Duncan PartridgeDirector of Education

Harnessing the power of talk to stimulate students' thinking and advance their learning

Friday 04 Aug 2017

New research published supporting the case for oracy in schools

Every now and then, a piece of research comes along that generates even more excitement than usual. Such a moment happened recently with the publication of the Educational Endowment Foundation's evaluation report on ‘dialogic teaching’. Here at the ESU we love learning from new educational research. The team includes a large number of ‘edu-research geeks’, who like nothing better than to share and discuss the latest reports and papers and to reflect on their implications for our work. So, why were we so excited about this report?

Well here was a report that offered very strong evidence that a focused, structured approach to developing oracy skills in primary students, has a positive effect on their attainment in Maths, English and Science.

Dialogic teaching “emphasises dialogue through which pupils learn to reason, discuss, argue, and explain, in order to develop their higher order thinking and articulacy”; and as such is absolutely line with our own primary Discover Debating programme, which offers a structured developmental approach to fostering speaking and listening skills. So, a report which provides an important addition to the evidence base suggesting that an oracy focus can impact positively on attainment is pretty exciting stuff for us!

Having said this, we are also very aware of the need to be cautious about any educational research. We understand that any evidence produced by research is very rarely ‘definitive’ and subscribe to the Chartered College of Teaching’s notion of ‘evidence-informed practice’. This idea advocates that educators should engage with research in an open-minded and critical way and avoid ‘cherry picking’ evidence that reinforces their pre-existing views.

So, we are certainly not saying that the EEF report provides cast-iron proof that oracy skills are important for attainment. However, the rigorous approach to evaluation used by the EEF does give us reason to believe that the results have a high degree of both validity and reliability.

We will go on engaging critically with research but for the time being we are still allowing ourselves a little bit of slightly cautious excitement about this report.