To analyse and categorise an example of classroom talk


To analyse and categorise an example of classroom talk.


Mercer & Littleton (2007) characterise three different ways in which school children talk together in classrooms: disputational, cumulative and exploratory. These can also be applied to university students. Mercer and Littleton (2007) argue that exploratory talk constitutes a powerful way for students to think and reason together.  Its effectiveness is due to three main reasons.  Firstly, participants appropriate successful problem-solving strategies and explanatory accounts from each other; secondly, they jointly construct new, robust, generalisable explanations; and thirdly, participation in external dialogue promotes internal dialogue. 

After seeking and gaining permission, record a group discussion and make a transcript.  Analyse the transcript, categorising the types of talk using Mercer and Littleton’s three categories: disputational, cumulative and exploratory talk.  Reflect on which of the three were most commonly in use.  How would you account for this? Do these categories work for university students? Are there any other categories of talk you would identify?


Mercer, N., & Littleton, K. (2007) Dialogue and the development of children's thinking: A sociocultural approach, London: Routledge.