Newsletter 91 Classroom Pedagogies

The following series of newsletters (1-20) are based on a fantastic guide teaching classroom pedagogies, teaching and learning strategies for teachers in the classroom.

A guide to...

Productive Pedagogies Classroom reflection manual

This booklet has been adapted from the Classroom Observation Booklet by New Basics Branch and the Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (QSRLS) commissioned by Education Queensland

© The State of Queensland (Department of Education) 2002


Teachers should use the Productive Pedagogies framework to consider:

• Are all the students I teach, regardless of background, engaged in intellectually challenging and relevant curriculum in a supportive environment?

• How do my teaching and assessment practices support or hinder this?

• What opportunities do I have to critically reflect upon my work with colleagues?


This manual may be used to assist teachers with:

• reflecting on current classroom practices

• generating a professional language

• designing curriculum and learning experiences

• making intelligent decisions about individual students’ needs.


SUMMARY OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (You can follow the topics 1-20 across the four dimensions)



Intellectual quality

Higher-order thinking (1)

Deep knowledge (2)

Deep understanding (3)

Substantive conversation (4)

Knowledge as problematic (5)

Metalanguage (6)


DIMENSION 2 [7-11]

Supportive classroom environment

Student direction (7)

Social support (8)

Academic engagement (9)

Explicit quality performance criteria (10)

Self-regulation (11)


DIMENSION 3 [12-16] Recognition of difference

Cultural knowledge (12)

Inclusivity (13)

Narrative (14)

Group identity (15)

Active citizenship (16)


DIMENSION 4 [17-20]


Knowledge integration (17)

Background knowledge (18)

Connectedness to the world (19)

Problem-based curriculum (20)



DIMENSION 1 - Intellectual quality

The early self-fulfilling prophecy studies (Rist, 1970) and studies of streaming and tracking (Oakes, Gamoran & Page, 1992), show that one of the main reasons some students do not achieve high academic performances is that schools do not always require students to perform work of high intellectual quality. Conversely, Newmann and Associates (1996) suggest that when students from all backgrounds are expected to perform work of high intellectual quality, overall student academic performance increases and equity gaps diminish, relative to conventional teaching practices. From this research, we would generalise that a focus on high intellectual quality is necessary for all students to perform well academically.

TOPIC 4 - Substantive conversation

Does classroom talk lead to sustained conversational dialogue between students, and between teacher and students, to create or negotiate understanding of subject matter?


In classes with substantive conversation there is considerable interaction among students, and between teacher and students, about the ideas of a substantive topic; the interactions are reciprocal, and promote shared understanding.

Features of substantive conversation include the following:

• INTELLECTUAL SUBSTANCE. The talk is about subject matter in the discipline and encourages critical reasoning such as making distinctions, applying ideas, forming generalisations and raising questions. It moves beyond merely recounting experiences, facts, definitions or procedures, and encompasses technical language, analytical distinctions and grounds of disagreement.

• DIALOGUE. The conversation involves sharing ideas, and is not completely scripted or controlled by one party (as in teacher-led recitation). Participants provide extended statements, and address their comments, questions and statements directly to others.

• LOGICAL EXTENSION AND SYNTHESIS. The dialogue builds coherently on participants’ ideas to promote improved collective understanding of a theme or topic. For example, teachers and students may make relevant topic shifts, use linking words, make explicit references to previous comments, and may summarise.

• A SUSTAINED EXCHANGE. Exchanges extend beyond the routine IRE (initiate/response/evaluate) pattern. Dialogue consists of a sustained and topically related series of linked exchanges between students, or between teacher and students. In classes where there is little or no substantive conversation, teacher-student interaction typically consists of a lecture with recitation, where the teacher deviates very little from delivering information and asking routine questions. In this situation students typically give very short answers. Discussion here may follow the typical IRE pattern: low-level recall/fact-based questions, short-utterance or single-word responses, and further simple questions and/or teacher evaluation statements such as ‘Yes, good’. This is an extremely routine, teacher-centred pattern, amounting only to a ‘fill in the blank’, or ‘guess what’s in the teacher’s head’ format.



1. An integrated Maths and Science class was divided into groups. Each group spent a lesson building animals to certain design specifications. The animals were given names by the students. Discussion was then held about ways in which the animals could be classified. Afterwards the teacher distributed a classification system that he had created. In groups of four, the students then moved from table to table where the fifteen animals were set up and discussed the animals within their groups. On a sheet they classified the animals according to the system the teacher had given them. When all groups had classified all the animals, the teacher held a whole-class discussion of the results. Interesting discussions ensued in respect of different classifications of the same animal by some of the groups. These covered issues of measurement (including very sophisticated discussion about exactitude), angle of viewing the animals, injured animals, error in measurement generally and its sources. In most instances, the students themselves were initiating the dialogue and other students were providing the framework upon which the groups were constructing their collective understanding of the topic.

2. During a discussion, students were reflecting on whether we would have more freedom without clocks. During the discussion a student made the observation that time is a dimension. When asked what he meant he showed a book, explaining that the book had length, width and depth but also time. Once it didn’t exist and now it did; and many years later it might have ceased to exist.

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