Talking in Class (Student Dialogue)

Brianna Gray and Jacob Rosch, Project Leaders, ACS Cobham International School

How can we increase opportunities for quality student-to-student dialogue in order to enhance learning?



Many teachers find it difficult to create opportunities for students to speak to one another in meaningful ways about class content. Research strongly suggests that when learners are exploring a concept for understanding, trying to answer a question, or trying to solve a problem, they are more successful if there is an opportunity to engage in dialogue with another learner.6

The Student-to-Student Dialogue (Talking in Class (TIC) project began three years ago when Jacob Rosch and Brianna Gray asked the following questions:

  1. Does implementation of student-to-student dialogue activities lead toincreased academic performance?
  2. How can the implementation of lessons incorporating the Core Skills(Elaborate and clarify, Support ideas with examples, Build on and/or challenge a partner’s idea, Paraphrase, Synthesize conversation points) increase and improve student-to-student dialogue?
  3. Do teachers feel increased student-to-student interaction builds students’ “academic
    identity?” Academic identity is defined as students’confidence in school, characterized by the ability to express their thinking in writing and a willingness to contribute to class discussions.
  4. Do students believe an increase in student-to- student interaction has an impact on their learning?
  5. Does using video technology to analyse the five core skills in lessons help with the future creation and implementation of student-to-student interaction activities in the classroom?

To answer these questions, in 2013-2014 they led a team of ACS Cobham Middle School teachers through a workshop aimed at building their capacity to increase opportunities for structured student conversations, and assess the effects of speaking and listening activities on student learning outcomes.

To build on the work at ACS Cobham, the project leaders led additional workshops for teachers at other ACS campuses and regional international teacher conferences. Aware that many teachers do not readily apply new teaching approaches to practice, the project was keen to learn, ‘What is the level of implementation of structured student dialogue in the classroom for practitioners who participate in TIC professional development such as workshops, conferences, presentations, and PLCs?’ So in 2014-2015 they undertook research to investigate this question.



To investigate the new research question, ‘‘What is the level of implementation of structured student dialogue in the classroom for practitioners who participate in TIC professional development such as workshops, conferences, presentations, and PLCs?’, three sub-questions were explored:

  • Who is most likely to implement TI after attending a workshop?
  • How do companion materials affect the implementation of activities?
  • What barriers exist for practitioners in the implementation of knowledge gained through projection development in Talking in Class?

The project leaders designed and used the following resources to conduct their research:

  • Three Talking in Class professional development workshops, 90 minutes, 2 hours and a full day workshop.
  • Post Workshop Survey
  • Talking in Class Conversation Skill Activities book

These were in addition to the already published eBook, Talking in Class: Increasing the quality and quantity of student-to-student dialogue in the classroom, and the resources available on the Talking in Class website,

The project leaders had the opportunity to deliver a 90-minute workshop at the ELMLE conference (in Warsaw, Poland), a two-hour workshop at the ECIS Annual Conference (in Nice, France), a 90-minute workshop to all Middle School faculty at ACS Hillingdon, and a full day workshop to HoDs and NLE teachers at ACS Egham. At the end of the workshops the project leaders distributed the new Talking in Class Conversation Skill Activities book, and collected participants’ contact details (email) so they could follow up with a Post Workshop Survey, assessing the extent to which participants had applied their new knowledge and its perceived benefits to student learning.


What did we learn?

The post workshop survey was sent to participants after each workshop, with participants at the ECIS Annual Conference omitted due to contact details not being shared. ELMLE participants were surveyed 1 month after the workshop, Egham participants 10 months after the workshop, and Hillingdon participants 13 months after their workshop.

The results showed:


Selected questions from the post workshop survey are presented below. They suggest that respondents who used the activities and ideas presented in the workshop observed increased use of communication skills, increased levels of student engagement and motivation, and identified increased opportunities for student-centred learning.


Respondents identified lack of planning time and the lack of opportunities to collaborate with colleagues as barriers to incorporating student-to- student dialogue activities in lessons.



Next steps

The project leaders will present a full-day Talking in Class workshop as part of the CIM Explorations series in 2015-2016, with a half-day Talking in Class Master Class to follow. The new Explorations series provides an opportunity for our ACS teachers to share their experience and expertise with other teachers across our campuses.


Download your free copy of the project’s iBook at class/id610335838?mt=11

Visit the project’s website at