Dialogic Teaching: Developing Effective Online Pedagogy for Productive Dialogue

This blog is based on the sharing of a group of colleagues working on a project on Dialogic Teaching. With online teaching, we take the opportunity to explore how to promote effective online pedagogy and productive dialogue for student learning. We hope to address the needs of colleagues with different levels of e-learning experience. We share our experience using classroom examples with a focus on promoting student involvement, interaction and dialogue.

  1. Starting Small
  2. Going Deeper
  3. Delving Further
  4. Towards Productive Online Dialogue
  5. Other Considerations and Student Responses


1. Starting small

Online materials enriched with interaction using everyday communication apps

At the initial stage of online learning, colleagues can post PowerPoints and/or other materials on the Moodle Forum. These can be enriched using low-level/everyday technologies, such as WhatsApp/WeChat instant communication apps. Students can be asked to report on what they have learned from the powerpoints, with other students commenting and asking questions, and teachers then provide feedback and summary of key points. With this general entry-level approach, teachers can already engage students actively, check their understanding, highlight key concepts and design subsequent teaching and learning materials. 


2. Going deeper

Online asynchronous learning and discussion using Moodle Forums

Another approach to increasing student interaction is online discussion. The current practice is to create online materials to deliver course content, for example, making PowerPoints with screen-recording and creating videos using Panopto. The viewing of posted materials, including both your usual PowerPoints or video mini-lectures, can be enriched with peer discussion using Moodle Forums. Students can work in groups, and guiding questions for facilitating online discussion can be provided. Group leaders also can be assigned to facilitate the discussion. This asynchronous approach has the advantage of flexibility, as students can join at different times and work at their own pace.


3. Delving further

Combining asynchronous and synchronous approaches

Online study of materials and forum discussion (asynchronous learning) can be combined with Zoom teaching (synchronous learning), now widely adopted at the Faculty and other institutions. Due to security measures, please follow University and Faculty guidelines on use of Zoom.

We share an example from an online PGDE class. There are 2 sessions for each topic in the Educational Inquiry (EI) course. In Session 1, students read a PowerPoint with questions on different sections and they worked on these question using online group discussion. In Session 2, a Zoom class was held in which student groups shared their Moodle inquiry summary and interacted with other groups. The teacher facilitated group interaction and helped synthesize their learning for further application. This example combines the advantages of studying online materials, knowledge construction via online discussion, and deepening using Zoom teaching (also see blog post from e-learning team on asynchronous and synchronous learning)


4. Towards Productive Online Dialogue

Zoom tools, pedagogy and examples 

Zoom Teaching has many advantages, as it is more similar to classroom teaching but there are also challenges — It is easy to have low participation and students remaining silent. We share our experience using Zoom tools with dialogic pedagogy to promote productive virtual talk.

a) Chat for Brainstorming. Chat is a useful function that can be used for brainstorming and elicitation of ideas. As an example, at the start of a Zoom class, students were asked what they know about the idea “learning community”, and given three minutes to write their ideas and questions on Chat. In a regular class, there is often limited time for each student, but here different ideas can all be visualized and the teacher can choose several points to follow up on. Chat is also a good place to post task instructions, as students sometimes miss what the teacher says on Zoom. Teachers can post the Chat record on Moodle after class, along with follow-up activities such as asking students to identify one or two key ideas they have learned.

b) File for information search and enrichment.  Using the File function, we can search and access other files and URL links contingent upon student discussion. In Zoom classes, we often found students spontaneously putting forth useful information. As an example, in discussing 21st century education, the teacher mentioned the term “wicked problem”. One student then asked, on Chat, what that meant and another student spontaneously posted a Google link to a Wikipedia page on wicked problems. The File function was also well used in our PGDE co-teaching classes as one teacher facilitated the talk, the other helped add files and resources, based on student discussion.

c) Share function for student-led presentation  – A most useful Zoom affordance for student engagement is the Share function. Using a shared screen, we can link to the desktop to show Powerpoints and videos, as well as to browsers and websites, phones, and whiteboards. The share function can be used by both teacher and students and it is valuable for students taking up more cognitive responsibility. As the picture shows, the student group is sharing their group inquiry and teaching their peers. Teachers can design different dialogic activities using Shared functions in conjunction with other tools (see Examples in a later section).

