Classroom talk in a fourth grade inclusive rural learning community
Sullivan, Sunshine R.
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In this qualitative research study, I investigated a fourth grade inclusive rural learning community and patterns of classroom talk across two differently informed types of whole group reading instruction: basal-informed and teacher-informed. Theories of historical-sociocultural constructivism, classroom talk, reflective practice, and dialogic pedagogy guided the design and methodology for this case study. Research was conducted for one intact five-week ELA basal curriculum unit of study. Participants included one classroom teacher, one special education aide, and the nine students in this fourth grade inclusive rural classroom. Data for this study were collected through daily classroom observation field notes, digital audio and video recording of classroom talk, student and teacher artifacts, and interviews with the classroom teacher and her students. To triangulate my findings I employed the use of analytic memos, profiles of the context and each observed lesson, verbatim transcription, classroom discourse analysis, and intercoder reliability strategies. I used the software program, NVivo, to organize and retrieve my codings and facilitate analyses. This learning community's consistent use of ceremony, celebration, rituals, rites, and conversation established certain predispositions and expectations of how the teacher and students talked and learned together. This study compares basal-informed and teacher-informed whole group reading instruction in a fourth grade inclusive rural classroom context: the same teacher, with the same students, and the same ways of interacting with each other. Accordingly, there was consistency across several patterns of talk. Nevertheless, the teacher's efforts to facilitate interpretation within the learning community was constrained by lesson outlines and materials required by the basal-informed reading instruction. However, the teacher was remarkably consistent in engaging the learning community authentically and purposefully with the content of the teacher-informed reading instruction. The teacher expressed that her ability to use the materials that she collected both empowered her reflection and provided heightened connectivity with her students as meaning makers. Implications for teachers, teacher educators, and educational researchers were drawn from the findings of this study in regards to valuing and empowering classroom teachers, attending to classroom talk as a powerful mediating tool, developing varied teaching repertoires, and working to cultivate learning communities through reflective practice.