Neil Mercer

Neil Mercer
University of Cambridge | Cam · Hughes Hall and Faculty of Education

BSc., MA, PhD., C. Psychol., AFBPS.

About

193
Publications
126,531
Reads
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17,030
Citations
Introduction
I am Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and Director of the study centre Oracy Cambridge, which is based at the University of Cambridge college Hughes Hall https://www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/about-us/our-people/senior-members/neil-mercer/ [https://www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/academic-life/study-centres/oracy/]
Additional affiliations
January 2005 - present
University of Cambridge
Position
  • Emeritus Professor of Education
June 1978 - January 2005
The Open University (UK)
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (193)
Article
Full-text available
As part of an investigation into the relationship between classroom dialogue and student outcome, a test of reasoning has been developed that is suitable for preadolescents (i.e. c.10–13-year-olds). Building on previous work but expanding this considerably, the test focuses upon four areas of reasoning: differentiation of facts from opinions, diffe...
Article
Dialogic approaches based on active student participation, open, respectful discussion, exploring and critiquing different perspectives are increasingly found to support student learning. However, the specific productive forms of teacher-student interaction have rarely been studied systematically. A recent large-scale project explored the relations...
Article
Full-text available
Systematic analysis or coding of classroom dialogue is useful for assessing the role of high-quality interaction in supporting learning. However, although coding is an immensely complex and cognitively demanding activity that has taxed researchers over decades, the methodological challenges are often not discussed or problematised in empirical repo...
Book
The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Dialogic Education provides a comprehensive overview of the main ideas and themes that make up the exciting and diverse field of Dialogic Education. With contributions from the world’s leading researchers, it describes underpinning theoretical approaches, debates, methodologies, evidence of impact...
Article
Sociocultural discourse analysis is a methodology for studying the use of language for collective thinking. It was specifically designed for studying the talk of children working together in a group in a classroom, but it has also been used for studying talk amongst adults. In this article we discuss its use, in an adapted form, for analysing the p...
Article
Full-text available
It is now widely believed that classroom dialogue matters as regards student outcomes, with optimal patterns often regarded as requiring some or all of open questions, elaboration of previous contributions, reasoned discussion of competing viewpoints, linkage and coordination across contributions, metacognitive engagement with dialogue, and high st...
Article
This paper aims to increase our understanding of the impact of Lesson Study (LS) on the quality of teacher learning. It draws on longitudinal and cross-sectional data from three waves of data collection from 214 teachers engaged in LS during one full school year. The findings showed positive effects of Lesson Study on meaning-oriented and applicati...
Article
Full-text available
This article describes a continuing programme of school-based applied research. The basis of this research, which originated in a project called ‘Thinking Together’, lies in the relationship between language and cognitive development postulated by sociocultural theory. The research has developed and tested methods for improving the quality of class...
Article
Full-text available
Research into classroom dialogue suggests that certain forms are especially productive for students’ learning. Despite the large number of studies in this area, there is inadequate evidence about the prevalence of the identified forms, let alone their productivity. However, scarcity is widely presumed. The overall aim of the study reported in this...
Article
Full-text available
Providing contingent or adaptive support (i.e., scaffolding) is effective. Yet it is unclear how it promotes students’ learning. In this mixed-methods study, we investigated to what extent the effect of contingent support for students’ learning is mediated by the extent to which students take up teachers’ support in subsequent small-group work. We...
Chapter
This chapter discusses the design and development of a teaching module on electrical circuits for lower secondary students (11-14 year olds) studying in the context of the English National Curriculum. The module was developed as part of a project: “Effecting Principled Improvement in STEM Education” (epiSTEMe). The electricity module was designed a...
Article
Full-text available
This article describes a continuing programme of school-based applied research. The basis of this research, which originated in a project called ‘Thinking Together’, lies in the relationship between language and cognitive development postulated by sociocultural theory. The research has developed and tested methods for improving the quality of class...
Article
Concept mapping has been employed as a promising tool to facilitate group learning and interaction mainly in the classroom. Computer- and web-based applications provide plenty of opportunities to extend concept mapping mediated group learning to online environments. Nevertheless, the effects of concept mapping on group learning and interaction may...
Article
This paper contributes to our understanding of teacher learning in the context of Lesson Study (LS), a model of professional development that involves collaborative lesson planning and evaluation. Video-recorded LS discussions of mathematics teachers based in London were analysed for this purpose. Two inter-related studies are presented: the first...
Article
This paper contributes to our understanding of teacher learning in the context of Lesson Study (LS), a model of professional development that involves collaborative lesson planning and evaluation. Video-recorded LS discussions of mathematics teachers based in London were analysed for this purpose. Two inter-related studies are presented: the first...
