Support 'thinking through talking'

Clare Jarmy is right about the importance of focused classroom talk in improving learning ("Speak easy: learning through discussion", Professional, 20 September). However, this isn't easy to achieve unless the school backs up the approach with training and materials. Without ongoing support, commitment fades.

The exceptions are suites of lessons that require meaningful student discussion for their delivery. Teachers need help with these initially, but their confidence quickly grows and often this influences the rest of their teaching. Talk-based programmes that have been shown to be effective in improving learning include Philosophy for Children, Cognitive Acceleration and Reuven Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment.

At a time when these skills are in ever greater demand for international competitiveness, let alone for tackling the new, more demanding GCSEs, schools may find these "thinking through talking" programmes worth investigating.

Laurie Smith, Research associate, department of education and professional studies, King's College London.

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