Dialogue and Dialogic Pedagogy in Classrooms

A topic that constantly arises with context to pedagogy are the dimensions of dialogue and classroom interactions. In my own research and in deliberations with others, this is a topic I enjoy exploring and engaging in. In this post I explore the meanings of dialogic pedagogy and some aspects from academic literature speckled with ideas and thoughts from my own understanding. This is an area that I have been exploring a lot in my own classes and one key observation has been students warming up to the idea of critical thinking, reflective thinking, constructive dialogue and this translating in to reflective writing pieces. This seems to be a process that flows very naturally as long as students feel connected to the topic and the trigger questions being discussed in class. It almost seems like a self-discovery that they actually enjoy this process and the possibilities that open up through these kind of interactions. So what does dialogic pedagogy sound like?

Moving beyond education from just being a cognitive process with quantifiable terms of assessment, dialogic pedagogy affirms the true meaning of education being an open, free learning oriented process enabled through purposeful dialogue. It also aims towards being a transformative process for the individual and all those involved.

In teaching that is more dialogic than transmissive, the key principles include collectiveness where teachers and students address learning tasks together, reciprocity which involves listening, sharing and open to alternative viewpoints, supportive in that the atmosphere is one of openness and non-judgemental, cumulative in that teachers and students build synergy based on the each other’s ideas and that it is purposeful in nature since talk is done with specific goals in mind. (Alexander, 2008, pp. 102-104.).

The nature of the classroom discourses has an enormous influence on the way students experience learning. Dialogic teaching involves interactions that is speckled with authentic questions from both the teachers and the students, although the answers to these questions are never specific but the dialogue itself lends meaning through the students responses.

In a dialogic classroom, when we get students to engage with one another effectively through dialogue with others, we are definitely encouraging a much needed higher order skill, which involves creativity, reasoning, evaluating and reflective self-monitoring. These are practiced in the process of having meaningful dialogue. Becoming more dialogic, also means being more open, responsive and making oneself more accessible to new ideas.

“Becoming more dialogic is also about feeling more at home living in a space of dialogue where there are always many voices and where there is never any certainty.” (Wegerif, 2010, p. 35.) Dialogical classrooms while evidently being more dialogical in approach has in its agenda one of creating an environment where interactions are filled with real questions. Seeking the answers is a process of elevating the thinking and reasoning skills of students and focussed on true learning. Listening, sharing, being responsive are characteristics of this environment.







Source: http://www.petaa.edu.au/imis_prod/w/Teaching_Resources/PETAA_Papers/w/Teaching_Resources/PPs/PETAA_PAPER_195.aspx
This representation of the modes of dialogical talk in a classroom are some practical indicative practices but it still does not capture completely the immenseness of the practice of dialogic pedagogy itself. Dialogic pedagogy is based on colliding and testing diverse ideas presented by different voices, by different members of a community. It involves genuine interest in each other. In dialogic pedagogy, the teacher does not look for a student’s errors but rather learns from the student how the student sees the world and him/herself.

The factors related to dialogue that come in to play in a multicultural environment and how does it enable the process of building a greater sense of openness, being non-judgemental and moving towards a more equitable, inclusive classroom while building on the intercultural competencies of the teacher and the students is a question worth exploring.

Alexander, R. (2008). Culture, dialogue and learning: Notes on an emerging pedagogy. Exploring talk in school, 91-114.

Wegerif, R. (2010). Mind Expanding: Teaching For Thinking And Creativity In Primary Education: Teaching for Thinking and Creativity in Primary Education. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Using collaborative digital platforms

It was an interesting session introducing the idea of reference management systems like Mendeley to share and collaborate on academic literature. It is something that is useful across disciplines and also as tool for multi-disciplinary learning. In terms of pedagogical learning, to me it was interesting how to go about introducing a topic that is new ( probably to a few people in the group) , using technology as a medium of the teaching process and also getting people on board to get to warm up to the idea and to adapt quickly to what was needed to get started , in terms of creating an account and learning how to use the platform. Enabling everyone was a fairly large team of tutors and also people who were already familiar with the platform that worked as an advantage to conducting the teaching session. Discussing the experiential aspects of the advantages and the limitations of the platform added some critical information of saving, planning and collaborating more effectively. The class was enriching since we had to access to multiple inputs from individuals who had varying levels of expertise with the digital platform. It also gave space to discuss the pros and cons of the digital platform as a reference management tool as it had been in people’s experiences. The well ‘paced timing and keeping everyone in sync with the different steps was helpful too. Those had finished the steps earlier had time to talk and share some more aspects of reference management tools.