Article
This article describes the development of a set of research-informed resources for assessing the spoken language skills (oracy) of students aged 11-12. The Cambridge Oracy Assessment Toolkit includes assessment tasks and procedures for use by teachers, together with a unique Skills Framework for identifying the range of skills involved in using tal...
Article
This commentary discusses the four papers that comprise the special issue on dialogic teaching and learning, while making general observations that apply across the field as a whole. Similarities and differences are identified over the concepts of ‘dialogue’ and ‘dialogic pedagogy’. The possibility is raised that some aspects of dialogic pedagogy a...
Article
Jean-Yves Rochex Jean-Yves Rochex explains that he, like me, believes that the current dominant conception of the ‘social brain’ still embodies an individualistic perspective on the nature of human cognition. However, unlike me, he is unconvinced that the ‘social brain’ concept can or should be modified to take account of this failing. I agree when...
Article
Several fields of investigation, including developmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, educational research and neuroscience have begun to recognize the essentially social quality of human cognition, as represented by the concept of the ‘social brain’. In this article, I discuss this concept, its value for psychological studies of teaching a...
Article
Full-text available
This article describes an attempt to integrate teaching about an aspect of science ‘content’ with an aspect of the nature of science (NOS) through the development of a practically-based researchinformed teaching module for use in lower secondary school. The module concerned electrical circuits and the aspect of NOS focused upon was the role of mode...
Article
The authors discuss the relationship between information seeking and epistemic beliefs – beliefs about the source, structure, complexity and stability of knowledge – in the context of collaborative information-seeking discourses. They further suggest that both information seeking, and epistemic cognition research agendas, have suffered from a lack...
Article
Full-text available
In 2010, a comprehensive secondary school in the south of England implemented a whole-school approach to ‘learning to learn’ (L2L). Drawing on a range of evidence-based practices, a team of teachers worked collaboratively to design and deliver a taught L2L curriculum to all students throughout Key Stage 3. In total, the first cohort of students (n...
Article
The Effecting Principled Improvement in STEM Education [epiSTEMe] project undertook pedagogical research aimed at improving pupil engagement and learning in early secondary school physical science and mathematics. Using principles identified as effective in the research literature and drawing on a range of existing pedagogical resources, the projec...
Article
Full-text available
Lesson Study is rapidly becoming one of the most adopted models of teacher professional development worldwide. In this paper, we examine the teachers' discussions that are an integral part of the Lesson Study research cycle. In particular, we investigate the 'dialogic mechanisms' that enable teachers' pedagogical intentions to be developed within t...
Article
Collaborative problem solving, when students work in pairs or small groups on a curriculum-related task, has become an increasingly common feature of classroom education. This paper reports a study of a topic which has received relatively little attention: how teachers can most usefully intervene when students are working in a group, but have encou...
Article
This article describes the development of a set of research-informed resources for assessing the spoken language skills (oracy) of students aged 11-12. The Cambridge Oracy Assessment Toolkit includes assessment tasks and procedures for use by teachers, together with a unique Skills Framework for identifying the range of skills involved in using tal...
Article
Reflecting concerns about student attainment and participation in mathematics and science, the Effecting Principled Improvement in STEM Education (epiSTEMe) project attempted to support pedagogical advancement in these two disciplines. Using principles identified as effective in the research literature (and combining these in a novel fashion), the...
Article
Twenty students from different educational backgrounds within the UK were interviewed to investigate how well they considered their secondary school education had prepared them for the educational and social demands of an ‘elite’ university and life within its most traditional colleges. The study asked them how they perceived students from differen...
Article
In response to continuing concerns about student attainment and participation in science and mathematics, the epiSTEMe project took a novel approach to pedagogy in these two disciplines. Using principles identified as effective in the research literature (and combining these in a fashion not previously attempted), the project developed topic module...
Article
In this article it is argued that the development of young people's skills in using spoken language should be given more time and attention in the school curriculum. The author discusses the importance of the effective use of spoken language in educational and work settings, considers what research has told us about the factors that make group disc...
Article
Full-text available
The linked concepts of 'scaffolding ' and the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) were originally applied to the context of asymmetrical teaching and learning with a teacher or adult explicitly supporting a learner, usually a child, to achieve tasks beyond their ability when working alone. In this paper we investigate how these concepts need to be r...
Article
Full-text available
While search engines are commonly used by children to find information, and in classroom-based activities, children are not adept in their information seeking or evaluation of information sources. Prior work has explored such activities in isolated, individual contexts, failing to account for the collaborative, discourse-mediated nature of search e...
