in the chapter on 'Checking Learning and engagement and opening a dialogue' takes a class who are learning about sequencing numbers with decimals. The class are asked to sequence numbers individually and then to write up the sequence on a central whiteboard. As each child writes up the next number in the sequence the teacher invites the children to comment and also asks children additional questions about the sequence.

Suddenly one child pipes up

“Sir we decided to add them all up.”

The teacher responds

“Good you can tell me the answer in a minute – a little challenge for the boys over there, just to add them all, er right next one Helga.”

Richard Eke explains, “The boy has changed the direction of the lesson but the teacher has encouraged one group to proceed whilst carrying on with the lesson plan. This is a kind of tiered learning example that demonstrates how a good teacher can encourage further discovery without losing the original strand.”

The book is full of examples like this that demonstrate good tactics that have been successfully used by experienced teachers but more importantly it brings to the forefront the essential role of discussion and talking as a means to heighten the learning experience.

In conclusion Richard says, “The strategic initiatives being heralded by DCFS in respect of stressing the critical importance of talking as a key pathway into learning are to be applauded. We have found that this to be very much the case in focused research studies over a long period of time and it's gratifying to see that the strategies that will direct the way forward for the foreseeable future in our schools are taking note of this important consideration.”


Editor's notes:

Using Talk effectively in the classroom by Richard Eke and John Lee is published by Routledge/David Fulton Publishers ISBN 978-0-415-34281-0

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