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Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will learn about accountable talk and how that applies in a coaching situation.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in today's video lesson, I'm going to be exploring the topic of accountable talk with you. As we learn about this topic, we'll work toward several learning objectives. And together we'll use the following two questions to guide our learning in this video lesson. First, what is accountable talk? And also, how can we apply it to our teaching?

Let's start by diving into the idea of accountable talk. What does this mean? The Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh are the originators of the term "accountable talk" in the classroom and as a part of the instructional coaching in professional collaborative learning. According to this group, there are three dimensions of accountable talk-- accountability to the learning community, accountability to accurate knowledge, and accountability to rigorous thinking.

The first dimension of accountable talk is the accountability to the learning community. Essentially, this is how colleagues communicate with each other. This should be done through active listening and the ability to respectfully agree or disagree with each other.

The second dimension of accountable talk is the accountability to accurate knowledge. What do colleagues discuss in coaching situations, in professional learning communities, or in critical friends groups? As teachers, we are accountable to be open and transparent about our teaching practices. We should have the ability to accurately describe what we do. Teachers should ask challenging questions of their colleagues so that we can help each other improve.

The third dimension is accountability to rigorous thinking. Teachers should use the knowledge that we have. We must justify our instructional choices, and we should use sound reasoning when we answer questions like, what did you use that strategy for? Or why did you use that strategy? We need to do this with sound reasoning.

Let's walk through an example situation. Let's say a middle school math teacher is working with an instructional coach at her school. This teacher's most recent goal is to increase levels of student engagement in her lessons. Applying the first dimension of accountable talk, accountability to the learning community, the colleague should engage in respectful communications together with active listening. The coach might start off by asking a series of questions about day-to-day activities and teaching strategies, and the teacher answers these. The coach does not offer opinions or judge, but instead listens.

The second dimension is the accountability to accurate knowledge. The teacher is honest about her teaching practices and willing to learn about strategies that she can use in her classroom. The coach asks challenging questions like, why do you think you are losing student interest? What is not working for your students?

The third dimension of accountable talk is accountability to rigorous thinking. After an observation, the teacher is asked by the coach to justify why she used the strategies that she did. And the coach then gives suggestions for improvement.

So let's talk about what we learned today. We looked at the following two questions together. What is accountable talk? And how can we apply it to our teaching?

Today we talked about accountable talk and the three dimensions of this. Remember that accountability to the learning community is how the colleagues communicate with each other, and you need to be respectful in your agreement or disagreement with each other. The second dimension, accountability to accurate knowledge, is what the colleagues discuss in coaching situations. As teachers, we need to be open and transparent and have the ability to describe what we do accurately. The third dimension, accountability to rigorous thinking-- we need to justify our instructional choices, and we also need to have sound reasoning when we do this.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What are the benefits of using accountable talk for yourself as a teacher and your students? What might the challenges be for you in implementing the use of accountable talk in your teaching?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson, Accountable Talk. I hope you found value in this video lesson and are able to apply these ideas and concepts to your own teaching. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “Accountable Talk ”


(00:00- 00:22) Introduction/Objectives

(00:23- 00:52) What is Accountable Talk?

(00:53- 01:08) Dimension 1: Accountability to the Learning Community  

(01:09- 01:37) Dimension 2: Accountability to Accurate Knowledge

(01:38- 01:57) Dimension 3: Accountability to Rigorous Thinking

(01:58 - 03:10) Example of Accountable Talk in Coaching

(03:11- 03:58) Recap  

(03:59- 04:40) Reflection

Additional Resources

University of Pittsburgh Institute for Learning: Accountable Talk

Scroll down to access podcasts that explain accountable talk and its purpose in education.

Accountable Talk Toolkit

This toolkit provides useful professional training materials and templates to implement accountable talk in the classroom.