Understanding Classroom Interaction

Students will learn about, critique, and practice methods for analyzing interaction in classrooms, developing tools to build more engaged, effective, and equitable classroom communication.

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Estimated 5 weeks
2–3 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed

About this course

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Have you ever wondered why some classroom discussions are lively and engaging and others more like painful interrogations? Why some students always have an answer ready, but others never participate? Why everybody (or nobody) laughs at a teacher’s jokes? What role multiple languages should play in classroom talk?

This course gives classroom teachers at all levels and subject areas the analytic tools to answer these and more questions about classroom communication.

Each lesson introduces fundamental concepts and techniques of classroom discourse analysis, developing an analytic toolkit and promoting critical reflection on pedagogical practices over five weeks.

At a glance

  • Institution: PennX
  • Subject: Education & Teacher Training
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:
    3rd or 4th Year Undergraduate Students or Graduate Students who are student teaching, tutoring, or practicing teachers.
  • Language: English

What you'll learn

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You’ll explore student engagement strategies including how to identify and analyze:

  • turn-taking patterns and their function
  • question types and their effects on classroom talk
  • the role of intonation, gesture and other subtle cues on interaction
  • types and functions of classroom storytelling
  • types of class participation and their effects
Week One: Introduction to classroom interaction (What is it and why do it?)
Introduction to previous classic research and reasons for studying classroom interaction.  Introduction to basic terminology of the field and brief examples of how this terminology can be used to focus our observation of classroom talk. 
 
Week Two: Turn-taking patterns and question types
Introduction to typical turn-taking patterns, the different types of questions teachers and students ask and the consequences for student engagement and learning.  Students will view examples of different types of questions and analyze the way classroom discussions develop around them. 
 
Week Three: Beyond Language: The role of intonation, gesture and other non-linguistic cues on interaction
Introduction to the concept of “contextualization cues,” that is the role of gesture, posture, dress, and appearance in cueing how teachers and students understand and contribute to classroom interaction.
 
Week Four: Types and functions of classroom storytelling
Review of classic research literature on storytelling in classrooms, from pre-school “sharing time” to literature and science discussions. Examples illustrate techniques of narrative analysis in everyday classroom settings. 
 
Week Five: Types of participation and their effects
Introduction to different participant structures with emphasis on the joint nature of any classroom talk (from group work to teacher-delivered lectures). Examples of how different frameworks for participation in classrooms affects who talks, what gets said, and how. 

About the instructors