Teacher dialogue and its relationship to student achievement

Heather Norton Montgomery, University of Southern Mississippi


Many studies have been conducted to analyze the different methods and structures of teacher conversations. Researchers realize how complex the study of teacher dialogue may be and have concentrated their efforts to study discourse within the context of teaching teams. Some of the literature has focused on what topics and factors of dialogue contribute to improved student achievement. The purpose of this research was to determine whether some factors or themes of dialogue are discussed more frequently than others within third, fourth, and fifth grade-level teams, and if those themes and factors of dialogue had a relationship to academic achievement. This study was significant in that it attempted to measure dialogue quantitatively and found emerging patterns in team dialogue that may have relationships to academic achievement. Findings may help administrators facilitate productive conversations in team meetings. Those findings consistent with the literature included teams who reported participating in group studies and planning with exceptional needs specialists had positive correlations to math and reading achievement. Administrators may want to encourage these practices among teams. As teams reported their increased discussions concerning student behavior, their students' academic achievement in math and reading decreased. This finding supports previous studies suggesting student behaviors may interfere with student achievement. Principals who find teams spending a great deal of time discussing student behaviors should look closely at classroom management to improve student achievement. Ending team meetings with student action plans and sharing lesson plans were negatively correlated with math and reading achievement, which is inconsistent with the literature. School leaders working with teams of teachers may consider monitoring teaching methods used to make sure they are research based. Teams in this sample reporting their use of data in discussions was negatively correlated to math and reading scores. There is some evidence in the literature of teachers being overwhelmed by the amount of data they are asked to review. Administrators may consider providing professional development to help teachers better understand data-driven instruction.