Does the use of sentence stems help students invite their peers to make their reasoning explicit?

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Cestonaro Laurent, Delphine
Educational Level
ISCED Level 3 Upper secondary education
Curriculum Area
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: Attempts from students to understand a partner’s thinking almost always derive from a teacher’s invitation (Attard & Edwards-Groves, 2018; Hennessy in Kershner et al, 2020, p.127). However, when students work in small groups, the teacher is not always present to play this role. This might result in less elaboration, which could limit attainment, as the positive effect of dialogic pedagogy on attainment outcomes is better seen in contexts with high level of student participation, encouragement to elaborate and question ideas (Howe et al., 2019).

Aims: Explore the use of sentence stems as a tool to help students engage in inviting peers to elaborate more.

Study design or methodology: Participants: One small group of three Y12 biology students. Resource created: Cue cards presenting invitation sentence stems such as ‘Can you tell me more about...?’, ‘Why do you think that...?’. Design: Action research, practitioner led. One baseline trial before introduction of resource, two trial sessions after. Data collection: Dialogues recorded, transcribed and coded using T-SEDA scheme (Hennessy et al., 2016), codes IB, B IRE, RE + students self-evaluation of dialogue (template G).

Findings: Students invite peers’ elaboration 3 to 5 times more with the introduction of the sentence stems tool. In response to these invitations, students build on ideas and elaborate more: word counts increase in ‘building on ideas’ turns (+70%) and ‘making reasoning explicit’ turns (+120% in average).

Conclusions, originality, value and implications: Equipping students with skills to invite reasoning and elaboration in their peers may lead to more building on ideas and elaboration which could have a positive impact on the learning outcomes (Howe et al., 2019; Mercer et al., 2003).
Keywords (free text)
small group dialogue, sentence stems, making reasoning explicit, invitations to build
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