Article
Group interaction is a key component of group-based learning. However, its implementation in educational practice is inefficient. Previous studies have discussed the use of concept mapping as a knowledge representation tool to facilitate group communication and trigger shared cognition. Deficiencies in the collaborative use of concept mapping have...
Article
The close study of classroom talk has been an active field of research since the 1970s, when John Furlong made his significant contribution. Focusing particularly on research into teacher–student interactions, we will review the development of this field from the 1970s until the present, considering what has been learned and the educational implica...
Article
It is hard to say exactly when the systematic, in-depth study of classroom talk began, but as Edwards and Westgate note in their influential book on methods, to find verbatim transcripts of classroom talk produced before about 1970 is difficult (1994, p. 1). After gaining a strong stimulus around that time from the work of pioneers such as Bellack,...
Chapter
This chapter discusses the design and development of a teaching module on electrical circuits for lower secondary students (11-14 year olds) studying in the context of the English National Curriculum. The module was developed as part of a project: "Effecting Principled Improvement in STEM Education" (epiSTEMe). The electricity module was designed a...
Article
Through using spoken language, people are able to think creatively and productively together. This ability to ‘interthink’ is an important product of our evolutionary history that is just as important for our survival today. Many kinds of work activity depend on the success of groups or teams finding joint solutions to problems. Creative achievemen...
Article
In recent years, researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology have proposed that the distinctive nature of human cognition is the product of our evolution as social beings; we are born with “social brains” that enable us to manage complex social relationships in ways other animals cannot. I suggest that the concept of the social brain is...
Chapter
This chapter considers the significance of talk and social interaction for classroom-based learning. Although the theoretical base for socio-cultural research has been developed considerably since his original specifications, and is still developing, the authors argue that language should still be accorded prime place as a cognitive and cultural to...
Article
Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are usually used by teachers for whole-class teaching. This paper is based upon an ESRC-funded project1designed to investigate the value of this technology for supporting collaborative learning in the classroom. Groups of pupils used the IWB in a semi-autonomous manner when working together on science-related activiti...
Book
First published in 1987, Common Knowledge offers a radical departure from the traditionally individualistic psychologies which have underpinned modern approaches to educational theory and practice. The authors present a study of education as the creation of ‘common knowledge’ or shared understanding between teacher and pupils. They show the present...
Article
Full-text available
We focus on children's approaches to managing group work in classrooms where collaborative learning principles are explicit. Small groups of 8–10 year olds worked on collaborative science activities using an interactive whiteboard. Insubsequent interviews, they spoke of learning to ‘be patient’ and ‘wait’, for multiple social and technical reasons....
Article
Within the broad field of research on learning, culture and social interaction, sociocultural theory is now commonly used as an explanatory conceptual framework. In this article we begin by setting out the essential elements of this theory as it applies to a specific area of enquiry in which we have been involved, which is aimed at understanding th...
Article
This chapter aims to underscore the case that we should be studying the processes whereby creative products emerge from groups - both to advance our understanding of the nature of collaborative music-making and 'imagining' and collaborative creativity more generally. A second aim is to suggest the suitability of sociocultural theory and discourse a...
Article
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Background/Context: This article describes how we refined an innovative methodology for equitable collaboration between university researchers and classroom practitioners building and refining theory together. The work builds on other coinquiry models in which complementary professional expertise is respected and deliberately exploited in order to...
Article
Full-text available
This paper reports on the work of a teacher–researcher collaborative group in the UK, who explored the idea of ‘a dialogic approach’ to classroom interaction and examined its relationship to use of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) in orchestrating classroom talk. We focus on how the co‐inquiry process within this group led to the articulation of fr...
Article
In this paper, we describe and discuss an information and communication technology (ICT)‐based intervention designed to improve secondary school students' revision (in contrast to learning) of physics concepts. We show that students' engagement in joint activities via our ICT‐based intervention can provide them (and their teachers) with insights in...
Conference Paper
In this case study, a classroom episode featuring a dialogic approach to plenary problem synthesis is analysed, drawing on ideas and methods from recent research, including reassessment of the triadic model of instructional interaction. The over-arching framework of teacher-led class discussion is identified, as well as more specific discourse feat...
Article
Full-text available
Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) have been widely introduced to English primary schools (5–11years) in the last decade and this has generated much research interest. In the past, research has focused on IWB-use in teacher-led sessions, attending particularly to the nature of teacher-pupil interaction at the IWB and the apparent motivational advantage...
Article
Full-text available
This paper is based on a project investigating the use of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) as tools for children's group-based learning in primary science. A series of science activities were designed with participating teachers, in which groups of three or four children used the IWB to access information, consider options, plan actions and make join...
