A Dialogic Teaching Approach: Talk Moves to Deepen Students’ Understanding in the Geography Classroom


In most Singapore classrooms, lessons are typically characterised by the traditional Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF) instructional sequence. Such an approach limits students’ ability to engage in meaningful classroom discussions and is contrary to achieving 21st Century skills. This paper analyses the power of dialogic talk in the classroom to engage students in more critical thinking and learning. This paper examines how the quality of dialogue and learning outcomes in the classroom will be influenced when students are conferred more authority in the classroom and positioned as significant figures of knowledge construction. This topic of study is significant as the foundation of Singapore geography is underpinned by an inquiry approach, where knowledge construction is anchored upon asking key and guiding questions.


Leading researchers of classroom talk (Barnes, 2008; Mercer, 2008; Alexander, 2006 & Baktin, 1981) have noted that in most classrooms, lessons are typically characterised by the ritualised exchange of Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF) instructional sequence. The nature of such an approach breeds over-reliance on the teacher for the ‘model’ answer (ibid). Recent research has shown that students have limited opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, which is contrary to achieving the 21st Century skills vital for the development of Singapore’s workforce to think independently, critically and creatively (ibid).

Dialogic teaching is a powerful approach in harnessing the power of talk to stimulate thinking and enhance students’ learning (Scott, Mortimer & Aguiar, 2006). Through the study of talk moves, one will better understand how to engage students to think critically, optimally bouncing off ideas in the classroom. This study is highly relevant to the Desired Outcomes of Education (DOE) in Singapore to develop students to become a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor and a concerned citizen (MOE, 2004).

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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