Improving writing through discussion: Investigating the relationship between discussion, academic language, and writing

Improving writing through discussion: Investigating the relationship between discussion, academic language, and writing

First Author: Shireen Al-Adeimi -- Michigan State University
Keywords: Writing, Adolescent, Academic success, Instruction, Literacy
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Though talk is a common feature in classrooms, only some forms of classroom talk support students’ learning and thinking. When talk is dialogic, students learn through critique, creative thought and intellectual openness (O’Connor & Michaels, 2007). This paper examines dialogic discussions among students who participated in the Word Generation program (Snow, Lawrence, & White, 2009), with a focus on these questions:
1. How do teachers and students incorporate discussion features in Word Generation lessons?
2. Are students’ post-discussion persuasive essays reflective of their responses during discussions?
Method: Eight 45-minute videotaped discussions from grades 4-7 were coded for teacher and student moves using a low-inference discourse observation tool (LaRusso & O’Connor, 2014). Also, students' post-discussion persuasive essays (n=96) were scored for writing quality. Each classroom will receive a dialogic discussion score, where higher scores indicate teachers who ask more open-ended, authentic questions, and students who engage with one another and elaborate on their responses. Conversely, classrooms with lower scores indicate more test-like questions posed by the teacher, and students who respond minimally. Correlations between these scores and students’ writing scores will be examined, as will correlations between students’ contributions during class and their academic language scores (collected previously).
Results: I hypothesize that higher dialogic discussion scores are positively correlated to students’ persuasive writing outcomes.
Conclusions: With education finding a home online through lectures and massive open online courses, discussion will become the most distinguishing aspect of traditional classrooms. Furthermore, with the increased emphasis of discussion and writing (National Governors Association, 2010), implementing dialogic instruction that effectively improves students’ learning is of utmost importance.