Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 283-297

First online:

Deliberative Discourse Idealized and Realized: Accountable Talk in the Classroom and in Civic Life

  • Sarah MichaelsAffiliated withDepartment of Education, Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark University Email author 
  • , Catherine O’ConnorAffiliated withProgram in Applied Linguistics, Boston University
  • , Lauren B. ResnickAffiliated withDepartment Psychology and Cognitive Science, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh

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Classroom discussion practices that can lead to reasoned participation by all students are presented and described by the authors. Their research emphasizes the careful orchestration of talk and tasks in academic learning. Parallels are drawn to the philosophical work on deliberative discourse and the fundamental goal of equipping all students to participate in academically productive talk. These practices, termed Accountable TalkSM, emphasize the forms and norms of discourse that support and promote equity and access to rigorous academic learning. They have been shown to result in academic achievement for diverse populations of students. The authors outline Accountable Talk as encompassing three broad dimensions: one, accountability to the learning community, in which participants listen to and build their contributions in response to those of others; two, accountability to accepted standards of reasoning, talk that emphasizes logical connections and the drawing of reasonable conclusions; and, three, accountability to knowledge, talk that is based explicitly on facts, written texts, or other public information. With more than fifteen years research into Accountable Talk applications across a wide range of classrooms and grade levels, the authors detail the challenges and limitations of contexts in which discourse norms are not shared by all members of the classroom community.


Accountable Talk Deliberative discourse Discourse community Discourse norms Diverse learners Equity Learning community Reasoned participation