EARLI 2015


Christine Howe Keynote

Dialogue and knowledge transformation: Towards a socio-cultural theory of cognitive growth

Christine Howe
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

[Link to video]

The initial focus of this presentation will be the studies of small group dialogue that the presenter has been involved with for over 25 years. These studies examine the effects of dialogue upon individual knowledge when students are assessed several weeks after group activity has terminated. The results provide consistent and compelling evidence for the utility of dialogue where students express contrasting ideas about the topics they are studying: the message is the same regardless of student age (primary, secondary or tertiary), group size (pairs to groups of five or six), topic of study (in science, social science or mathematics), medium of presentation (computer or workbook), and research context (controlled experimentation or authentic classrooms). At the same time, the results also indicate variation over the mechanisms by which contrasting ideas have their effects. Although they sometimes involve little more than the appropriation of group ideas, they frequently depend upon individual reconciliation and elaboration of ideas in the light of post-group experiences. Such ‘delayed effects’ have important implications for the pacing of teaching and assessment, while also posing challenges for standard socio-cultural models. In recent years, the presenter has been developing and testing an alternative model, and this model together with new empirical work of relevance will be the focus in the second half of the presentation. Some of the recent studies continue the small group focus, while others take contrasting ideas in a much broader sense, e.g. clashes between innovative (and eventually productive) practices relating to aspects of mathematics and established approaches to the same aspects over the preceding five or six years.