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Play, dialogic teaching and executive functions in early primary school

This project forms part of doctoral research being conducted by PEDAL PhD student Carolyn Mazzei

Talk can be used as a vehicle for playful learning. Some teachers find that playful talk, or dialogic teaching, is a good entry-point into more child-centred practices – even when there are immovable constraints on their practice which mean, for example, that they cannot deconstruct their timetable or their approach to assessments.

What is dialogic teaching?

Dialogic teaching is reciprocal; both students and teachers offer contributions, and in turn respond, elaborate, connect, and respectfully guide that conversation with a learning objective in mind.

Open questions with multiple answers are favoured over closed questions with low cognitive demands. As such, students are positioned as active participants whose voices, opinions, and ideas are valued.

Is dialogic teaching associated with positive outcomes for young children?

The features that characterise dialogic teaching are also associated with increased self-regulation and executive functions in children, according to literature on parenting and some qualitative research in classrooms. However, there have not been any large scale quantitative studies exploring how these teaching practices are associated with young children’s cognitive outcomes.

In the first phase of this project, we will explore if there is a relationship between children’s executive functions and teachers’ use of dialogic talk moves. We will do this via classroom observations of teachers during whole class and small group activities. We will also measure children’s executive function during a group assessment. We then will ask teachers about how their beliefs and perceptions might impact their use of dialogic teaching.

Relevant articles

  • Teachers’ Views on Supporting Self-Regulated Learning in Early Childhood Science Education (Kittredge et al., 2018
  • What is dialogic teaching? Constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing a pedagogy of classroom talk (Kim & Wilkinson, 2019)
  • Scaffolding through dialogic teaching in early school classrooms (Muhonen et al., 2016)

Play Piece

Find out more in this short blog post by Janina Eberhart on the relationship between children’s executive functions and games.