The Importance of Dialogue


“Dialogue is a therapy – perhaps the therapy – against the mis-recognition of one person by another.” Dmitri Nikulin


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. All three approaches described on this website support teaching for dialogue. They will impact on attainment throughout the curriculum, and support students – support all of us – to engage in a better way with other perspectives, wherever we find them.