Explorations of classroom talk and links to reading achievement in upper elementary classrooms.

Amanda P. Goodwin, Sun Joo Cho, Dan Reynolds, Rebecca Silverman, Stephanie Nunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The current study reports on a large-scale quantitative analysis of classroom talk practices and links to different measures of reading achievement within upper elementary classrooms. Data involving 745 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers and 18,844 students from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study were used. Talk was quantified via various talk-related indicators from 2 observation protocols and a student survey. Dimensionality analyses suggest these indicators represent 4 factors consisting of teacher explaining, questioning, encouraging of student talk, and big-picture communicating. Links to 2 different standardized reading achievement measures were also modeled with improved ratings of teacher explanations and questioning predicting higher standardized reading scores. Relationships varied, though, by different measures of classroom talk (i.e., observational protocols vs. student surveys) and levels of analysis (i.e., the student, class period, or school level). Students’ but not observers’ ratings of talk practices linked to standardized reading at the class period level, whereas observers’ ratings related to standardized reading performance at the school level. Interpretations, implications for future research, and connections to educational practice are conveyed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Educational Impact and Implications Statement—The current study makes important contributions to the literature in terms of understanding the makeup of talk present in United States elementary Language Arts classrooms and links to reading performance. We consider a larger sample than previously possible (745 teachers and 18,844 students) as well as multiple ways that talk and reading are measured. Overall, we found that talk matters and different types of talk are more or less supportive of reading achievement. Specifically, teacher explanations and teacher questions seemed to improve reading performance, but student talk and big-picture communicating did not, although we emphasize quality may be more important than quantity. Also, students and observers have important lenses to consider as they noted different components of talk that linked differently to different measures of reading achievement. Student seemed to notice talk patterns that mattered to their own learning as well as the learning of those in their class. Observers noted talk patterns that linked to learning across the school. Overall, the study shows that talk matters to different types of reading achievement and also when considering large numbers of students, teachers, classrooms, districts, and even states. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • explaining
  • reading
  • student talk
  • teacher talk


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