Erica de Vries, Kristine Lund & Michael Baker (2002). Computer-Mediated Epistemic Dialogue: Explanation and Argumentation as Vehicles for Understanding Scientific Notions. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11, 63-103. abstract
A number of researchers studied situations involving peer interaction (Amigues, 1990) and collaboration between students (Roschelle, 1992) for their potential in promoting conceptual understanding. These studies stress the role of discourse and dialogue in learning domain concepts. More specifically, epistemic activities, such as argumentation and explanation, have been designated as potentially powerful mechanisms by which students can collaboratively construct new meanings (Ohlsson, 1995; Roschelle, 1992). According to Ohlsson, this is conceivable because reflection is the process, and discourse is the medium through which one may acquire conceptual understanding. Epistemic activities are important for the study of conceptual understanding because, in comparison with problem-solving activities, they embody a much smaller gap between performance and competence. In other words, the occurrence of explanatory and argumentative discourse (performance) about concepts effectively reveals degree of understanding (competence) of those concepts. Epistemic activities are therefore discursive activities (e.g., text writing, verbal interaction, or presentation) that operate primarily on knowledge and understanding, rather than on procedures.
Our problem is thus to design situations that encourage students to engage in a specific type of epistemic activity, that we designate as epistemic dialogue.
Amigues, R. (1990). Peer interaction and conceptual change. In H. Mandle, E. De Corte, N. Bennett, & H. F. Friedrich (Eds.), Learning and instruction: European research in an international context. Volume 2:1 Social and cognitive aspects of learning and instruction (pp. 27–43). Oxford, UK: Pergamon.
Ohlsson, S. (1995). Learning to do and learning to understand: A lesson and a challenge for cognitive modeling. In P. Reimann & H. Spada (Eds.), Learning in humans and machines (pp. 37–62). Oxford, England: Elsevier.
Roschelle, J. (1992). Learning by collaborating: Convergent conceptual change. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2, 235–276.
Margaret Walshaw & Glenda Anthony (2008). The teacher’s role in classroom discourse: A review of recent research into mathematics classrooms. Review of Educational Research, 78, 516-551. abstract