Oral Communication As a Learning Tool
Oral communication in the form of student talk can be described as focused group conversations or collaborative conversations that are usually facilitated and/or monitored by an instructor. Eliciting student talk encourages the use oral language to express their understanding of a concept or idea. It is more than just knowledgeable peers sharing answers; it is the use of language as a tool to construct meaning. Research suggests that students learn more from giving explanations than receiving explanations (Chi et al, 1994; Sparks, 2013; Webb, 1989); hence the benefit of incorporating student talk into class time. It has been shown to be effective across disciplines, from Biology to Language Learning (Kareema, 2014; Tanner, 2009) as well as in small classes to 600-person lecture halls (Tanner, 2009).
According to renowned developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), talk is one of the primary tools for communication. Communication in particular helps students negotiate meaning and connect prior knowledge, resulting in the development of thought and practice (Vygotsky, 1978). Not only can student talk help them better construct understanding of an idea or concept, it can also signal to the instructor whether a particular activity is supporting student learning and whether they are reaching course learning objectives.
Student talk supports learning by
Frequently Asked Questions
Some instructors are not comfortable with the idea of less teacher and more student talk. However, when well-structured and designed, it can be a very effective technique. In addition to reviewing the implementation steps, you can refer to other Teaching Tools in a Flash for engaging students in meaningful talk: Wait-time, Jigsaw, and 3-Stay 1-Stray.
Guides to Help Elicit Student Talk/Have Productive Conversations
Kennesaw State Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning. Eliciting And Using Student Thinking. https://cetl.kennesaw.edu/eliciting-and-using-student-thinking
University of Maryland Teaching & Learning Transformation Center. Class Discussions https://tltc.umd.edu/classroom-discussion
Carnegie Mellon University Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation Eberly Center – Discussions https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/...
Exploratorium. (2015) Science Talk: A Tool for Learning Science and Developing Language. Educators Guide for Inquiry-based Science and English Language Development. Institute for Inquiry. https://www.exploratorium.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/ifi/ScienceTalk.p...
Student Talk Flowchart & Protocols. (2015). STEM Teaching Tools. http://stemteachingtools.org/assets/landscapes/FullSet_StudentTalkProtoc...
Why Talk is Important in Classrooms. ASCD Publications. – Fisher (2008) http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108035/chapters/Why-Talk-Is-Impor...
Procedures for Classroom Talk. ASCD Publications –Fisher (2008) http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108035/chapters/Procedures-for-Cl...
Rubric for grading class discussion: Utexas.edu- https://facultyinnovate.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/Classroom_Discuss...
Grade range descriptions: http://gantercourses.net/class-participation-guidelines-and-grading/
Chronicle article about grading class participation: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/how-to-grade-students-class-p...
Not grading participation, but rewarding it - faculty focus article https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/time-rethi...
Alton, L. (2017). Phone Calls, Texts or Email? Here’s How Millennials Prefer to Communicate. Forbes.
Boyd, M. and Rubin, D. (2006). How contingent Questioning promotes extended student talk: a function fo display questions. Journal of literacy research, 28, 2, 141-169.
Chi M.T.H., de Leeuw N., Chiu M. H., LaVancher C. (1994) Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding. Cogn. Sci. 18, 439–477.
Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K. and Moreland, J. (2010). Multimodal ways of eliciting students voice. Waikato Journal of Education, 15.
Donato, R. (2004). Aspects of collaboration in pedagogical discourse. Annual Review of Applied
Linguistics, 24(1): 284-302.
Kareem, M. (2014). Increasing Student Talk Time in the ESL Classroom: An Investigation of Teacher Talk Time and Student Talk Time. Social Sciences and Humanities. Proceedings from 4th International Symposium, SEUSL.
Qi, Y. and Sykes, G. (2016). Eliciting Student Thinking: Definition, research support, and measurement of the ETS National Observation Teaching Examination Assessment Series. Research Memorandum, ETS. https://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/RM-16-06.pdf
Richter, J. (2003-2018). Information gap activity: Definition & strategy. Study.com Retrieved June 28, 2018 from https://study.com/academy/lesson/information-gap-activity-definition-str...
Scott, S. & Palincsar, A. (n/d). Sociocultural theory. The Gale Group, 1-10. Retrieved June 28, 2018 from http://dr-hatfield.com/theorists/resources/sociocultural_theory.pdf
Smith M. K., Wood W. B., Adams W. K., Wieman C., Knight J. K., Guild N., Su T. T. (2009) Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science. 323, 122–124.
Sparks, S. (2013). Students Can Learn by Explaining, Studies Say. Education Week. May 31st, 2013. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/31/33aps.h32.html.
Tanner, K. (2009) Talking to Learn: Why Biology Students Should Be Talking in Classrooms and How to Make It Happen. CBE Life Sci Edu, 8, 2, 89-94.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Webb, N. M. (1989) Peer interaction and learning in small groups. Int. J. Educ. Res. 13, 21–39.
Willis, D. and Willis, J. (2007). Doing task-based teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cite this resource: Chism. R, & Tomaswick, L. (2018). Oral Communication as a Learning Tool. Kent State University Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved [today's date] from https://www.kent.edu/ctl/oral-communication-learning-tool.