When teachers begin to integrate student discussions into their classroom culture, they need to avoid two common misconceptions, as explained by City (2014) in her article, “Talking to Learn”.
Misconception #1: Only the “advanced” learners can drive discussions on a deeper level. This is simply not true. Students learn in many different ways. Simply because a student may have difficulty understanding some conceptual “basics”, doesn’t mean that that student cannot have meaningful inquiry and thinking. Some students who are not necessarily looking for the “right” answer might even be able to think more analytically on a personal and group level. When inviting student conversation into learning, be sure to include ALL types of learners.
Misconception #2: Silence should be avoided at all costs….OR….Conversation should always be monitored and guided by a teacher. Silence may just mean that thinking is taking place. Wait time is simply giving students time to process through a question. It’s not a negative thing and should be seen as a strength as long as students are attempting to engage with the topic at hand. The reverse of silence can also be seen as misconception. When students feel passionate about their thinking, conversations and discussions can take a life of their own. This doesn’t mean that the teacher allows shouting and chaos; however, teachers don’t always need to manage the discussion. If given the chance, students will begin to develop a structure for their own thinking and conversation.
Most importantly, teachers need to build a culture of trust and safety for their students and their ideas. Then..Just Do It!!
City, E.A. (Nov. 2014). Talking to Learn. Educational Leadership, 72(3), 10-17.