Accountable Talk: How Structured Academic Discussion Builds the Mind


February 26, 2014 (Wednesday)

4:30 pm -5:45 pm

Room 102, K.K. Leung Building, HKU

Professor Lauren Resnick, University of Pittsburgh

Language: English


Recent evidence from several countries suggests that long-term, “far” transfer from one academic discipline to another is possible under certain conditions of teaching and learning. For example: a) English students who discussed middle school science problems under teacher guidance repeatedly outperformed other students on the British national exam in English three years later; b) American elementary school pupils from poor families who learned math through teacher-led discussion later scored at the highest levels on national and state standard tests of reading; and c) Scottish elementary students who discussed problems in the Philosophy for Children program later outperformed control groups on standard math and reading tests. Experimental results like these are becoming more frequent. Yet very little standard teaching includes the guided discussion that appears essential to the “transfer effect.” Teachers avoid discussion methods because they believe that basic information must first be taught “directly,” and because they believe that only a few students are capable of the kind of “accountable talk” that appears to produce transfer. Thus, a major new challenge for education is to find ways to “break the discussion barrier” in all types of classes and schools.

About the speaker

Lauren Resnick_photo

Lauren Resnick is a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science and also of Learning Sciences and Education Policy at the University of Pittsburgh. She is an internationally known scholar in the cognitive science of learning and instruction and was Director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh from 1977 to 2008. She has researched and written widely on the learning and teaching of literacy, mathematics, and science. Her recent work focuses on school reform, assessment, effort-based education, the nature and development of thinking abilities, and the role of talk and discourse in learning. Dr. Resnick is founder and Co-Director of the Institute for Learning, which bridges the domains of research and practice by conveying to educators the best of current knowledge about learning processes, principles of instruction, and the design of school systems. Dr. Resnick also co-founded the New Standards Project (1990-1999), which developed performance-based standards and assessments that widely influenced state and school district practice. Dr. Resnick is a prolific author, a respected editor, and a frequent consultant, with appointments to many national education boards, commissions, and associations.  Recognized both nationally and internationally, Dr. Resnick has received multiple awards for her research. Educated at Radcliffe and Harvard, Dr. Resnick has been an Overseer of Harvard University and a member of the Smithsonian Council. She is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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