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The Construction of Knowledge in Classroom Talk

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Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 19, Number 3, ISSN 1050-8406


Social interaction is important for the development of knowledge (M. Chapman, 1991). Social interaction, however, takes many forms, and J. Piaget (1977/1995) proposed that the construction of knowledge is facilitated in cooperative as opposed to constraining relationships. These views of knowledge development were drawn on in a study of classroom talk in higher education, namely in 2 first- and 2 fourth-year college and university psychology classes. Classroom talk was recorded, transcribed, and analyzed following conversation analytic (H. Sacks, 1992) and social pragmatic (W. Turnbull, 2003) approaches. Examination of how cooperation and constraint were constituted in the corpus was based on N. Mercer's (1995, 2000) categorization of different ways of making reasoning manifest, namely exploratory talk, or the joint negotiation of ideas; disputational talk, or the competitive negotiation of knowledge claims; and cumulative talk, or the uncritical addition of knowledge claims. Analysis focused on the sequential structures of classroom talk in and through which reasoning is achieved. Analysis revealed that most fourth-year talk was exploratory, whereas most first-year talk was disputational or cumulative. (Contains 1 table and 3 footnotes.)


Atwood, S., Turnbull, W. & Carpendale, J.I.M. (2010). The Construction of Knowledge in Classroom Talk. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(3), 358-402. Retrieved March 7, 2021 from .

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