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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effective Instructional Conversation in Native American Classrooms


Instructional conversation (IC) is a dialog between teacher and learner in which prior knowledge and experiences are woven together with new material to build higher understanding. IC contrasts with the "recitation script" of traditional western schooling, which is highly routinized and dominated by the teacher. IC varies in form in different cultures, as do other discourse forms. Analysis of the research on the formal and informal learning of American Indians lends insight into possible ways in which instructional conversations in classrooms with these children can be modified to promote learning. Effective instructional conversations for Native Americans are influenced by four basic psychocultural factors identified by Tharp (1989): a) sociolinguistics; b) motivation; c) cognition; and d) social organization. These factors are implicated in activity settings that are more likely to produce effective ICs in Native American classrooms. "Ideal" activity settings--those most likely to produce and maintain ICs for Native American students are proposed and illustrated.

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