1 Talk and the processes of teaching and learning

This section is about the importance of spoken language in the processes of teaching and learning. Using examples from recent research, this section should enable you to gain insights into the ways language is used in the everyday life of classrooms and other educational settings. It should also help you understand the nature and significance of one particular approach to the analysis of language and education, known as a sociocultural approach or theory.

Language is both the ‘medium’ and the ‘message’ of education. It enables the process of teaching and learning to take place; and one of the principal goals of education is the development of students’ ability to use language. Learning in all subjects involves becoming able to understand and use the specialised ways that language has been adapted to develop particular areas of knowledge and expertise. This section is mainly concerned with spoken language. We will examine talk between teachers and learners and talk amongst learners. But before focusing on talk in educational settings, we will first consider the use and functions of language, and its relationship to thinking, in a more general way.

1.1 A sociocultural perspective on language and learning