Activity 2.4 Reflecting on the paper


Questions: What research questions are being addressed?

A study of primary school children’s talk and collaborative activity while working at the computer. This research investigates whether the quality of talk is related to their ability in problem solving.

Another issue which seems to be studied here is whether the use of computer based methods into the study of talk may make the research more effective.

Setting: What is the sector and setting?

Primary school children

Concepts: What theories, concepts and key terms are being used?

  • Computer-based discourse analysis

Methods: What methods of data collection and analysis are used?

Using ‘computer-based text analyses into methods for researching talk and educational activity in classrooms.’ Such a method integrates both qualitiative and quantitative methods of data analysis; ‘proposed method was interrelating different levels and types of data to produce an overall interpretation which integrated qualitative and quantitative dimensions.’

Use of target groups  and control groups. Computer based text analysis software named KwicTex is used to quantify occurence of specific words or phrases.

The ‘transcripts were coded independently by two coders and the level of agreement measured to ensure reliability.’

Comparison between pre and post intervention task talk.

Findings: What did this research find out?

Exploratory features of talk responsible for problem solving were more common in post-intervention talk rather then in pre-intervention.

Increase in exploratory talk is related to an increase in group reasoning test scores.

Limitations: What are the limitations of the methods used?

  • The sample of ‘respondents’ in this study is limited as only eight classes are involved.
  • Using such software methods to analyse discourse is somewhat crude, e.g. what about tonality? doesn’t tonality make a difference in discourse? Video captured if studied would show gesturing which may have given another prescpective to research interpretation.
  • Student talk may have different meaning in different situations.
  • If students are responding same questions in pre and post intervention isn’t it pretty obvious that students will fair better in their second response?
  • If students are video recorded will this have an effect on their behaviour whilst working?

Ethics: Are there any ethical issues associated with the research?

Is it ethical to video record children?

Implications: What are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further research?

In this study, the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods of research in order to bring out the strengths of both methods.

What counts as evidence?

Transcripts are used as qualitative illustrations of students’ discourse. In this research the evidence is quantified in the number of occurences of specific keywords identified by the researchers.

How strong are the claims being made, and does the evidence support them?

The results quoted in this study seem to be a bit sketchy as although the researchers imply that their study is a mix of qualitative and quantitative research, the sample studied is limited.  Also by analysing only the transcript, apart from not actually relating with the ‘sample’, the researcher cannot substantiate claims by further investigative techniques.

In addition, make a list of the strengths and weaknesses that Wegerif and Mercer identify for the research methods discussed in the paper. Can you think of any further strengths or weaknesses?


Use of such a software tool to quickly quantify the occurence of specific words in students’ talk.

This tool allowed the researcher to inter-relate through different levels of abstraction.


For the analysis of talk (pg 273)

  • Utterenaces are often ambigous in meaning,
  • Utterances may have multiple meaning,
  • Single utterance may not capture meaning
  • Meanings change.

Reading 2 – Wegerif and Mercer (1997)


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