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Moving from recitation to open-format literature discussion in Chinese classrooms


A study involving 106 fourth graders and two teachers from a school in Beijing investigated the impact of a peer-led, open-format discussion approach, called collaborative reasoning (CR), on students’ reading comprehension and teacher’s professional learning. Mixed results of effects of CR on children’s reading comprehension were found. After participating in eight discussions over an eight-week period, the CR group performed significantly better than the control group on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study constructed-response items requiring integrating and evaluating information, but no better on multiple-choice items calling for information retrieval and simple inferences. No CR group’s advantage was found on the National Assessment of Educational Progress items. Compared to the baseline discussions prior to the intervention, CR increased the volume, complexity, and fluency of student talk, decreased teacher talk and teacher control of topic. Both CR teachers successfully altered the traditional recitation discourse pattern and adapted to an open-format discussion. CR teachers’ weekly reflections and interviews showed that teachers experienced four developmental stages from being lost to applying CR in subsequent reading instruction practice.

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We thank the participating principal, teachers and children who facilitated this research. This research was supported by Key Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences Research, Ministry of Education (11JZD041), was partially supported by the Fundamental Research Fund for the Central Universities. In addition, we are grateful to Jan Elen and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on our manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hong Li.

Additional information

Yahua Cheng and Jie Zhang have contributed equally to this work.

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Cheng, Y., Zhang, J., Li, H. et al. Moving from recitation to open-format literature discussion in Chinese classrooms. Instr Sci 43, 643–664 (2015).

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  • Collaborative reasoning
  • Small-group discussions
  • Reading comprehension
  • Teacher learning
  • Chinese children