Quality talk interactions in preschools
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2014 Dr. Derek Worley Patton
Teacher-child interactions in early childhood education settings can have a strong influence on children’s emerging literacy and language abilities which are essential for life-long learning and productive engagement in society. In this study, teacher-child quality talk interactions were examined from videos of three different teacher-led literacy activities in 23 preschool rooms in the children’s year before primary school - rooms selected for the preschools’ excellent reputation. A socio-cultural approach focusing on children learning to think is followed throughout. Specifically, participation by turns during episodes of Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2003) and complexity of talk in terms of Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) and Type Token Ration (TTR) were compared to ordinary talk. Teachers’ use of questions, acknowledgments, Gricean maxims and leadership of child concept development, or blending, were also counted. Based on these measures, six quality indicators were selected, averaged and used to rank rooms for further comparisons. Coded transcripts were subjected to a quantitatively dominant mixed methods analysis which found significant relationships within and between classes. Children’s MLU and TTR increased in SST talk, whereas teachers ranked higher tended to decrease their complexity of language while using a higher ratio of words in relation to the children, especially at the start of SSTs. Other indications of intentionality led to the conclusion that teachers higher on the overall ranking were more systematically purposeful in adjusting their goals, activities, and language than those of lower ranking. Quality talk in three distinct patterns emerged from among these same top ranked teachers. The approach used by the majority of teachers had high numbers of open questions and blends and was termed “Expansive” to capture the dialogic process and goal of concept development. A clearly defined minority approach using high numbers of closed questions and Gricean maxims was termed “Focusing” to capture the dialogic process and goal of refining the clarity of thinking encapsulated at the level of the utterance. A third approach did both, but with low levels of acknowledgements. The usefulness of distinguishing and gaining further understanding of these approaches for measuring and improving teacher-child talk interactions is discussed.
KeywordsEarly Childhood; talk; interactions; preschool; language; education
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