Preparing students to 'talk to learn' in a flipped classroom

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Submission Summary

This action research stemmed from my teaching context where the flipped classroom has been gaining wider currency without taking cognizance of students’ readiness for the idea of ‘talk to learn’. A pedagogical intervention on academic conversation/discussion skills was implemented to help students accustom to the practice of learning through discussion.

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With "flipped classroom" gaining wide currency over the last decade, university students in Taiwan are given much more opportunities to engage in class discussion and/or academic conversation. Flipped classroom means different things in different contexts; however, at the heart of such an approach is learners previewing course materials before class, and thus freeing up valuable class time for academic conversation/discussion whereby higher-order thinking skills are developed. While the concept of "talk to learn" is deeply rooted in some Western cultures and commonly practiced across all educational levels, Taiwan has only just begun to embrace the value of learner-centered class discussion. Most university students have not received systematic training to engage in effective academic conversation/discussion, rendering the effects of the flipped approach questionable. This paper reports on an action research in which academic conversation/discussion skills training was implemented as part of a mandatory Freshman English course for 15 weeks to prepare students for "talk to learn". Two intact classes were randomly assigned into one of the input modes: 1) explicit instruction on academic conversation/discussion skills based on Zwiers and Crawford (2011) with usual group discussions; 2) explicit instruction on academic conversation/discussion skills along with Fishbowl Harkness Table discussions. Measurements on learners' performances in class discussion and overall oral proficiency were taken before and after the pedagogical intervention. Findings show that systematic training on academic conversation/discussion skills enhanced students' performances in class discussion, regardless of input modes. 

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Associate Professor
National University of Kaohsiung
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