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.
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).