, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 331-352
Date: 11 Aug 2007

Classroom discourse and the distribution of student engagement

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Research in the social psychology of achievement motivation stresses the contribution of the classroom motivational context to problems of student engagement among low achieving students. This analysis contributes to that literature through a focused analysis of English and language arts instruction during the middle school years. Using data from the Partnership for Literacy Study the author investigates the relationship between classroom evaluation during question and answer sessions and two forms of student engagement, participation in classroom discourse, and student effort on classroom and homework assignments. When teachers focus on provoking student thought and analysis, and postpone evaluation during question and answer sessions by engaging in dialogic instruction, levels of student effort are more evenly distributed among students. Moreover, the relationship between levels of initial achievement and student effort is weaker in classrooms where teachers incorporate elements of dialogic instruction into question and answer sessions. However, dialogic instruction had no effect on the distribution of participation in classroom discourse itself.