Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Research Student: Andy Hind

Photo of Andy Hind

The development of teachers' professional knowledge of the different kinds of talk and purposes of talk in secondary science classrooms.

Submission Date: April 2016

The aim of this study is to follow a cohort of seven teachers through the first three years of their career from initial teacher training through the first two years of teaching to examine the development of their professional knowledge of the nature and purpose of different forms of talk in science classrooms. Regular semi-structured interviews with participants are used to follow the development of this teacher knowledge over the length of the study. In terms of a contribution to understanding science teacher education the study has the potential to have an impact through contributing to an understanding of teachers’ professional knowledge in a number of areas. In the wider education research community I hope to be able to add insight to the process of developing professional knowledge in a complex area. This examination of the development of professional knowledge during and after initial teacher education may develop theoretical perspectives about the nature of the process of acquisition of professional knowledge aspects that are generalisable outside the field of research on classroom talk. Within research on dialogic teaching the study has the potential to offer a contribution in terms of understanding the sense teachers make of theoretical perspectives on classroom talk in the problematic interface between the research community and practitioners that often exists in the UK . The study also addresses issues that should be of interest to policy makers in UK education and to teacher educators in the Higher Education sector as initial teacher education navigates the reforms to teacher education in England and Wales: reforms that necessitate a re-examination and re-assertion of the role of Higher Education partners in teacher education.


I have worked both as a secondary science teacher and subject leader in secondary schools (1993-2005) and as a researcher in science education at the University of Leeds (2000-2003). It was during this period that I developed an interest in classroom talk in science. Since 2005 I have worked as a PGCE tutor for both the Open University and the University of Manchester before moving to Newman University, Birmingham as a Senior Lecturer in Science Education where I began part time study toward a PhD.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

The starting point for developing the research questions in this thesis lies in my own reflections on experiences working with both student teachers and experienced teachers in developing their understanding of how they used talk in science classrooms. I delivered both continuing professional development and post-graduate certificate in education (PGCE) sessions based around the framework for describing the communicative approach developed by Mortimer and Scott and the response from the two groups was strikingly different. The experienced teachers responded positively to the theoretical framework for describing authoritative and dialogic interactions and were able to reflect on their own practice in the light of the framework. In contrast PGCE groups struggled to engage with the framework and understand how it might provide an analytical lens on their own practice. Perhaps this is not surprising but it left a sense of curiosity about the nature of the changes that need to take place in terms of experience and an ability to reflect on one’s own practice that lay behind the difference in these experiences.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Conversations with science teachers suggest that much of the good intentions to develop more dialogic practices in the classroom are drowned under a perception of the need to deliver the content of an overloaded GCSE specification and to prepare pupils for an examination that still places an emphasis on the recall of knowledge. There is now a drive by the current government to increase the importance of the school based element of teacher training, inherent within which is the potential to reduce the opportunities for trainee teachers to reflect on theoretical aspects of their developing professional knowledge. As a result new teachers will, more than ever, be reliant on the community of practice within which they work in school. In this context I aim to explore the development of early career teachers' understanding of the forms of classroom talk and the purposes of these different forms of talk in order to better understand the complex nature of professional knowledge development in school settings.

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