Dialogic Teaching in Science Classrooms

This project focuses on the talk of science classrooms and the ways in which teachers interact with pupils to make the scientific point of view available to them, and to support them in coming to be able to understand and to apply it.

We are interested in identifying the range of different kinds of communicative approach (Mortimer and Scott, 2003) which are played out in the classroom and, in particular, the different forms and purposes of dialogic interactions.

By dialogic interactions, we (provisionally) mean those interactions where: pupils are given the opportunity to question, state points of view and to comment on ideas which arise in lessons; teachers take account of students' ideas in developing the subject theme of the lesson; teachers use talk to provide a cumulative, continuing, contextual frame to enable students' involvement with the new knowledge that they are encountering.

A distinctive feature of the project is that it will research practices across the primary/secondary transition.

The project gets under way in March 2005 and is being jointly directed by Phil Scott and Professor Neil Mercer from the Open University.

Research outcomes

The project will address a range of questions, including:

  1. How does 'dialogic teaching' appear in science classrooms?
  2. What can the analysis of classroom dialogue through a sequence of lessons tell us about the ways in which such dialogue helps to support pupils' emergent understanding of specific scientific concepts?
  3. Do teachers of science at upper primary and lower secondary typically engage in different kinds of dialogic interaction with their pupils?
  4. How can the specification and exemplification of dialogic teaching contribute to educational theory and inform the professional development of teachers?

The outcomes of the project will be of interest to all of those concerned with the theory and practice of science teaching in classroom settings.


A key point of departure for the project is the book:Mortimer, E. And Scott, P. (2003) Meaning Making in Secondary Science Classrooms. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.