Classroom as Discourse Community

Often times, teachers are told that if they want to be more thoughtful educators and actually change the conversation, then they need to hold discussion-based classrooms. However, it can be difficult to get students on board with this idea – after all, who wants to sit down and talk? Here’s how you can transform your classroom into a discourse community – but first, let’s figure out what a classroom discourse is.

What is classroom discourse?

Classrooms as discourse communities is a theoretical approach that argues that the classroom is not merely an educational institution but also a site for social learning, where students and teachers learn through interacting with each other. The theory was developed by Professor Michael Apple in the 1990s, when he noticed how his students were engaging in conversations about popular culture.

Types of discourse communities

Discourse communities have been defined as “communities of practice in which shared sets of language, knowledge and beliefs are used to transform the world” (Murphy, 2008). They are characterized by a number of different features such as “shared identity, mutual experience, distinct scripts, social practices that create values and norms” (Murphy, 2008).

Examples of discourse in education

The classroom discourse represents a complex concept, as you’ve seen above. Therefore, it cannot be reduced to a single example.

The Socratic Seminar

Debates can be very controversial and feature divisive topics. In the discourse community, debates can have a dramatic effect on how students perceive the world, which can be very effective. If you search for ‘my discourse community essay’ online, you’ll see exactly what I mean. In order to prepare for debates, it is important that students learn how to develop arguments in a logical manner; this can be accomplished by reading at least an essay per week.

Developing knowledge on the topic at hand is crucial since students should know where they stand before engaging in free discussions. So, allow disagreements to take place as long as they aren’t abusive or hurtful. There are many examples of successful experts who developed their skills through debating.

The Socratic Seminar is when students apply the skills they have learned in their classroom discussion to the real world. The question of what is truth, or the “truth” allows them to explore the subject further and take it out of the abstract world. Each student has a turn asking questions and then each instructor can help them set up a debate and explore the topics giving real-life examples. The example database can oscillate with each student.


When using a written questionnaire, the teacher may ask questions that require students to respond by arguing their own point of view. Through these responses, it becomes easier for communication to take place within the classroom. These activities help students learn how to work collaboratively and understand each other’s perspectives better.

Students ask each other questions

Classrooms are a key dialogue hub. Teachers provide their students with opportunities to ask questions, and students bring new perspectives to the table. This enhances cooperation and discussion within the group. The teacher, sometimes alone or in a group of students, might ask the question “What do you think about the debate samples that you read?”

Reminder! One of the most important skills a teacher needs to have is being able to empathize and then act accordingly. This means that teachers must be able to speak to students across different learning modalities and understand different levels of language.

Student discourse in the classroom

Discourse is a complex concept, and one which can be difficult to define, but is generally understood as the “process of action, reaction, evaluation, and learning that takes place across human interactions.” Classrooms represent the spaces where discourse occurs. The classroom itself is not a “discursive formation” since it does not exist within a political or social context. However, dialogue in the classroom takes on cultural significance as students act out their power relations with one another.

Teacher discourse

The function of teacher discourse varies across classrooms. In a learning community, teachers are expected to generate and share knowledge. In contrast, in a more traditional learning community, a college may focus on the notion that the teacher is an expert who informs students through their practice and curriculum.

Wrapping Up

Discourse communities are spaces where students learn how to make meaning and talk about their ideas, experiences, and beliefs. Classrooms are places where students have conversations that often start with the question “what do you think?”

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