Enacting dialogic pedagogy in primary literacy classrooms: Insights from systemic functional linguistics

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australian Journal of Language and Literacy


Australian Literacy Educators’ Association


School of Education / Edith Cowan Institute for Education Research




Thwaite, A., Jones, P., & Simpson, A. (2020). Enacting dialogic pedagogy in primary literacy classrooms: Insights from systemic functional linguistics. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, The, 43(1), 33. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=949635084525088;res=IELIND


Classroom dialogue has been the focus of educationists' attention for over 60 years (Myhill 2018), most recently manifest in the work of Alexander (2017); Edwards-Groves and Davidson (2017); Resnick, Michaels and O'Connor (2010) and Mercer, Dawes and Kleine Staarman (2009). In concert with this work, systemic functional linguists have developed useful tools for describing the character and quality of talk in classrooms (e.g. Christie, 2002; Hammond and Gibbons, 2005). However, despite such activity, the interaction patterns through which learners become constituted as more or less successful remain largely invisible to many teachers and students. This paper builds on recent work exploring the intersection of systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and dialogic pedagogy (Jones and Hammond, 2019). Here, we report on collaborative research from three different Australian classrooms in which teachers worked to enhance the quality of talk (Jones, Simpson and Thwaite, 2018). We draw on SFL (Halliday and Matthiessen, 1999), in particular, the systems of Speech Function (Eggins and Slade, 1997) and Exchange Structure (Martin and Rose, 2007), to illuminate how different pedagogic practices are enacted in the unfolding interactions between teachers and students. We argue that a functional linguistic approach makes visible, in a theoretically principled way, how micro-level adjustments to talk patterns can lead to more productive, dialogic classrooms.

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