Dialogue in the Classroom


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Adam Lefstein

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Dialogue in the Classroom

  1. 1. Getting over Socrates – toward a practical approach to classroom dialogue Adam Lefstein [email_address] September 26, 2006 http:// kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/education/research/llg/wpull.html
  2. 2. <ul><li>Socrates: …like me, one of those who are happy to be refuted if they make a false statement, happy also to refute anyone else who may do the same, yet no less happy to be refuted than to refute. For I think the former a greater benefit, in proportion as it is of greater benefit to be oneself delivered from the greatest harm than to </li></ul>deliver another. No worse harm, it is true, can befall a man than to hold wrong opinions on the matters now under discussion between us. -- from Plato’s Gorgias
  3. 3. Big picture <ul><li>Dialogue is widely acclaimed as the solution to numerous educational issues, yet… </li></ul><ul><li>… we rarely encounter it in actual classrooms… </li></ul><ul><li>… perhaps in part because our models of classroom dialogue are wrong-headed. </li></ul><ul><li>We need to “get over Socrates” and develop models of classroom dialogue that are sensitive to – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-academic facets of classroom interaction, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tensions and dilemmas, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The curriculum and institutional roles, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Audience. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. The most common form of classroom talk: Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE) <ul><li>M R T HOMPSON : So, the first part of the story is always important… if you’re a writer… to try and do what with the reader? What sort of things might you be trying to do when you’re writing something? Yeah, Lucy? </li></ul><ul><li>L UCY : Draw the reader in. </li></ul><ul><li>M R T HOMPSON : Draw the reader in. What do we call that? A::A – beginning with ‘H’… Might be something (you’ve thought about). Yeah? </li></ul><ul><li>-: A hook. </li></ul><ul><li>M R T HOMPSON : A hook, you want a hook in the story, possibly, some way of drawing them in. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Dialogue in Teaching: Theory and Practice by Nicholas Burbules Teachers College Press 1993
  6. 6. Why is everyone so excited about dialogue? <ul><li>Fashion (and tradition) </li></ul><ul><li>Speaking and listening skills </li></ul><ul><li>A respectful, humane way of relating to pupils </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement and motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Democratic preparation </li></ul><ul><li>A means of learning </li></ul><ul><li>Developing argumentation and critical thinking </li></ul>
  7. 7. Different meanings of “dialogue” <ul><li>a form of verbal interaction, between at least two participants, who exchange ideas by means of question-and-answer and debate; </li></ul><ul><li>a state of mind or stance toward knowledge; </li></ul><ul><li>a relationship between people; </li></ul><ul><li>(a description of the fundamental nature of human existence). </li></ul>
  8. 8. Dialogue according to Robin Alexander <ul><li>Collective </li></ul><ul><li>Reciprocal </li></ul><ul><li>Supportive </li></ul><ul><li>Cumulative </li></ul><ul><li>Purposeful </li></ul>But what about…? <ul><li>Critical </li></ul><ul><li>Meaningful </li></ul>
  9. 9. What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with us current thinking about classroom dialogue?
  10. 10. What’s wrong with this way of thinking about dialogue?
  11. 11. <ul><li>Ignores non-academic aspects of talk: power, relations, aesthetics </li></ul><ul><li>Ignores institutional features of schooling: roles, power, curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>Still based on teacher interrogation </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on dialogue-as-solution </li></ul>What’s wrong with this way of thinking about dialogue?
  12. 12. Dialogical tensions Listening vs. Speaking Openness to Other vs. Openness to Self Agreement vs. Difference Faith vs. Suspicion Care for participants vs. Pursuit of Truth Carnival levity vs. Seriousness Relations vs. Procedures
  13. 13. Conflicting teacher roles <ul><li>Establishing (and preserving) conditions for dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>Opening up content </li></ul><ul><li>Maintaining conversational flow </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging participation </li></ul><ul><li>Insuring fair access to the floor; </li></ul><ul><li>Probing others’ thinking; </li></ul><ul><li>Protecting &quot;weak&quot; -- either socially and/or academically – pupils </li></ul><ul><li>Undermining own content authority </li></ul><ul><li>Exemplifying in own actions dialogic dispositions </li></ul><ul><li>Inviting pupil criticism of and participation in directing the dialogue </li></ul>