Abstract 1, Volume 8, Number 3, Winter 2013

Tasks and Talk: The Relationship Between Teachers’ Goals and Student Discourse

 Al Rudnitsky

Smith College


The learning outcomes sought by social studies educators emphasize critical thinking, deep content knowledge, and an understanding of how knowledge in the disciplines of social studies is created and changes.   Achieving these outcomes, calls for a more active, collaborative, and student-centered pedagogy.  The reported study seeks to better understand the nature of student engagement in this kind of pedagogy by closely examining student discourse during instruction.  The study reveals while academic tasks were well thought out and, on the surface, constructivist in nature; student discourse was almost entirely oriented toward producing good products with little thinking aimed at exploring the meanings and relationships among content.  The study also demonstrates that redesigning the nature of classroom tasks, by presenting students with problems that necessitate thinking about how content is inter-related, results in readily discernable deepening of student discourse.

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