A key aspect of class room teaching that is continually emphasized in various forms, through experience, scholarly articles and through peer group discussions has been providing a space for dialogue, multiple perspectives and sufficient time and structured activities to allow for an enriching learning process that is co-created with others. While all is this critical, it becomes imperative to keep a focus on the use of academic language and the kind of dialogue styles that evolves in the classroom using English as a medium of instruction and learning.

I choose to explore this topic further using articles that talk more about dialogues in classrooms and teacher talks styles which I find extremely interesting and engaging.



EMI demands and challenges – COLLABORATORIES

I recently designed a course called COLLABORATORIES and this is the first time it is being offered. Since this is the first iteration, I am learning as I plan and engage in class sessions. The objective of the course is to serve as an experimental lab for collaboration and dialogue. The course relies on lecturing to the minimal and activity and dialogue based learning to the maximum. The idea of the course is to build activities with tangible materials/ activities threaded by concepts and collective ideas that the students explore. A sample session would look something like this:

  1. A group game: (Energy Circle) instructions, followed by a trial version of the game and then the actual game.
  2. Story building activity: Students worked on a collective 25 word story with a music video for inspiration. The group had to discuss vocabulary and ideas and build a story without the vowel “e” on a theme connected to the concept that they were exploring, a collaborative design thinking model founded on envisioning.
  3. Students were introduced to a model of appreciative inquiry through a power point presentation. They were then asked to watch related videos in groups and explore what appreciative inquiry meant for them. This was followed by a sharing on what they found interesting about the design thinking model and what they wanted to learn more about it.
  4. The students then did collective mind-mapping on what topics they would like to explore in the appreciative inquiry model exercise that they will be working on in teams over the next two sessions.

At the end of each session, students share their experiences or responses to specific questions on collaboration and leadership over a discussion forum which is their mode of assessment. The students have been ´given a criteria and rubric model for what the expectations are from the discussion forum.

What demands do you think they put on the student and on you from a languages perspective?

From a language perspective, since the activities involve following instructions (game) or activity, collective brainstorming and dialogue and reflective writing over a discussion forum. It means being able to articulate an idea, engage with peers while guiding the discussion further, It also means being able to write down their thoughts, ideas, experiences and questioning with effectiveness to keep the discussion forum fueled with ideas and thought provoking questions. The course is founded on intercultural dialogue and it means creating a space where all ideas are included and everyone feels empowered in the dialogue process.  Language and fluency in language may place its own demands with respect to this and it is interesting to learn and observe how students are focusing on having a meaningful dialogue despite language barriers that may seemingly exist.

How could you improve your EMI teaching practices or methods in order to cater for these demands?

I think a well.-paced session with sufficient time to deliberate, discuss and transition from one activity to another supports the brainstorming, participation and discussion in the class sessions. I have students from five different countries and often they rely on a phone translator to express a particular word or idea in class since for some of them the words are more fluent in their own mother tongue. The discussion forum are filled with well-articulated thoughts, questions and ideas. I feel being able to do it in their own space and time and reading each other posts and related articles are support systems in place for this activity. I feel sharing the objectives and expected learning outcomes are also supportive in including the students in the relevance it holds for them as a learning and as an experience.

