Talking about Dialogic Learning…

Last week’s Everything Unplugged discussion was about dialogic learning. I first came across the term “dialogic” when I heard Richard Sennett talk at the RSA last month: Sennett contrasted dialogic against dialectic: the first involving discussion, listening, and understanding, the second involving argument, debate, confrontation, polarisation and adversarial stances.

Our discussion could be summed up by “statement of the bleedin’ obvious”: learning through discussion, sharing ideas and collaborating rather than the intervention of an expert (ie a teacher) to direct our learning and lead us to the truth, has clear benefits. But then we are a self-selected group of people with a clear interest in self-directed leaning through discussion. That’s what we were doing there. Of course it seemed obvious to us.

In part, we were talking more about the Wikipedia article on Dialogic Learning, which reads like an essay and really needs editing (which, somewhat hypocritically, I haven’t been bothered to do), rather than the concept of dialogic learning itself.

But despite perhaps being obvious to us, the idea of dialogic learning is useful. Sennett pointed out how it leads to collaboration rather than confrontation. It teaches people to think for themselves, perhaps in a creative fashion, making new connections and challenging established ideas – critical to innovation, perhaps.

At a time when schools are being criticised for schools are being criticised for failing to adequately prepare students for university and “teaching to the test“, dialogic learning could be a useful method.

We may all know this – but it doesn’t make it any less valid…

(David Terrar’s thoughts on our discussion can be found here.)


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