Where Literacy Meets Geography: Using Talk Moves to Engage Students in Geographical Data , pp. 5 of 8

Analytical skills for geographical data

The quantitative findings suggest that in general, students felt that Talk Moves helped them improve their skills in analysing geographical data. As shown in Questions 1 to 6 in Table 2, after two research cycles, the majority of the students believed that they were better able to understand the requirements of the questions, decode the data representation, identify and account for the patterns and anomalies. Specifically, as represented by Figure 1, 29.27% (n = 82) of students strongly agreed that they became more competent in understanding what the data is showing. It is equally worth highlighting that 28.05% (n = 82) of students saw greater improvement in identifying key words in the data and 24.39% (n = 82) of them perceived that they improved in identifying the anomalies in the data.

As Barnes (1976) stressed, students talk their way into meaning to increase their knowledge and develop their understandings of the topics. The dialogic classroom that promoted whole-class cooperation in making sense of the geographical data through teacher’s use of Talk Moves opened up a floor for students to talk about the demands of the tasks and the meanings of data representations. They also shared their observations about the data including patterns and anomalies and accounted for the phenomena presented in data with their geographical knowledge. Talk Moves such as “What do you mean by…?” and “Can you put in your own words what Student X just told us?” probed students to make their own or others’ ideas clearer to the whole class and built a common understanding of the data. The use of Talk Moves that elicited a student’s view on another student’ idea, for example “Do you agree or disagree…?”, encouraged students to reflect on others’ ideas and help each other make more accurate observations of the data. This is important to understanding and analysing the data because students were given opportunities to explore different ways of meaning making and to modify existing ideas through the support of the teacher and other students (Hogan, Rahim, Chan, Kwek, & Towndrow, 2012). When students’ ideas are elicited, valued, and built on by another student’s contribution, the teacher’s talk will become less “presentational” (Barnes, 1976) and function as a facilitator of classroom discussion and knowledge construction led by the students.

To compare Cycle 2 with Cycle 1, I computed the mean of each response for this dependent variable (analytical skills for geographical data) and used a t-test in order to further measure the significance of the overall increase. Unfortunately, there was no statistical significance (p = 0.106) due to the large mean and small standard deviation of the sample in Cycle 1. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the percentage of students who strongly agreed or agreed that they were better able to “explain in their own words what the question is asking them to do” increased from 82.35% (n = 85) to 90.24% (n = 82) (see Figure 2). The proportion of students who believed that they were better able to “identify the patterns/trends in the data” increased by 8.15% from 89.41% (n = 85) to 97.56% (n = 82) (see Figure 2). These two skills lay a solid foundation for students to reach an accurate interpretation of the data, deduce relationships (CPDD, 2016) and construct a logical explanation.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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