How do physics students respond to a more dialogic approach?

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Breward Butler, Jacob
Issue Date
Educational Level
ISCED Level 3 Upper secondary education
Curriculum Area
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: Physics is a subject where many groups are under-represented, and is rarely taught in a way that allows students to engage with collaborative, creative problem-solving. Many programmes, including interventions I run, have been developed to address the first issue. However, they have little emphasis on the underlying critical and analytical skills needed to engage with complex, novel ideas.

Aims: This inquiry focused on the ideas of educational dialogue and collaborative learning highlighted in the T-SEDA pack. I focused on the categories “Build on ideas”, “Challenge”, and “Make reasoning explicit” as these are missing in many Physics lessons. I aimed to encourage Exploratory Talk, defined as a challenge occurring which leads to further discussion, which would show students were engaging with others’ ideas.

Study design or methodology: Eight Year-11s from a state-school in Northwest England took part in two remotely-run discussion activities around novel topics. Being able to identify constructive dialogue between students, with little prompting, would show students had engaged in exploratory talk. To measure this, I coded the transcript using T- SEDA guidelines and gave a follow-up interview.

Findings: Students’ engagement was good; during 41.5mins and 168 turns of discussion, students spoke for 21.3mins over 77 turns, there were 28 counts of making reasoning explicit, and 10 counts of building on ideas. In the interview, students were unanimously positive and their feedback suggests they understood the session aims and felt they supported their learning.

Conclusions, originality, value and implications: This inquiry suggests students targeted by our Outreach activities view a more dialogic approach positively and benefit from it. To develop this, a larger number of students will take part in similar sessions to determine whether this is more generally true. Sessions will be structured with the aim of teachers continuing elements of this in their own practice.
Keywords (free text)
physics , dialogue , collaborative learning , T-SEDA
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