Publications & Resources

The Role of Teacher Discourse in Effective Groupwork

Aug 2007

Noreen M. Webb, Megan L. Franke, Marsha Ing, Angela Chan, Tondra De, Deanna Freund, and Dan Battey

Prior research on collaborative learning identifies student behaviors that significantly predict student achievement, such as giving explanations of one’s thinking. Less often studied is how teachers’ instructional practices influence collaboration among students. This report investigates the extent to which teachers engage in practices that support students’ explanations of their thinking, and how these teacher practices influence the nature of explanations that students give when asked by the teacher to collaborate with each other. In this study, we videotaped and audiotaped teacher and student participation, and measured student achievement, in second- and third-grade mathematics classrooms working on algebraic concepts of equality and relational thinking. The teachers observed here, all of whom received specific instruction in eliciting the details of student thinking, varied significantly in the extent to which they asked students to elaborate on their suggestions. This variation corresponded strongly to variation across classrooms in the nature and extent of student explanations during collaborative conversations, and to differences in student achievement.

Webb, N. M., Franke, M. L., Ing, M., Chan, A., De, T., Freund, D., & Battey, D. (2007). The role of teacher discourse in effective groupwork (CRESST Report 726). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).