Education and the Dialogue of Humanity

Saturday, July 14th, 2018




What follows is the text of my article for the Summer 2018 issue of Teaching Citizenship.

The dialogue of humanity

I spend a lot of time arguing that teaching young people how to engage in dialogue is profoundly important. I go as far as to argue that one of the purposes of education is to draw young people into dialogue. This can draw fire from those persuaded that education is all about giving young people knowledge, but I think this is due to a misunderstanding of the argument; I think dialogue is essential to the meaningful development of knowledge. I also think it’s essential to becoming a better citizen and a better human being. Continue Reading »

Teaching through and for Dialogue

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Tin_Can_Phones Website


This is the text of a short article written for the March 2018 edition of The Stoke-on-Trent Research School’s e-newsletter. You can access the full newsletter here.

At one time I was apologetic when talking to teachers about the role of dialogue in education. It felt like I was bothering them with my niche interest when they had more important things to be getting on with.  These days I’m bolder: I think that teaching through dialogue is indispensable to the meaningful development of knowledge and that teaching for dialogue should be a key aim – perhaps even the aim – of education itself. Here’s why: Continue Reading »

A Perspective on Dialogic Education

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I became conscious recently that I and others I spoke with often use terms such as dialogic education, dialogic teaching and even P4C as if they are synonyms.  In what follows I offer a possible way of describing the relationship between such terms.



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Why does Dialogic Teaching work?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017



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

Drawing into Dialogue (Website)


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


Dreams banner



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




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

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



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


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 »