Banal Nationalism

( Source and an interesting article in context to national identity:https://www.jylkkari.fi/2018/08/finnish-silence-is-a-myth/)

Speaking of national identity, the way national identity is constructed is also extremely intriguing and interesting. The topic of banal nationalism that was discussed brought out for me a whole new exploration on how national identity is constructed. It is so silently and subtly woven in to the daily practices, behaviours and often bound within the geography and linguistic territories of that country. If I take how I experience Finland on these lines, my experience would relate to the signs of the flag on the chocolates, how Ruis ( rye) is consumed as a cereal everywhere and one of the widest choices of breads in the supermarket is in the variety of rye bread available. The idea of how meetings, conversations and social interactions happen over coffee is also consistent and a creative aspect of the Finnish culture. In Finland, art here is spoken of as simplistic and minimal and they stand in exclusive and prominent places in the city. There is a deep sense of respect and recognition of the artists. People often know the name of the artist which I find is a part and pride of their national identity.

This leads me to reflect on how national identity is ubiquitously constructed in context to India.

I watched this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbJ85UMTn_4s). This video brought out the term imagined communities and national identity to me with a theoretical perspective from Benedict Anderson.

I started to think on why do I feel patriotic when I see the national flag, why do I feel pride within me when an Indian wins a gold medal in sport? Where does this feeling arise from?  I usually get teary eyed when I sing the national anthem. These are all moments when I feel such a strong part of this imagined community for only in our imaginations I am  a part of this large country with over a billion people and that I feel I belong to this nation. A topic that I would like to explore and discover more about, constructing and deconstructing national identities.



Exploring the term culture!

The first few sessions we explored the topic of culture through various lenses, one being the lens of academic literature on intercultural communication and discourses on interculturality. This brought out some interesting explorations on what the term culture means, defines and how each of us identify and relate to the term culture. The mixed perspectives and tacit knowledge from the group further enlightened the broader meaning of the term, what it holds and what it unfolds as one digs deeper in to the topic. So starting with the questions who invokes culture, where , how and what purpose, culture seems to take various dimensions in one’s own experience.

Very often people start with identifying culture with the country they came from or they were born in. Recently we met with a new cohort from the Master’s program in educational sciences and when the topic of culture came about, everyone pretty much went back to presenting something from their country of origin like a traditional dance, song, political scenario, something they felt connected to either in their own experience or as a deposit of knowledge. On the contrary one student expressed how the whole idea was very confusing to her because she is originally from a different country but grew up mostly in another country in Europe and now lives in Finland for the last few years. She brought up the question of what really is my culture, what must I present?

The aspect of culture often arises with greater emphasis when students comes from international backgrounds. Very often when there is homogeneity in geographical background and linguistic competencies, the aspect of culture is not being spoken about as aloud as when there is a heterogeneous group. Likes, dislikes, acceptance and denial of certain behavior is often associated with the culture card. Again when students coming from a specific geographical area they are associated with certain dispositions and stereotypes. For example: Chinese are hard working. These are observations that could limit oneself to think all Chinese behave and work this way.

Does using the word culture here become an escape mechanism from further deepening one’s own understanding of who they are, what values they hold and how ready they are to be able to embrace and celebrate differences?

Transitioning back to the question of what culture means, in my understanding it is one that we construct at various points of time for different purposes. Culture is dynamic, in a constant state of flux and cross-fertilized through the many experiences and interactions that we have in our life.

It is something that we can construct socially through rich interactions and dialogue, for example we can build a culture in a school or an organisation that you work that is based on trust, open dialogue and rich communication while we still hold on to the richness that local and national identities lend to us.




Bhavani – A brief introduction and some thoughts

Hi Everyone,

It is a delight to interact and meet with people from diverse faculty backgrounds and professional interests in the TACE course. My name is Bhavani Ramamoorthi and I am a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and Psychology. I primarily research in the area of relational leadership an emerging concept in educational leadership, focusing on human relations and richness of everyday interactions and dialogues. A big part of my life is being a mother to a teenager, a traveling storyteller and running a small start up company in Jyväskylä.

In my reflections so far with the course, the introductory session was great and so was the coffee break. With a large part of my mind functioning as a student, I assumed the coffee and cake would continue every session and was looking forward to it in the second one too! I feel the reflections and small group discussions in the last two weeks have brought up some valid and powerful points that highlight the nature of learning environments. I am looking forward to more collaboration and getting to know all the team members through the course.