Dialogic Pedagogies: Defining and Analyzing Four Types of Dialogue in Education


  • Ben Kilby


Introduction: The empirical research on dialogue-based pedagogies shows that they improve student outcomes and, thus, teachers should make more use of these methods (Edwards-Groves & Hoare, 2012). However deeper analyses about whether certain modes of dialogue are better than others is under-researched, resulting in little information about which models best help teachers develop effective dialogic learning practices (Howe & Abedin, 2013, p. 325). Some researchers have argued that there is a gap in the literature, as there has been little proper exploration of what constitutes effective classroom dialogue, with practical examples of how to structure discourse for learning lacking in classroom practice (Myhill et al., 2005; Mercer, 2010; Edwards-Groves & Hoare, 2012; Howe & Abedin, 2013). Edwards-Groves and Davidson (2020, p. 126) suggest that “developing a shared language and collective understandings about classroom talk and interaction among teachers, and with and among their students, largely remains taken-for-granted in practice.” Howe and Abedin (2013) suggest that this leads to a lack of understanding about models of effective dialogue and allows poorer forms of dialogic pedagogy to persist. Alexander (2004) shares this concern that the most effective kinds of talk in classrooms are not widely practised. Nystrand (1997) also discusses how different modes of classroom discussion engender particular epistemic roles for both teachers and students, which can constrain their thinking and contribute to disadvantage. In sum, “the quality of student learning is closely related to the quality of classroom talk” (p. 29). Therefore, it is vitally important that we are able to demonstrate what kind of talk is most effective in the classroom. This paper identifies different kinds of dialogue-based pedagogies and, through conceptual analysis, articulates the notions of dialogue they assume and the educational implications of these different notions of dialogue. Four types of dialogic pedagogy have been identified in the existing literature. Although they may go by different names to different people, for consistency, this paper will categorise them as Teacher-Directed Dialogue, Mere Conversation, Adversarial Dialogue, and Exploratory Dialogue, each of which will be described in its own subsection.