This study investigated the role of teacher directiveness in educational dialogues as it relates to several types of dyads and child engagement. The effect of directive teacher behavior, such as the use of instructions and commands, on children's engagement and learning is a controversial matter in the field of educational research. Two types of dyads were examined: typically developing children and their preschool teachers (PreschDyads) and children with Down syndrome and their special education teachers (SpecEdDyads). Fourteen Norwegian dyads participated in the study and were videotaped while solving a construction task. The results indicated higher levels of teacher directiveness in the SpecEdDyads. Children with Down syndrome showed lower levels of engagement with the task than the typically developing children did. However, closer examination of the results of the SpecEdDyads with the highest scores in teacher directiveness revealed that these children scored above their group average on engagement. The pattern differed in the PreschDyads, in which the least directive teachers interacted with the most engaged children. A qualitative analysis of dialogue excerpts suggested that in educational contexts in which a child struggles with goal-oriented engagement, emotionally supportive teacher directives may generate joint problem solving, thereby enabling children to successfully complete cognitively demanding tasks that they may not be able to complete independently. In the PreschDyads, the children appeared to be more self-motivated and less dependent on directive support. These findings extend our knowledge of the qualities and functions of teacher directiveness in educational dialogues by illuminating how the individually adapted use of directives may enhance child engagement and learning.
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