Article
Full-text available
This issue of English Teaching: Practice and Critique focuses on talk in the classroom. On the basis of his ground-breaking research on classroom talk (Barnes, 1976), Douglas Barnes contended that "learning floats on a sea of talk". We interpret such wisdom to reflect the complex relationship between communication, the construction of cultural, soc...
Article
The focus of research into the use of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) in the classroom has been largely in relation to teacher–pupil interaction, with very little consideration of its possible use as a tool for pupils’ collaborative endeavour. This paper is based upon an ESRC-funded project,1 which considers how pupils use the interactive whiteboa...
Article
Full-text available
This paper focuses on the use of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) as a tool for encouraging and supporting classroom dialogue. The authors’ concern here is with the promotion of ‘dialogic’ communication between teachers and students, which is now widely recognised as educationally valuable. In this study they investigated how teachers could use the t...
Article
In this article, we provide a discussion on our revision method (termed prescriptive tutoring) aimed at revealing students' misconceptions and misunderstandings by getting them to solve physics problems with an anonymous partner via the computer. It is currently being implemented and evaluated in a public secondary school in Singapore, and statisti...
Article
This article describes methods for analysing classroom talk, comparing their strengths and weaknesses. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are described and assessed for their strengths and weaknesses, with a discussion of the mixed use of such methods. It is acknowledged that particular methods are often embedded in particular methodologies,...
Article
This paper describes research on dialogue between teachers and pupils during primary school science lessons, using talk from two classrooms to provide our examples. We consider whether teachers use dialogue to make education a cumulative, continuing process for guiding the development of children's understanding. Case studies of two teachers, using...
Chapter
In this chapter, I argue three main points: first, that one of the most important aims of education ought to be to develop children’s capability for argumentation; secondly, that teachers can make a significant contribution to this development; and thirdly, that the development of children’s use of language as a tool for argumentation helps the dev...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, we provide a discussion on students' difficulties when they solve physics problems. First, we establish that students are reluctant to study physics, mainly because solving physics problems is difficult. Next, we review the literature and establish that (i) rich insights into students' thought processes and knowledge bases (including...
Article
[About the book]: Educational Dialogues provides a clear, accessible and well-illustrated case for the importance of dialogue and its significance for learning and teaching. The contributors characterise the nature of productive dialogues, to specify the conditions and pedagogic contexts within which such dialogues can most effectively be resourced...
Article
Abstract All communication is inherently multimodal, and understandings of science need to be multidimensional. The interactive whiteboard offers a range of potential benefits to the primary science classroom in terms of relative ease of integration of a number of presentational and ICT functions, which, taken together, offers new opportunities for...
Article
This paper begins with a consideration of some important themes dealt with in the paper by Treagust and Duit. These include the relationship between research on conceptual change and educational practice, the significance of emotion and identity in the process of conceptual change, and role of cognitive conflict in motivating change. I then argue t...
Article
Abstract  This paper describes some findings of the Spoken Language and New Technology (SLANT) research project which studied the talk of primary school children who were working together at the computer on a range of activities involving various kinds of software. It was observed that computer-based activities were commonly effective for motivatin...
Chapter
Context as Common KnowledgeReconstructing a Collective MemoryConclusion: Intermental Contexts and Collective MemoryReferences
Article
The process of teaching and learning in school has a natural long-term trajectory and cannot be understood only as a series of discrete educational events. Classroom talk plays an important role in mediating this long-term process, and in this article I argue that more attention should be given to the temporal dimension of classroom dialogue, both...
Article
Wertsch’s clarification of Vygotsky’s claims about the role of social interaction in the development of children’s thinking made an important contribution to educational research. Revisiting that clarification, I suggest that ‘talk’ instead of ‘speech’ best describes Vygotsky’s concern with the functional dynamics of dialogue rather than the langua...
Chapter
Development from a Sociocultural PerspectiveHow Teachers Use LanguageSome Characteristics of Effective TeachingTalk Among LearnersLearning to Engage in Collective ReasoningFrom the Intermental to the IntramentalConclusions
Chapter
The value of exploratory talk In this chapter, the authors argue that teachers and teacher-trainers need a clearer understanding of how talk functions in the classroom, as this will provide the best basis for improving the quality of classroom talk and the educational process more generally. Drawing on their own school-based research and that of ot...
Book
Classroom talk, by which children make sense of what their peers and teachers mean, is the most important educational tool for guiding the development of understanding and for jointly constructing knowledge. So what practical steps can teachers take to develop effective classroom interaction? Bringing together leading international researchers and...
Article
Full-text available
Interactive whiteboards have been rapidly introduced into all primary schools under UK Government initiatives. These large, touch-sensitive screens, which control a computer connected to a digital projector, seem to be the first type of educational technology particularly suited for whole-class interaction. Strong claims are made for their value by...