Authentic Academic Conversations

In authentic academic conversations, students use their knowledge and language to build up valuable ideas in a discipline. This means helping students go from simply choosing answers to posing questions, exploring different points of view, and building meanings with others. Here is a visual showing what students do as they co-construct ideas.​​

After posing or choosing the most relevant and buildable idea (concept, claim, pattern, solution, etc.), students clarify terms and support the idea with evidence, examples, and logical reasoning. If there is argumentation, which means that there are two or more opposing sides to an issue, students co-construct both ideas first. Then they evaluate the evidence on each side to compare the weights (or strengths) and choose which one is heavier (stronger). This is called collaborative (not competitive) argumentation.

One way to improve conversations is by enhancing them with the three features of authentic communication. Here is one example of enhancements for a basic paired conversation in history. 


Constructive Conversation Skills Poster ( Math version )
This tool shows five important conversation skills, their icons, and sentence starters to help students engage in purposeful and extended interactions.

Argument Balance Scale Organizer (2D)  ( 3D version
This visual helps students to evaluate and weigh the evidence for and against two different positions

Zwiers, J. (2019). Next Steps with Academic Conversations: New Ideas for Improving Learning through Classroom Talk. Stenhouse (forthcoming)