A comparative analysis of student and teacher development in more and less proficient discussions of literature

Janice F. Almasi, John F. O'Flahavan, Poonam Arya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


This descriptive study examined the manner in which more and less proficient peer discussion groups managed topics and group process across time. This exploration permitted an ontogenetic and microgenetic perspective on student and teacher development over a four-month period. Videotapes and transcripts from the beginning, middle, and end of the investigation were selected for analysis. Analysis proceeded at two levels: macroanalytic and microanalytic. The goal of the macroanalysis was to identify levels of proficiency among six peer discussion groups. After identifying the group that was most proficient and that which was least proficient, microanalyses were conducted to determine how each group managed topics and group interaction. The microanalyses consisted of taxonomic analysis and contextual analysis of discourse and patterns of interaction. Results indicated that coherence is a key to conversational competence. Proficient peer discussion groups were able to sustain topics of conversation by revisiting old topics, making linkages between topics, and embedding topics within one another. These factors increase and develop gradually over time. Less proficient groups had substantially fewer linkages and embedded topics primarily because teachers and students initiated large amounts of metatalk. These findings suggest that large amounts of metatalk and teacher intrusion cause disjuncture to peer discussion and impair the group's ability to maintain topics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-120
Number of pages25
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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