Facilitating Classroom Discourse: Lessons from research



With Zeal Unceasing” Essays on teaching at Illinois State University is published by Center for the Advancement of Teaching.


Classroom discourse allows for the negotiation of personal and cultural meaning (Forman, 996). This is consistent with and supports sociocultural theory, which posits that "learning is a form of participation in the activities of a community of practice and that learning is a discursive activity" (p. 128). Similarly, communication is critical for learning and "meaning postulates a quality or property of linguistic units that mediates between communicating people" (Dorfler, 2000, p. 99). But how does classroom discourse as a way of communicating affect learning? In mathematics, Sfard (2000; 2001) posited that new symbols are created through discursive activity. These symbols, she suggests, generate a need for mathematical objects influencing discourse and push students to think in new direction, thus creating new symbols.