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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Applebee A.N., Langer J.L., Nystrand M., Gamoran A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English. American Educational Research Journal 40, 685–730
Altermatt E.R., Jovanovic J., Perry M. (1998). Bias or responsivity? Sex and achievement-level effects on teachers’ classroom questioning practices. Journal of Educational Psychology 90, 516–527
Ames C. (1986). Effective motivation: The contribution of the learning environment. In: Feldman R.S. (eds). The social psychology of education. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA
Ames C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology 84, 261–271
Ames C., Ames R. (1981). Competitive versus individualistic goal structures: The salience of past performance information for causal attributions and affect. Journal of Educational Psychology 73, 411–418
Ames C., Archer J. (1988). Achievement goals in the classroom: Student’s learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology 80, 260–267
Bandura A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review 84, 191–215
Bossert S.T. (1979). Tasks and social relationships in classrooms. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Cohen E.G., Lotan R.A. (1997). Working for equity in heterogeneous classrooms. Teacher’s College Press, Columbia
Collins J. (1982). Discourse style, classroom interaction and differential treatment. Journal of Reading Behavior 14, 429–437
Cuban L. (1993). How teachers taught: Constancy and change in American classrooms 1890–1990. Teachers College Press, Columbia
DeCharms R. (1984). Motivation enhancement in educational settings. In: Ames R., Ames C. (eds). Research on motivation in education: Student motivation. Academic Press, New York, pp. 275–310
Eccles J.S., Midgley C. (1989). Stage/environment fit: Developmentally appropriate classrooms for early adolescents. In: Ames R., Ames C. (eds). Research on motivation in education: Goals And cognitions. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp. 139–181
Finn, J. D. (2006). The adult lives of at-risk students. Statistical Analysis Report, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2006–328.
Firebaugh G. (1999). Empirics of world income inequality. American Journal of Sociology 104, 1597–1630
Fredericks J.A., Blumenfeld P.C., Paris P.H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research 74, 59–109
Gamoran A., Nystrand M. (1992). Taking students seriously. In: Newmann F., (eds). Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools. Teachers College Press, New York
Gamoran A., Nystrand M., Berends M., Lepore P.C. (1995). An organizational analysis of the effects of ability grouping. American Educational Research Journal 32, 687–715
Good T.L., Slavings R.L., Harel K.H., Emerson H. (1987). Student passivity: A study of question asking in K-12 classrooms. Sociology of Education 60, 181–199
Hauser, R. M., & Warren, J. R. (1996). Socioeconomic indexes for occupations: A review, update, and critique. Working Paper 96–01, Center for Demography and Ecology, Madison WI.
Langer, J. A., Applebee, A. N., & Nystrand, M. (2005). Final report. National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement. SUNY-Albany.
Mehan H. (1979). Learning lessons: Social organization in the classroom. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
Metz, M. H. (1986) . Different by design: The context and character of three magnet schools. Columbia University: Teacher’s College Press.
Morine-Dershimer G. (1985). Talking, listening and learning in elementary classrooms. Longman, New York
Nystrand M. (1997). Opening dialogue: Understanding the dynamics of language and learning in the English classroom. Teachers College Press, New York
Nystrand M., Wu L.L., Gamoran A., Zeiser S., Long D. (2003). Questions in time: Investigating the structure and dynamics of unfolding classroom discourse. Discourse Processes 35(2): 135–196
Pintrich P.R., De Groot E.V. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology 82, 33–40
Pintrich P.R., Garcia T. (1991). Student goal orientation and self-regulation in the college classrooms. In: Maehr M.L., Pintrich P.R. (eds). Advances in motivation and achievement: Goals and self-regulatory processes Vol. 7. JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 371–402
Popkewitz T.S., Tabachnick R.B., Wehlage G. (1982). The myth of educational reform. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison
Roeser R.W., Eccles J.S., Sameroff A.J. (2000). School as a context of early adolescents’ academic and social-emotional development: A summary of research findings. The Elementary School Journal 100, 443–471
Roeser R.W., Strobel K.R., Quihuis G. (2002). Studying early adolescents’ academic motivation, social-emotional functioning, and engagement functioning, and engagement in learning: Variable and person-centered approaches. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping 15, 345–368
Rosenholtz S.J., Rosenholtz S.H. (1981). Classroom organization and the perception of ability. Sociology of Education 54, 132–140
Rosenholtz S.J., Wilson B. (1980). The effect of classroom structure on shared perceptions of ability. American Educational Research Journal 17, 175–182
Rudolph K.D., Lambert S.F., Clark A.G., Kurlakowsky K.D. (2001). Negotiating the transition to middle school: The role of self-regulatory processes. Child Development 72, 929–946
Samson G.E., Strykowski B., Weinstein T., Walberg H.J. (1987). The effects of teacher questioning levels on student achievement: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Educational Research 80, 290–295
Schunk D.H. (1991). Self-efficacy and academic motivation. Educational Psychologist 26, 207–231
Shernoff D.J., Csikszentmihalyi M., Schneider B., Shernoff E.S. (2003). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School Psychology Quarterly 18, 158–176
Simpson C. (1981). Classroom structure and the organization of ability. Sociology of Education 54, 120–132
Skinner E., Wellborn J., Connell J. (1990). What it takes to do well in school and whether I’ve got it: A process model of perceived control and children’s engagement and achievement in school. Journal of Educational Psychology 82, 22–32
Turner J.C., Meyer D.K., Cox K.E., Logan C., DiCintio M., Thomas C.T. (1998). Creating contexts for involvement in mathematics. Journal of Educational Psychology 90, 730–745
Turner J.C., Midgley C., Meyer D.K., Gheen M., Anderman E., Kang Y., Patrick H. (2002). The classroom environment and students’ reports of avoidance strategies in mathematics: A multimethod study. Journal of Educational Psychology 94, 88–106
Valeski T.N., Stipek D.J. (2001). Young children’s feelings about school. Child Development 72, 1198–1213
Zimmerman B.J., Martinez-Pons M. (1992). Perceptions of efficacy and strategy use in the self-regulation of learning. In: Schunk D.H., Meece J.L. (eds). Student perceptions in the classroom. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 185–207
About this article
Cite this article
Kelly, S. Classroom discourse and the distribution of student engagement. Soc Psychol Educ 10, 331–352 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-007-9024-0
- Student engagement
- Self-efficacy theory
- Classroom discourse
- Teacher–student interaction