d) Whiteboard and Annotation for co-construction – When sharing screens, Annotation tools can be used to highlight what is important such as marking on the PowerPoints. Another useful tool is the Whiteboard, on which teachers can write and draw diagrams when explaining the materials. Annotation tools/Whiteboard can be employed for more dialogic use, with the teacher facilitating student discussions and bringing together diverse student ideas for shared understanding.  Tablets, iPads, or other touch-screen equipment can be used to allow easier writing on the Whiteboard, using draw and ‘type’  and textboxes

e) Breakout Room for group interaction – To facilitate the exchange of ideas, students can work in small groups in Breakout Rooms, where they can share their ideas with their peers.  Zoom allows for both random and assigned groupings. Sometimes, students in heterogeneous groupings may rely on peers who are more capable or familiar with the materials and become less engaged. Homogeneous grouping may be useful for encouraging student contributions and students may have more opportunities for meaningful discussion. Nevertheless, flexibility and context are important, so it is good to experiment with different group sizes and types of groupings for different tasks.

Examples to illustrate how we use Zoom and other e-learning tools to motivate students for active involvement, interaction and dialogue

  1. Google Form and Mentimeter for prior knowledge activation and group discussion. Elizabeth shared two examples of students responding to Mentimeter questions at the beginning of a Zoom class and discussing different sets of questions in Breakout Rooms. Queenie shared how she used Google Form and a short quiz asking student groups to complete the quiz together in Breakout Rooms. Both examples illustrate using short questions to motivate students for richer dialogue in Zoom sessions.
  2. Google Jamboard – Queenie shared how she used Jamboard for brainstorming asking students to post their ideas, build on peers’ comments, and how the visualization of ideas using shared screens support collaborative problems solving.
  3. Google Drawings – Anthony shared an example of students designing posters using Google Drawings for learning artefacts and anchor for discussion in Breakout Rooms.
  4. Google Slides and collaborative inquiry for learning from video. Anthony shared how he used Google Slides and reflection grid to support observation and interpretation of videos viewed in Zoom classes and for knowledge construction.
  5. Nearpod to support teaching practice – Annie shared how she organized students to carry out on-line teaching using Nearpod for integrating theory and practice. Pre-service teachers had the opportunity to carry out micro-teaching using the online Zoom platform.


5. Other Considerations and Student Responses

Student learning: assessment and evidence-based learning  

Some common worries are that students will not learn as much in online learning and it is just a temporary measure. Zoom sessions can be recorded and HKU licenses include a time-stamped transcription service when recording to the Cloud. Zoom and Chat records are valuable, as students can revisit the class and teachers can use these artefacts (materials) to provide evidence of student learning for teaching and research purposes.

Teacher learning: co-teaching and communities

With Zoom teaching, it is easy to have co-teaching and we have invited PGDE graduates, school teachers, students,  and other experts as visitors to enrich our classes. We have also benefited much from joining our colleagues’ Zoom classes and learning about different strategies for professional development.

Student feedback on online learning  

Some of us have collected students’ views on online teaching during the class suspension period.  Here are some responses:

“I like using Zoom for online classes because I can have class at the usual time with my classmates, which involve interactions, rather than watching recorded videos by myself. It is interactive as we can respond through Mentimeter.”  Year 2 Student, full-time Speech and Hearing Sciences

“I could apply the knowledge learnt from Collaborative Lesson Inquiry (CLI)  to my [teaching]. For example, we have learnt how to use Nearpod in Zoom class to conduct an online lesson for our students. I am applying this to my teaching practicum school now.” PgDE student, full-time Science group

“I think using Zoom is quite good for teaching at this critical moment. With the use of other tools and websites, the teaching quality is quite similar to face-to-face lessons. I realize that, from the teacher’s point of view, you may feel unsure about students’  learning as you are not able to see us. So, I am here to tell you I enjoy a lot the online EI class …I feel very comfortable and calm when I have the Zoom lesson! I am looking forward to the EI lesson every week!” PgDE student, part-time Math group

Learning how to present and/or host on zoom! Really made me feel empowered with this technology…We’re even using it to teach our kindergarteners. HKU’s deployment of it gave me a big head start!”  PgDE student, part-time ECE group


We invite colleagues who are interested in teaching and research on Dialogic Teaching and Learning (DTL) in online environments to join the special interest research group.  Please contact Prof. Carol Chan for more information (Email: ckkchan@hku.hk)

April  2020 @ The University of Hong Kong