Why does Dialogic Teaching work?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

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Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”  Maya Angelou

 

In July 2017 the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) published a report showing that Dialogic Teaching supported children in Year 5 (9-10 year-olds) to make accelerated progress in English, science and maths. This is consistent with the findings of a 2016 report showing that regular practice of Philosophy for Children (P4C) has a similar positive impact on attainment in reading and maths for children of a similar age. These findings have led people to wonder about the mechanism through which these approaches (both of which focus on the development of cognitively challenging talk and dialogue) impact on the learning of academic subjects, and in this post I  offer some thoughts on this. Continue Reading »

Drawing Children into Cultural Dialogues with P4C

Monday, April 10th, 2017

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What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.’ St Augustine

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” Winnie the Pooh

 

During a recent Philosophy for Children (P4C) enquiry our starting point was the question ‘When does a conflict go too far for forgiveness?’ As we considered the meaning of ‘forgiveness’ the problematic nature of the term soon became clear. Reflecting on the enquiry, one participant said “When we started the question seemed straightforward, but now I’m not even sure what forgiveness is!”

Philosophers from St Augustine to Winnie the Pooh have had the same feeling. But why might this feeling be educationally valuable? How can we justify spending an hour of children’s time raising and discussing such a question only to lead them into a state of confusion or, as the Greeks would have it, aporia? And can such a discussion have any real value if it is not informed by some of ‘the best that has been thought and said‘ about forgiveness?

I believe that the discussion has both intrinsic educational value and value as a gateway to a wider dialogue with the best that has been thought and said, and in what follows I will try to share the reasons underpinning this belief. Continue Reading »

Dreaming of Dialogue

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

 

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Last night I met a man in a dream. He emerged from the darkness, waving his phone maniacally about his head, seemingly trying to ward away a group of small blue birds.

“It’s no good, it’s no good! I cannot hide from difference!” he moaned.

“Oh? And why not?” I enquired.

“Because difference is the gateway to the future,” came the response. “It is only through contact with other perspectives that I can find creative ways forward.” Continue Reading »

Conceptualising through Dialogue in Primary Science

Monday, December 19th, 2016

 

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This post from Tim Sprod on the Philosophy Foundation blog has helped to develop my facilitation of philosophical enquiry during P4C sessions. Recently I have used an adapted version of Sprod’s ‘foci triangle‘ during sessions aimed at supporting children to make meaning of key concepts in science. (My work on dialogic learning in science has been kindly supported by the Primary Science Quality Mark and the Royal Society of Chemistry.) Continue Reading »

Teaching for Dialogue with the 4Cs

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016
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Between Scylla and Charybdis

‘…we need shared social rules to open up a space for thinking between the Scylla of coercion on the one side and the Charybdis of unreflective consensus on the other.‘ Rupert Wegerif

 

In the previous post I suggested that one way of teaching people to become better thinkers is to teach them how to get better at dialogue.  I argued (or rather I paraphrased Rupert Wegerif’s argument) that dialogic thinking skills are learned in dialogues with others and are transferable to different contexts. I have also argued that becoming good at dialogue is a profoundly import educational endpoint in its own right (see this post, for example).

But becoming good at dialogue is harder than it might appear. Research by Neil Mercer, Rupert Wegerif and Lyn Dawes found that group talk in schools is often ineffective. Such ineffective talk can be categorised in two main ways: disputational talk (characterised by individuals egotistically trying to impose their views on others, perhaps to protect an identity defined in terms of their abilities relative to those of others) and cumulative talk (characterised by uncritical agreement in order to maintain group harmony, perhaps to protect an identity defined in terms of belonging to the group).  We need to first define and then develop talk that is more dialogic, allowing us to steer a course safely between these two talk-types. Continue Reading »

Thinking through Dialogue

Monday, October 31st, 2016

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In the previous post I made an argument for the educational importance of dialogue, suggesting that it has value both as a means of education and as an educational endpoint in its own right. I have also suggested (following the ideas of Rupert Wegerif) that dialogue, or dialogic thinking, is an integral part of gaining conceptual understanding. In this post I try to offer some challenge to the idea that it is not possible, or at least not valuable, to teach ‘general thinking skills’ which, I argue, emerge from dialogues. Continue Reading »

Dialogue as a Means and as an End

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

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Yin and yang – complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. They give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another (Wikipedia)

 

In this post I make an argument for dialogic education in terms of the possible purposes and aims of education. I also suggest that dialogue is not only a pedagogical tool for achieving these ends but is actually an intrinsic part of the ends themselves. Continue Reading »

Relationships, Dialogues and the Liberation of the Young

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

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Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades for ever and for ever as I move.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

 

Relationships are essential in education. This is a truism with which few teachers would argue. We all work to create an environment in which young people feel safe, valued and free to learn. But perhaps relationships are also the gateway through which our young people can access their full cultural inheritance; perhaps they are Ulysses’ arch to the untraveled world. Continue Reading »

What is Dialogic Education (and why should I care)?

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


In the glossary of our forthcoming book ‘Dialogic Education: Mastering core concepts through thinking together’, Professor Rupert Wegerif defines Dialogic Education as ‘Education for dialogue as well as through dialogue’, adding that its defining aim is ‘that students get better at dialogue’.

The term ‘dialogue‘ is often used as a synonym for talk, but in this context it means something more specific.  In the first figure below, taken from Wegerif’s book ‘Mind Expanding’, we see two people talking, but with their minds closed to each other’s ideas.  They have access to only one point of view – their own – which they believe to be the one valid perspective.  This is not dialogue, but monologue, and the thinking of the participants is not dialogic, but monologic.

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Dialogue

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Community Values: The Final Dialogue

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

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Our inter-generational dialogue project ended recently with a meeting between Year 8 students from St Thomas More Catholic High School and Residents at Pickmere Court, a supported housing project in Crewe.  The project, funded by Crewe Town Council and run by myself and colleagues at TYA Creative, was intended to address the British Values agenda in a meaningful and educationally purposeful way, with a particular emphasis on building understanding between younger and older generations through dialogue.  The first post in this series explored the thinking behind the project, whilst the second and third posts explored our work with the older and younger generations separately.  Here we describe what happened when the two groups were finally brought together. Continue Reading »