The relationship between patterns of classroom discourse and mathematics learning
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By creating opportunities for participation and intellectual engagement, standardized classroom routines are large determinants of the conceptual meaning students make. It is through repeated engagement in patterns of talk and intellectual practices that students are socialized into ways of thinking and habits of mind. The focus of this study is on moment-to-moment interactions between teachers and students in order to describe, identify and operationalize meaningful regularities in their discourse. Using classroom-level measures, I investigate the robustness of relationships between students’ mathematics achievement and discursive patterns across multiple classrooms with the statistical methods of Hierarchical Linear Modeling. Specifically, I investigated two theoretically significant constructs reflected in teacher’s follow-up moves -- responsiveness and intellectual work. Responsiveness is an attempt to understand what another is thinking displayed in how she builds, questions, clarifies, takes up or probes that which another says. Intellectual work reflects the cognitive work requested from students with a given turn of talk. After developing coding schemes to measure and quantify these discursive constructs, statistical analyses revealed positive relationships between the responsiveness and intellectual work of teachers’ follow-up and student learning of rate and proportionality (p=.01 and .08, respectively). Additionally, classroom communities with higher levels of responsiveness and intellectual work moderate the effect of prior knowledge on student learning by decreasing the degree to which pretest scores predict students’ post-test achievement (though neither are statistically significant). Based on these results, I conclude that classroom discourse and normative interaction patterns guide and influence student learning in ways that improve achievement. Recommendations are primarily concerned with ways the educational community can support and encourage teachers to develop responsive, intellectually demanding discursive patterns in their classrooms. In particular, we need to increase the awareness of the power of discourse, provide appropriate and sustained support for teachers to change current patterns, re-examine the design of teacher preparation programs, and develop ways to thoughtfully integrate responsiveness and intellectual work with core mathematics content. There is tremendous and often unrealized power in the ways teachers talk with their students; it is our obligation to help teachers learn how to recognize and leverage this power.