OK, last summarizing post before I have to get packing.
Here is the background research on ‘exploratory talk. Once again, please note that this is NOT required reading! Recreational reading only! So please don't freak out! :)
I wanted to provide links and titles to valuable materials.
These are listed in order of relevance to the Group Work Working Group morning session — they are not in formal bibliographical form.
Shell Centre, MAP PD: Students Working Collaboratively (PD Module 5)
An adequate introduction, with pointers to some of the major reseach on exploratory talk in the math classroom. PD module on using talk in the math classroom. There are two parts to download: the overview and the “handouts for teachers.” The Handouts for Teachers is more useful than the overview, but you kind of need both to get started.
Neil Mercer and Steve Hodgkinson, editors, Exploring Talk in School.
The richest single source of research on cultivating exploratory talk, though many of the chapters I found most useful are available on the internet.
Douglas Barnes, “Exploratory Talk for Learning” (chapter 1 in Exploring Talk in School, but downloadable PDF here)
Barnes is the research who originally pioneered the concept of exploratory talk as distinguished from cumulative talk and disputational talk. Everybody else’s work builds on his.
Neil Mercer and Lyn Dawes, “The value of exploratory talk” (chapter 4 in Exploring Talk in School, but downloadable PDF here)
An explanation of the need for differing kinds of talk in the classroom (asymmetrical teacher-student talk as well as symmetric student-student or peer talk). Makes a strong case for doing the work to intentionally raise the level of symmetrical talk to make group work effective and meaningful.
Lyn Dawes, The Essential Speaking and Listening, Chapter 2: “Talking Points” (downloadable PDF here).
Overview of her original strategy for using the “Talking Points” activity structure to encourage students to develop what Barnes referred to as “an open and hypothetical style of learning.” This is what I used as the basis for developing my own version of the Talking Points activity.
How can children be explicitly enabled to use talk more effectively as a tool for reasoning? The Thinking Together program was founded to address this specific question. A freely available, evidence-based interventional program of three talk lessons plus supporting materials, developed by University of Cambridge Faculty of Education researchers (led by Mercer and Dawes) as “a dialogue-based approach to the development of children’s thinking and learning.” It has been widely implemented in the U.K. as a means of cultivating exploratory talk in the classroom. Their materials are targeted at elementary children, but can be adapted for older students as well.
Sylvia Rojas-Drummond and Neil Mercer, “Scaffolding the development of effective collaboration and learning”
Summary of a collaboration between Mexican and British researchers that documents the effectiveness of using exploratory talk strategies to improve collaborative reasoning and learning in the group work-centered classroom.
Neil Mercer and Claire Sams, “Teaching children how to use language to solve maths problems”
Summary of the research behind the interventional program called Thinking Together and how to proactively make talk-based group activities more effective in developing students’ mathematical reasoning, understanding, and problem-solving.