Exploratory Talk - A Framework for Building a Community of Inquiry




Prette, Catherine

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This study examined the effectiveness of the Thinking Together program (Dawes, Mercer, & Wegerif, 2000) to develop Grade 6 students’ talking skills and explored the program’s impact on students’ attitudes towards group work. Of the 26 students who participated in the program implementation from October 2009 to June 2010, 19 completed the pre- and post-program questionnaires rating their attitudes towards group work. Data sources included audio recordings, transcribed conversations, and pre- and post-program questionnaire ratings and written comments. Data were analyzed to explore the participants’ perceived value of participating in small group discussions and to determine changes in the indicators of exploratory talk of four focus students. With respect to the 19 participants who completed both pre- and post-program questionnaires, the findings indicated an improved attitude toward the value of group discussions, particularly in the areas of challenge, inclusion, justification and collaboration. Many student comments on the questionnaires focused on the positive effects of collaboration. Both group composition and topic selection were also identified as contributing factors in influencing group discussion participation. Data analysis also revealed that after the implementation of the program, students in the group of four increased their use of reasoning words within exploratory talk, particularly with words associated with positioning and claiming, and increased their participation in the number of talking turns and in the length of student utterances. However, data analysis also revealed that equitability of participation improved only for the two male members of the group. In addition, analysis of the data showed an increase in the number of inclusionary comments directed at individual group members in an effort to build consensus.



exploratory talk, inquiry-based learning, Thinking Together program, questionnaire