Connecting: Lesson Design Structures, Instructional Discourse Patterns, and Teacher Talk Moves.

In teaching of physics this semester, we did an activity of sorting many question into three categories of discourse:

  1. Eliciting students’ initial ideas (questions that help us identify our /their thinking)
  2. Supporting changes to their thinking (questions that make one consider how what one is doing relates to our ideas and other activities)
  3. Pressing for disciplinary connections (questions that direct students to draw explicit connections between what they are currently doing (and/or what they have done) with specific concepts and/or practices from the discipline.

This categorization is basically from the Ambitious Science Teaching folks, but we’ve been adopting this framework to describe the instructional flow to most instructional frameworks we have talked about, whether it’s

  • Elicit Confront Resolve (Described here by Wenning with the additional steps of identify and reinforce)
  • Bridging Analogies (Described here by Clement), flow is Anchor –> Bridges –> Target
  • Learning Cycle in ISLE (e.g., observation experiments –> testing experiments)
  • Invention Tasks (i.e., based on preparation for future learning), and here as well.

as well as others.

One of points I’ve been trying to drive home is how these curricular structures have certain design “features” that make them effective, but ultimately it’s about the discourse that happens during instruction– what talking and thinking are students engaged in during each phase. For the appropriate discourse to happen, teacher talk moves need to shift from “eliciting” to “supporting change” to “pressing for disciplinary” connections. Previously, we had also talked about discourse at the level of “talk moves”- probing, re-voicing, pressing for reasoning, etc.

Our activity today was to try to link the two: what sort of talk moves support what kind of instructional discourse?

Here are the list of questions we considered.

  • You said_____, but why do you think that?
  • What connections are you seeing between  ____ and ____?
  • What do you think will happen when____
  • Can say more about that?
  • How is your thinking about __ different now after ____?
  • Who else has ideas about what might happen?
  • Do you agree or disagree, and why?
  • Who would like to add on to what ___ said ?
  • So you seem to be saying ___?
  • What do you all think about that idea?
  • How did you come up with that?
  • Can you describe what happened when___?
  • What evidence supports the idea that ___?
  • Is there a specific example you are thinking about?
  • What does this passage mean in your own words?
  • How do we know that ____ ?
  • Can you say why you agree with ____
  • How can you check your answer?
  • How are you making sense of that?
  • How is this observation different than your prediction?
  • What do you think these results imply about ____?
  • What can you say now that you couldn’t before?
  • Does this agree or disagree with your prediction?
  • How is this situation different than ___?
  • What reasoning justifies this ___?
  • What assumptions did you have to make in order to ____?
  • What does this observation tell us about ___?
  • What are some tools we have used to ____  ?
  • What are some things you notice?
  • What does this tell us about ___?
  • Do you think this supports or refutes the idea about __?
  • Explain to us what your thinking when you say ___
  • What made this particular situation difficult?
  • What do you think causes that to happen?
  • What do you think that tells us about the data?
  • What do the rest of you think?
  • How have your ideas changed at all?
  • What makes you think that will happen?
  • Does the explanation here describe what you discussed?
  • What patterns did we notice?
  • How did you decide to ___?
  • How did you know you had made a mistake?
  • How did you reach that conclusion?
  • What did you notice happening when ___?
  • Can you tell us how you came up with that?
  • How do you think ___ applies to this scenario?
  • How might we revise our thinking after seeing ___
  • Can you tell us why you think that’s not longer true?
  • How does your work here reflect what we’ve learned about ______?

For each, we talked about the context or contexts in which it might make sense to ask this question, and worked toward a consensus model of what type of discourse this question would most likely support. We talked a lot in class about how traditional instruction spends too much time in the 3rd kind of discourse, skipping the 1st and 2nd kinds. We also talked about how unsuccessful inquiry often fails to make the turn into the 3rd type of discourse, or perhaps fails to even do much of the 2nd (students just go through activities without ever thinking about them).

It was a good day. I feel like I learned a lot and so did the students.

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