Dialogic learning

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One of the key ways in which people learn is through dialogue with others. The faculty of education at Cambridge University states that dialogic teaching means using talk for carrying out teaching and learning. Through dialogue teachers can elicit students’ common sense perspectives, engage with their developing ideas and help them overcome misunderstandings. By engaging students in dialogue teachers can: explain ideas, clarify the point and purpose of activities, model scientific ways of using language and help students grasp new scientific ways of describing phenomena. This article suggests that perspectives include the theory of dialogic action (Friere), the dialogic inquiry approach (Wells), the theory of communicative action (Habermas), the notion of dialogic imagination (Bahktin) and the dialogic self (Soler). Vygotsky’s concept of learning communities focuses on multiplying learning contexts and interactions to enable students to reach higher levels of development. Wells defined inquiry as a predisposition for questioning. Freire argues that human nature is dialogic. Educators should create opportunities to encourage student curiosity. Habermas distinguishes between arguments and argumentations. Arguments are conclusions that consist of validity claims as well as the reasons by which they can be questioned, whereas argumentation is the kind of speech where participants give arguments to develop or negate validity claims. He argues that strategic rationality that seeks to solve problems and wins arguments is secondary to a more fundamental communicative rationality, which seeks to understand others. Bakhtin argues that there is a relationship between language, interaction and social transformation. Also that meaning is created in processes of reflection between people. In dialogic teaching:

 

·      Questions are carefully framed to encourage reflection and good answers

·      Answers are not end points but a stimulus for further questions and dialogue

·      The teacher’s role is to weave contributions into a coherent whole

 

Alexander lists five criteria for dialogic teaching:

 

Wegerif: Dialogic Education

participants. Through interactive groups and the presence of parents within the classrooms,

conflicts between groups tend to disappear from the classroom.

The learning communities approach is particularly interesting in its explicit concern with

social transformation as well as with educational attainment. Evaluations using mixed

methods found that the support from families in the programme claim that the approach has

had a very positive impact on children’s achievement and engagement in education (Flecha

and Soler, 2014: Flecha, 2014)

Dialogic teaching

Robin Alexander developed dialogic teaching after a comparative education study looking at

talk in classrooms in a number of countries (Alexander, 2001). In some of the schools he

observed in Russia, Alexander found that dialogue was a common feature of the way that the

teacher spoke with members of the class, engaging individual students in thinking through

issues in public and supporting them in long sequences of authentic questions and answers.

These schools had been influenced by the theories of Bakhtin. Alexander then used Bakhtin’s

claim that in dialogue answers give rise to further questions as an inspiration for his

development of a UK talk-based dialogic education programme.

In Dialogic Teaching:

1 Questions are carefully framed to encourage reflection and good answers.

2 Answers are not end points but a stimulus for further questions in a long chain of dialogue.

3 The teacher’s role is to weave contributions into a coherent whole, leading children to find

meaning and helping them think of further questions.

Alexander (2017) gives five core criteria for dialogic teaching,  it is:

collective: teachers and children address learning tasks together, whether as a group or as a

class

• reciprocal: teachers and children listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative

·      Collective: teachers and students address learning tasks together

·      Reciprocal: teachers and students listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative viewpoints

·      Supportive: students articulate their ideas freely

·      Cumulative: teachers and students build on their own and each other’s ideas

·      Purposeful: teachers plan and steer classroom talk with specific educational goals in view

 

This site suggests that dialogic teaching harnesses the power of talk to stimulate and extend students’ thinking and advance their learning and understanding. It states that dialogic teaching and learning stem from the following principles:

 

·      Knowledge isn’t fixed

·      The dialogue between different perspective leads to new understandings and new knowledge

·      Teachers and students can become more fully engaged in learning in an environment where these differences are respected and rigorously explored

·      Meanings constructed by learners in dialogue leads to powerful learning

·      Learning through dialogue leads not only to content knowledge but improved thinking skills

 

Wegerif refers to the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition as anything relating to or in the form of dialogue. Dialogic teaching draws students into the process of a shared construction of knowledge. Freire contrasts conventional education with dialogic education. In conventional education knowledge is treated as something that is deposited into the heads of students, whereas dialogic education is about empowering the oppressed to speak their own words. He suggests there are three elements: starting with the lived experience of the students, that dialogic education is about making a real difference by giving voice to those initially without a voice and respect and collaboration between educators and students so that meaning can be co-constructed rather than imposed. Habermas argues that

strategic rationality that seeks to solve problems and win arguments is secondary to a more

fundamental communicative rationality which seeks to understand the other

 

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