Recent debate on the standard classroom Initiation–Response–Follow-up pattern has focused particular attention on the final move and the contribution it can make to productive interaction in teacher-fronted situations. This paper suggests that current research in this area has tended to exaggerate the pedagogic impact of changes based on specifiable discourse moves, proposing instead an approach to analysis which takes account of the dynamic nature of identity construction and its relationship to the development of ongoing talk. It challenges the view that the concept of classroom conversation is inherently contradictory and, drawing on the work of Zimmerman (1998) related to the broader field of Membership Categorization Analysis, demonstrates how shifts in the orientation to different aspects of identity produce distinctively different interactional patterns in teacher-fronted talk. Using Zimmerman's distinction between discourse, situated and transportable identities in talk, extracts from classroom exchanges from different educational contexts are analysed as the basis for claiming that conversation involving teacher and students in the classroom is indeed possible. The paper concludes with a discussion of the pedagogical implications of this
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