Writing as a 21st century skill: A dialogic approach to literacy pedagogy

Year: 2019

Author: Leibovitch, Yael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is concerned with how educators can most effectively use the space of academic writing to cultivate the collaborative, critical and creative thinking capabilities of students—important skills to the pursuit of a more socially just world. Due to the prescriptive methods employed, the conventional way through which academic writing is approached in schools typically fails to engage students. This, in turn, contributes to young people’s struggle to develop the independence of mind and capacity to communicate with the clarity and sense of purpose necessary to meet the demands, as well as counter the growing divides, of our twenty-first century world.

In response to the increasing concern over students’ writing capabilities at the secondary level, this paper discusses how educators can use Accountable Talk (Michaels, O’Connor & Resnick, 2007) as a tool to progress the thinking and literacy abilities of their students. More specifically, it explores what it means to take a dialogic approach (Alexander, 2008) to the design and implementation of writing experiences in secondary school classrooms.

Drawing on the local knowledge of schools and extant educational research, this paper is informed by a co-inquiry case-study research project currently underway in a Queensland state school. This qualitative investigation spotlights the collaboration of three dialogically adept teachers, or action researchers, as they design, implement and reflect upon the utility of student interdependent thinking as an organising principal for literacy learning.

Given that data collection is ongoing, this paper focuses on the theoretical rational for a talk-based writing pedagogy while providing a window into preliminary findings regarding how teachers negotiate classroom discourse to open, widen and deepen dialogic spaces during the writing process. With the intent of supporting students to think more rigorously about their decisions as writers through collaborative means, this research has implications for how young people use their voice to reason and communicate in a world increasingly vulnerable to authoritarian forces.