• Tom Garside

Classroom Discourse Part 3: Increasing authentic interaction in the language classroom

How to increase student talk, student participation, Trinity CertPT online

In the last article, we identified a traditional feature of classroom discourse, the Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF) exchange, which is controlled by the teacher and leaves little room for student cognition, as student language is ‘rubber-stamped’ as ‘correct’ or ‘inadequate’ by the teacher. In this article, we will look at some alternatives to this restrictive type of interaction, and think about the effects which a more open, student-inclusive discourse can be enabled in language classes.

The main issue with the IRF routine is that it supports the teacher’s dominant role in the interaction that happens in a lesson. An IRF exchange is initiated by the teacher, gives the teacher sole responsibility for evaluation of student language and ideas, restricts student language to what the teacher wants to hear, and ends with the teacher having the final word in the matter, by praising, correcting or criticising the student’s output.

Imagine another communicative situation outside the language classroom where one speaker gave him or herself these roles in interaction. Anyone speaking to that person would quickly take offence or be put off by the selfish, critical and controlli