Creating a dialogic space for research: A reading conference in a Chinese complementary school

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This article draws on research carried out in a Chinese complementary school in Scotland. The research focused on children’s experience of learning to read Chinese and on the strategies that they used to support their learning. Here, I provide an account of one particular aspect of this research, namely the creation of a dialogic space for gathering and interpreting data through the setting up of six reading conferences between individual students and their teacher. The reading conferences involved two broad activities. Both were audio-recorded. First each child was asked to read aloud a passage written in Chinese (a fable that they were familiar with). This was followed by a think-aloud session which took the form of a three-way dialogue between the child, the teacher and me (as the researcher). In this article, I show how the reading conferences unfolded by drawing on one example – that of Ying Yan – an eight year old boy of Hong Kong heritage. I also detail some of the insights into Ying Yan’s learning strategies that emerged from the three-way dialogue during the think-aloud sessions. The article concludes with reflection on: (1.) the particular advantages that accrue from creating such dialogic spaces for research, especially at the stage of data interpretation; and on (2.) the value of dialogic methodology in educational settings characterized by considerable linguistic and cultural diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-142
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Education
Issue number2
Early online date29 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016


  • complementary schools
  • learning strategies
  • dialogic spaces
  • literacy


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