Dialogic Teaching

What is dialogic teaching?

The term ‘dialogic teaching’ is now in regular use but like all such terms means different things to different people. As developed by Robin Alexander since the early 2000s, dialogic teaching harnesses the power of talk to stimulate and extend students’ thinking and advance their learning and understanding. It helps the teacher more precisely to diagnose students’ needs, frame their learning tasks and assess their progress. It empowers the student for lifelong learning and active citizenship. Dialogic teaching is not just any talk. It is as distinct from the question-answer and listen-tell routines of traditional teaching as it is from the casual conversation of informal discussion. It requires:

  • interactions which encourage students to think, and to think in different ways
  • questions which invite much more than simple recall
  • answers which are justified, followed up and built upon rather than merely received
  • feedback which informs and leads thinking forward as well as encourages
  • contributions which are extended rather than fragmented
  • exchanges which chain together into coherent and deepening lines of enquiry
  • discussion and argumentation which probe and challenge rather than unquestioningly accept
  • professional engagement with subject matter which liberates classroom discourse from the safe and conventional
  • classroom organisation, climate and relationships which make all this possible.

Robin Alexander’s framework for dialogic teaching comprises clearly-specified justifications, oral and organisational repertoires, classroom indicators and guiding principles or criteria.   His approach is now in regular classroom use in the UK and other countries.

Major new research project

Stop press (July 2017). Report on randomised control trial now published. Students in intervention group gain two months in standardised English, mathematics and science tests over their control group peers. Read more.

Also (August 2017). Read Robin Alexander’s account and discussion of the project

Cambridge Primary Review Trust / University of York Dialogic Teaching Project.
Funded 2014-17 by the Education Endowment Foundation and directed by Robin Alexander and Frank Hardman. The project has piloted and implemented a training/teaching/mentoring intervention based on Robin Alexander’s dialogic teaching work in order to improve student engagement and raise standards of attainment in areas of high social disadvantage. The intervention was piloted in London and subject to an independent randomised control trial in schools in Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds. Further information: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/our-work/projects/dialogic-teaching/

Find out more

The main texts are:

Alexander, R.J. (2017) Towards Dialogic Teaching: rethinking classroom talk (5th edition), Dialogos.
Alexander, R.J. (2008) Essays on Pedagogy, Routledge, especially pp 72-172 and 184-191.

Download order form for Towards Dialogic Teaching here.

Download annotated bibliography of Robin Alexander’s other publications on talk in learning and teaching: Dialogic Teaching bibliography

Download Dialogic Teaching in Brief (2017) here

Useful links to other projects and research groups

Talk Science Project, Boston University
Better than Best Practice / dialogic pedagogy, Adam Lefstein and Julia Snell
What is dialogic pedagogy? Eugene Matusov, University of Delaware
Dialogic teaching in science classrooms, Neil Mercer, University of Cambridge