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.
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This vignette is adapted from Michaels et al. (2008).
We are indebted to Courtney Cazden for bringing this point to our attention.
The same observation was made almost two decades ago by Ellsworth (1989), in a critique of Critical Pedagogy, a distant intellectual cousin of the current work on deliberative discourse. The proponents of critical pedagogy (Freire, Giroux, McLaren) also gave a valued place to Habermas’ ethical discourse community and saw a similar form of rational discourse as the way to bring about the new society and the new man and woman. Ellsworth attempted to import these norms into an anti-racism class she taught at the University of Wisconsin and found that many students did not find the norms empowering or even helpful in finding ways to decide on their own group course of action. Their own experiences and norms, and their views of the meaning of the new norms, created barriers to joint action. As the classroom teacher, Ellsworth faced the brunt of their subjective experience of the discourse norms she had intended to put in place.
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Michaels, S., O’Connor, C. & Resnick, L.B. Deliberative Discourse Idealized and Realized: Accountable Talk in the Classroom and in Civic Life. Stud Philos Educ 27, 283–297 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-007-9071-1