How is the Quality of Teacher Discourse Linked to Interest for Middle Years Students?
Hanrahan, Mary U. (2005) How is the Quality of Teacher Discourse Linked to Interest for Middle Years Students? In ESERA 2005 Contributions of Research to Enhancing Student Interest in Learning Science, 28 August - 1 September, Barcelona, Spain. (Unpublished)
My research focuses on problems of interest and engagement in science education at the junior secondary level where the literature indicates they begin to become problematic for the majority of students (Goodrum, Hackling and Rennie 2001; Osborne, Simon and Collins 2003). While major curricular reforms designed to arrest and reverse the declining interest in (school) science in recent years seemed to have generally failed to make much impression (cf. Lyons 2003), my research indicates that some science teachers are successful in engaging and motivating a diverse range of students at this level of schooling (Hanrahan 2002). Based on a cross-disciplinary model of literacy teaching (Hanrahan 1999), I suggest that this has as much to do with the implicit messages these teachers convey to their students as with their explicit handling of the disciplinary content of the curriculum.
Using increasingly discourse-focused methods, I have found that these teachers break free of the restrictive communicative norms of the secondary science classrooms (cf. Lemke, 1990) to communicate positive and empowering messages to their students about science, about who and what is valued in the science classroom, and about their students’ roles as learners (Hanrahan 1999, 2002).
Findings from learning environment studies of both teacher and student perceptions also strongly suggest that student outcomes (including attitudes) are related to teacher-student relationships (e.g., Wubbels 1993). Finding out how successful teachers create engaging learning environments has been the goal of my most recent research project. In particular, I have attempted to describe teacher talk that is related to positive attitudes towards science held by a diverse range of students in middle years’ classrooms. For the research related to this paper I used critical discourse analysis (CDA) to analyse the teacher talk in a junior secondary classroom, looking particularly at the way the teacher combined a range of genres, discourses and styles to make science more accessible to her students. A short excerpt of text will be used to illustrate some of the findings.
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