Ruth Cobbin

Primary Teacher

Glenmanor Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens When I Introduce A Structure For Pupil-Led Discussion In The Classroom?


At the heart of a Curriculum for Excellence is the pupil at the center of learning, with children being offered opportunities to learn through experience and discovery. In order for learning to be truly pupil-led, children need to be invited into every stage of the learning process. Pupil talk serves a range of cognitive functions to allow students to think and learn from their surroundings (Pay, 2016), and is a key tool for problem solving and social development. It is said that teacher’s ask up to 300 questions of their pupils every day, yet research shows that teachers are prone to dominate classroom talk (Vogler 2005). Questions tend to focus on low level cognitive skills such as recall of facts, which do not give the opportunity for pupils to develop higher-order thinking (Lefstein and Snell, 2011).

I have been interested in promoting productive learning talk in the classroom in order to enhance pupils’ sense of ownership over learning and develop higher-order thinking skills. The importance of pupils taking responsibility for learning is highlighted by Black and William (1998), who advocate pupil-led talk and reflection as a priority for raising attainment. I was particularly interested in observing how pupils are able to apply the language of reflection in various contexts. My hunch was that by introducing a structure for pupil-led discussion in a specific area of learning, the skills of higher-order thinking would transfer to all curricular areas.


This enquiry aims to investigate the impact of introducing a specific structure for pupil-led discussion in the classroom. By implementing a simple format for pupils to lead plenary discussion and reflection, the impact on classroom culture and pupil engagement was observed and evaluated.

Download Practitioner Enquiry