How does Accountable Talk® promote learning?

Posted on August 20th, 2010

Lauren B. Resnick, the founder and Director of the Institute for Learning and a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Pittsburgh. In this video, she discusses how Accountable Talk® promotes learning.

[Video Transcript] Back in the early 90s when I first started to work on standards and instruction to standards, our goal was to provide all students with the kind of education and the level of it that once was only available to the elite and selective schools. There have always been selective schools with high levels of cognitive demand.

In the 21st Century global economy, that goal of high level education for everybody is more important than ever; it's important for individuals, it's important for the society. One of the ways to reach this goal is to engage in disciplined forms of interactive discussion. This kind of discussion has always been present in the education of elites, they've always debated ideas, defended problems, solutions, read complicated material and talked about it, but that hasn’t been done in the bulk of schools.

So if we're going to aim for everybody learning how to be a high demand thinker, a highly proficient thinker, knowing enough to be a thinker, we're going to have to take that kind of teaching and learning into everybody's schools.

What do I mean by it? Well, Accountable Talk is talk that is orchestrated by teachers so that students learn to formulate responses to problems, interpretations of text that are correct in disciplinary terms and go beyond what was actually written there, just give back the answer you see on the page.

Why should that work? Cognitive psychology suggestions that when you explain things you learn them. And so, as Micki Chi and others have shown, when you explain to yourself why some statement in a textbook is probably true, you come to understand it, you come to learn it. You process it more deeply, you remember it for longer, you can use it for more things. It pays to press students to self-explain because they process what they're learning more deeply, they can then transfer it.

The basic idea is that the more you manipulate the pieces of knowledge, the better you understand them, the better you remember them, the more complex your memories become and the smarter you get. In an Accountable Talk classroom, many kids are explaining all the time. What does that explaining get them, or get us as educators? Students anticipate what is going to come up at the next step; they think about something internally, you can call it an internal discussion. And they build these cognitive explanations. They're always trying to understand, they're not just rehearsing, they’re not just saying back what they were told. And it's this complicated restating, putting things together, quarreling with others and also with yourself, getting it right, that's what accountable talk is.

William F. Tate IV

Lauren B. Resnick, the founder and Director of the Institute for Learning and a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

More information on Lauren B. Resnick.