Initiation, Response, Follow-up and Beyond: Analyzing Dialogue Around Difficulty in a Tutorial Setting

Elizabeth L. Jaeger


With the advent of Common Core-based assessments, and resulting concerns about academic achievement, more and more students may require the level of instructional intensity tutoring affords. The extent of knowledge regarding the discourse that occurs within the tutoring context is, however, limited. As a result, it is difficult to envision and implement a protocol that incorporates responsive tutor/tutee interaction. This article describes an analysis of discourse patterns that occur as a tutor responded to student difficulty. The study is framed using Bakhtin’s concept of dialogue—the ways in which interactions are influenced by the joint speaker/listener identity that is characteristic of interlocutors—and the way this played out in a dialogic instructional context. Excerpts from eight previous tutoring studies served as a foundation for the present research. The primary data source for the analysis was start-to-finish audio-recordings of 40 hours of instruction with two fourth grade readers. After preliminary open coding, overarching categories such as questioning, providing information, and demonstrating strategy use—and more detailed codes within these categories—were applied to the transcripts. Major findings demonstrated that: (a) the tutor’s moves were varied and balanced and differed somewhat from child to child, (b) some interactional sequences appeared more effective than others depending on the topic and child, and (c) interactions in this setting differed in important ways from those found in the research literature. I argue here that the dialogic characteristics of tutor/tutee interactions served the children involved and should serve as the basis for additional tutoring protocols.


dialogue; dialogic pedagogy/teaching; discourse analysis; literacy; struggling readers; triadic discourse; tutoring

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