Dialogic Teaching




What is Dialogue?

The Greek roots of the term ‘dialogue’ are ‘dia‘ which is taken to mean ‘through’ or ‘across’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘speech’ or ‘reason’. When we engage in dialogue we are reasoning across the difference between our personal perspective and another perspective. To engage in dialogue is to acknowledge and respond to other perspectives; to seek to understand them, to be sensitive to the differences between them and one’s own understandings and to use these differences as a resource to generate new perspectives and to achieve richer understandings of ideas and of other people. To enter into dialogue is not to endeavour to impose one’s own view or to uncritically accept the view of a more authoritative other, but rather to engage in a shared search for understanding and meaning; it is to enter into a relationship based on mutual respect. Indeed engaging in dialogue could be defined as an act of ‘thinking together’.


Why is Dialogue Important in Schools?

Quality dialogue is an essential medium for developing educational outcomes, and is a profoundly important educational outcome in its own right.

  • Engaging in dialogue helps students to construct richer, more meaningful understanding of knowledge;
  • Dialogue provides the teacher with a ‘window’ onto the meaning that students have made from the knowledge that has been taught;
  • The habits of mind developed in dialogue with others can be internalised and applied to thinking about all things (of course subject knowledge is essential to thinking well, but so are dialogic habits such as being open to other perspectives);
  • Engaging in dialogue helps us to realise that the human knowledge is constituted of the best answers we currently have to the questions we have posed so far; it is not fixed and final but part of an ongoing dialogue to which we can all aspire to contribute;
  • The capacity to engage with other perspectives constructively is important to living a good life.

You can find out more about the arguments supporting these claims in this blog post.


Teaching for Dialogue

A good quality of dialogue is harder to achieve than we might think. To get the most from teaching through dialogue it is essential that we teach for dialogue. This means cultivating a classroom climate in which dialogue can flourish. One way of doing this is to develop ‘ground rules‘ that define the quality of talk we are working towards and support us to reflect on our talk and set targets for its development. The skills of the teacher (and then the students) in facilitating dialogue are also crucial.


What Evidence is there that the Approach Works?

The approach I use in classrooms is informed by a reading of a variety of internationally recognised experts in the field. I have been particularly influenced by my work on Thinking Together with Professor Rupert Wegerif and by my experience of building Communities of Enquiry in Philosophy for Children (P4C). This report by the Education Endowment Foundation explores the impact of P4C on reading and maths at KS2. The Thinking Together approach, developed by Rupert, Professor Neil Mercer and Dr Lyn Dawes, has been extensively evaluated. See, for example,  Littleton, K., & Mercer, N. (2013). Interthinking: putting talk to work. Routledge. This EEF report evaluates the impact of Professor Robin Alexander’s work on dialogic teaching.


What CPD and Support is Available?

Bespoke support is available; please contact me to discuss details. Standard packages of CPD are listed below.


Introductory Sessions (60 – 90 mins)

These sessions offer an introduction to dialogic teaching. The methods that can be used to develop the quality of student-student and student-teacher dialogue in schools are outlined and the application of dialogic teaching methods is exemplified.

Standard price £275


Full Day Courses

The questions addressed in a full day course will include:

  • What is dialogue?
  • Why is dialogue educationally valuable?
  • What is a Community of Enquiry?
  • How can we progressively develop the quality of classroom dialogue?
  • How do we decide when it is appropriate to adopt a dialogic approach?
  • How can we effectively facilitate purposeful dialogue?
  • How does dialogic teaching support assessment?

Standard price £400. Bespoke packages of follow-up support are available.

Please contact me if you would like to book a course or if you would be interested in hosting an open course in your school.