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Jie Park, Sarah Michaels, Renee Affolter, and Catherine O'Connor

This article focuses on both research and practice relating to academically productive classroom discourse. We seek to “expand the conversation” to include newcomers to the field of classroom talk, as well as practitioners and youth researchers who want to contribute to knowledge building in this area. We first explore a variety of traditions, questions, and methods that have been prominent in work on classroom talk. We also summarize some key findings that have emerged over the past several decades: • Finding 1: Certain kinds of talk promote robust learning for ALL students. • Finding 2: The field lacks shared conceptualizations of what productive talk is and how best to characterize it. • Finding 3: Dialogic discourse is exceedingly rare in classrooms, at all grade levels and across all domains. • Finding 4: A helpful way forward: conceptualizing talk moves as tools. Following the presentation of each research finding we provide a set of commentaries—explicating and in some cases problematizing the findings. Finally, we provide some promising approaches that presume cultural and linguistic assets among both students and teachers, including curricular programs, teacher education, professional development programs, teacher research, and intergenerational communities of inquiry. In all of this, we try to make our own assumptions, traditions, and governing gazes explicit, as a multi-generational and multi-role group of authors, to encourage greater transparency among all who work in this important and potentially transformative field of study.


Self-regulation is a complex, multifaceted concept that can be described as a higher mental process oriented toward children’s (and adults’) metacognitive, motivational, and behaviorally active participation in their own learning. It includes cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional development. It is related to several other higher mental processes, notably executive function, and the two are sometimes confused and even conflated. They are, however, not interchangeable, and it is vital to clarify both what self-regulation is and what it is not. Failure to do so may lead to confusion at practice and policy levels, and ineffective or inappropriate practice, potentially disadvantageous to young children. Self-regulation may be significant in all aspects of development, particularly in early childhood, and efforts to enhance children’s self-regulation may be among the most effective educational interventions. Interest is reflected in developments in the field of assessment, including by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and in government policy in, inter alia, England. Play, particularly pretense, problem-solving, and talk (both private speech and dialogue) are advocated as rich, naturalistic contexts for the development, support, and meaningful assessment of young children’s self-regulation. Some specific approaches to assessment are identified, notably observation and stimulated recall, in the form of reflective dialogues, including the use of video. Decontextualized assessment is suggested as a potentially less effective approach in capturing the full depth and range of young children’s self-regulatory competence.


P. Karen Murphy, Carla M. Firetto, Gwendolyn M. Lloyd, Liwei Wei, and Sara E. Baszczewski

Classroom discussions are a common pedagogical approach that involve verbal exchanges of information between teachers and students. Given their importance to teaching and learning, classroom discussions have been the focus of extensive curricular mandates and, to a lesser extent, research over the last several decades. In traditional classroom discussions, the teacher tends to be situated at the center of the discussion. This type of discussion model is commonly referred to as a transmissionary model, where the teacher transmits knowledge and understandings and often leads the discussion by posing factual questions and responding to students’ answers by giving evaluative feedback. However, productive classroom discussions are better characterized by a dialogic model with students at the center of the discussion. When students are encouraged to ask thoughtful questions, give reflective responses, and challenge each other using reasoned arguments within classroom discussions, they are more likely to become builders and owners of their knowledge. Indeed, productive classroom discussions tend to ignite students’ engagement, thinking, and understanding of knowledge across academic content areas. When adopting a dialogic model, classroom discussions can advance students’ learning by promoting their basic and high-level comprehension of literary text, reasoning, and argumentation during mathematical sense-making, scientific reasoning, and model building and even second-language proficiency and communicative competence. While the overarching aim of classroom discussions is to enhance student learning across content areas (e.g., language arts, mathematics, science, or second-language learning), the various roles that teachers assume in each of the content areas may have different emphases that align with various content learning expectations. Optimizing classroom discussions requires specific considerations of the content-focused goal, teacher knowledge of content and discourse orchestration, student instruction on classroom talk, and context of content learning. Importantly, the potential and promise of productive classroom discussions can be realized by supporting teachers’ content-specific discussion practices through sustained professional development and by supporting students through explicit instruction about discussion.