Classroom orchestration as a potent stimulator of dialogic teaching and learner engagement in higher vocational classrooms

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


1. Objectives
This paper examines dialogic teaching in classroom orchestration to stimulate learner engagement in changing the classroom learning environment in Chinese higher vocational classrooms. While technologies tend to be under-exploited in mainstream classrooms, they are often the teaching focus in vocational classrooms. Thus, examining the under researched vocational classrooms is vital for understanding how traditional pedagogical approaches like dialogical teaching can blend in a technology-enhanced learning context.

2. Conceptual framework
We selected Dillenbourg’s (2013, p.485) classroom orchestration theory which defines orchestration as “how a teacher manages, in real-time, multi-layered activities in a multi-constraints context” as our overarching theoretical framework. The concept of orchestration allows us to see pedagogy as integration or management of dialogic interactions, human-computer (or a technological device including interactive whiteboard or tablet) interactions, and teaching strategies (simulations, quizzes, demonstrations). Typical pedagogical scenarios involve dialogic interactions (i.e., teacher-led, student-led, student-student, and student-content, as in examples in Table 2) and classroom activities (e.g., reading as individual deskwork, problem-solving for teams, and lecturing for whole-class). Researchers have pointed out that the dialogue makes students more active in sharing ideas and enables active participation in dialogic interactions (Mercer & Littleton, 2007; Rojas-Drummond et al., 2013). Accordingly, we predicted that dialogic teaching would connect vocational learning environments and future working contexts in effective vocational classrooms with high student engagement.

3. Method and data analysis
Sixty videotaped lessons of two higher vocational institutes in South China were observed initially by the first author using a systematic international observation instrument, the International Comparative Analysis of Learning and Teaching (ICALT, Van de Grift, 2007, 2014). Four lesson observations that scored high were then selected to conduct an in-depth qualitative dialogue analysis with a newly developed coding scheme introduced by Hennessy et al. (2015; 2020) with detailed descriptions (Table 1). Table 2 shows a three-minute excerpt of a mechanic engineering lesson that highlights students’ collaborative learning in dialogic interactions using the coding system.

4. Findings and conclusion
First, the results showed that to achieve collaborative learning, vocational teachers used three flexible and active approaches consistently, 1) small group teaching of vocational skills, 2) vocation-oriented activities connected to real-life situations, and 3) student collaboration in teamwork in improving career competencies.
Second, while these findings are consistent with individualised or adaptive instructions reported in the literature (Gillies, 2016, 2019; Howe & Abedin, 2013; Vrikki et al., 2019), the vocational classroom is a unique learning environment where dialogic interactions have to be orchestrated synthetically with technology as content, as means, as artefacts, and as ultimate career goals.
Third, regarding classroom dialogues, while various pedagogies foster classroom talk in a specific discourse practice (Kim & Wilkinson, 2019), successful orchestration requires strong teacher agency to enact a technology-intense learning environment (Looi & Song, 2013) with dialogic interactions as traditional pedagogies.

5. Significance
This study on orchestration and dialogic interaction has contributed to vocational learning theory and practice by enhancing our knowledge of teaching strategies and practices, student learning patterns, and their respective learning environments in the vocational education context. Copyright © 2022 AERA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


Zhao, Y., & Ko, J. (2022, April). Classroom orchestration as a potent stimulator of dialogic teaching and learner engagement in higher vocational classrooms. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association (AERA 2022) Annual Meeting, San Diego, California, USA.


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