The nature of discourse within classrooms strongly predicts students’ ability to think about, around, and with text and content (i.e. comprehension and critical-analytic thinking). However, little is known about the nature of classroom discourse in remote, rural South African schools, a context in which students face well-documented language challenges. The central aim of the present study was to explore the structure and content of discourse in South African classrooms using the 4 components of the Quality Talk model as a frame for our exploration (i.e. instructional frame, discourse elements, teacher moves and pedagogical principles). Grade 8 student participants from 3 classes and their teacher were sampled. Data sources included individual student language assessments, digital video recordings of classroom literacy practices and field notes. Findings revealed that discourse was predominantly characterised by an efferent stance toward text, and the discussions were primarily teacher controlled and directed. There was little, if any, evidence of students’ critical-analytic thinking. Observations in terms of resilience and narratability as well as implications for research and practice are forwarded.
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