Xiaoying Wu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Richard C. Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kim Nguyen-Jahiel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Students' attitude towards classroom discussion and engagement during classroom discussions were evaluated in a study involving 367 students from 20 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms (10 treatment; 10 control) across Illinois that varied widely in student demographics (European-American students from rural areas with low to middle SES; ethnically heterogeneous students from urban settings with low SES; ethnically heterogeneous students from urban settings with middle SES; and Spanish-speaking students with limited English proficiency from urban settings with low SES). Students in treatment classrooms participated in 11-17 small group discussions using a discussion approach intended to promote critical thinking and argumentation called Collaborative Reasoning (CR). Survey responses indicated that CR had a large and statistically significant effect on students' attitudes towards discussion. Students who participated in CR rated discussions as 'more exciting' than their control counterparts. They more strongly endorsed the idea that it was 'important to share ideas in discussions' and the idea that discussions help them to 'read better' than their counterparts. Students in the treatment group also indicated that they 'listen more carefully' during discussions than their counterparts. To examine student engagement, discussions from six classrooms (3 treatment and 3 control) were targeted and engagement levels of each student were rated by pairs of adults. All students read and discussed the same story. Treatment classrooms used the CR approach; control classrooms used a conventional approach to discussion. Students in CR were rated to be significantly more engaged during discussions than students in the control classrooms.