Tim Rutter Ruth Edwards Phil Dean


This paper explores the literature to determine if exploratory talk could aid pupil learning and understanding in secondary schools and, if so, how it could best be utilised and what the roles of the ‘teacher’ and the ‘learner’ are in the process.

We found five main themes related to talk and learning: exploratory talk is educationally valuable but not easy to implement; ‘initiation-response-feedback’; is much more commonly used; there are other types of talk which are generally less good for developing thinking; exploratory talk is good for collaborative learning; and exploratory talk is best organised with a set of ‘ground rules’.

It became apparent to us that agreeing and setting the ground rules was a very important factor in generating successful pupil to pupil talk for learning and that there is a strong relationship between adherence to ground rules for talking together and improving children’s ability to solve problems. For consistency of a whole-school approach, we found that these group-specific ground rules should be set within an overall framework developed through teachers developing ways to work collaboratively with colleagues to investigate ways of promoting exploratory talk with all classes. Finally we highlight to school leaders the importance of developing and supporting a whole school approach to exploratory talk.