Dialogue - Thinking Schools International


How about your own learning objectives?


How about my teaching objectives?

… for everyone to leave the workshop resolved to:

 increase their own learning/appreciation of DT&L

 increase/improve their own practice of DT&L

 especially, connecting DT&L with Enquiry and Reflection


Pause for reflection on prior learning

What would you like to know about DT&L?


(esp. w.r.t.

T & L)


Dialogue – back to basics

Dialogue is not just the next step up from monologue!

Dia = across, between

Logos = word, communication

It is not restricted to two-way communication.


Typical Teacher Pupil Interaction

T = Teacher

P = Pupil

S = Story

= Talk

= Questioning










Philosophical (= Meaning-making)


(Diagram Inspired by Mike Lake)

T = Teacher

P = Pupil

S = Story

= Talk


= Questioning

= Building on Ideas










Dialogical learning

In dialogic classrooms children don’t just provide brief factual answers to ‘test’ or ‘recall’ questions, or merely spot the answer which they think the teacher wants to hear.

Instead they learn to: narrate, explain, analyse, speculate, imagine, explore, evaluate, discuss, argue, justify and they ask questions of their own.

Children in dialogic classrooms also

 listen

 think about what they hear give others time to think respect alternative viewpoints

Robin Alexander, Towards Dialogic Teaching, 2004


Possible, perhaps, but desirable?

Dialogic teaching is not National Curriculum

‘speaking and listening’ under another name.

It is grounded in research on the relationship between language, thinking and understanding, and in observational evidence on what makes for truly effective teaching.

Robin Alexander, Towards Dialogic Teaching, 2004


Plutarch’s Puzzler

‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.’

On Listening to Lectures’ - Plutarch (46 – 120)

Plutarch is not urging teachers to be inspirational performers, so much as inspirers of learners to ‘light their own fires’ – in other words, to bring their own wills and skills to the learning process.

But how to nurture such a will to be a lifelong learner?


Teaching for enquiry

The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask which he finds it hard to answer.

- Alice Wellington Rollins (1847 – 1897)


Inspirers of Dialogue and Enquiry

The value of learning with and from others in dialogue, and especially through raising questions and reasoning about answers, has long been recognised by philosophers, educators and psychologists.

Perhaps the most important names in this story are:

SOCRATES (famous for the Socratic Method)

DEWEY (for proposing education as Inquiry, and learning as Reflection)

VYGOTSKY (for proposing Socially Mediated Learning)

Think – Pair - Share

Thinking Schools


The leading advocate in the UK today

“From the 1980’s, the Piagetian idea of the child as the ‘lone scientist’ who develops cognitively by interacting with stimulating materials was… supplemented by the Vygotskian view that the child’s cognitive development also requires it to engage , through the medium of spoken language , with adults, other children and the wider culture.”

Robin Alexander, Towards Dialogic Teaching, 2004


Conclusion of CPR response to Government consultation on proposed curriculum

Overall, we find the proposals in many respects educationally unsound and evidentially questionable. They are based on a flawed critique of existing arrangements and an overly selective response to international data.

Their lack of serious educational rationale is confirmed by the decision to add an essentially cosmetic statement of aims after the priorities and content have been determined.

They perpetuate some of the most damaging aspects of current and past arrangements, notably a curriculum which is divided not only in time but also as to quality and seriousness of purpose, especially where the arts and humanities are concerned.


Conclusion of CPR response to Government consultation on proposed curriculum, ctd.

The proposals rightly prioritise knowledge but wrongly reduce it to unchallengeable proposition.

They disregard both research evidence and expert opinion on matters such as spoken language and the teaching of reading, history and citizenship.

They belittle or ignore aspects of cultural life and human development such as drama, dance and the exploration of faith and belief - which ought to feature in any national curriculum.

While claiming modernity they fail adequately to reflect the profound social and educational implications of the digital revolution.

Key moments

Dialogic teaching is not a single set method of teaching.

It is more a professional outlook or state of mind than a specific method.

It requires us to rethink not just the techniques we use, but the classroom relationships we foster and the balance of power between teacher and taught.

Robin Alexander, Towards Dialogic Teaching, 2004


Keywording a key Thinking Skill strategy

Identifying and Developing Key Words/Concepts

The practice of key wording is a simple and effective one in any learning situation, whether conducted orally or in writing .

It is a practice of highlighting, mentally or on paper , the key words or concepts in any exposition.

For instance, try identifying 5 key words from the previous slide, and then comparing your list with a partner’s.

Notice how the process is one of actively questioning for meaning, and then a questioning of each other’s meaning-making.

Thinking Schools 16

Pause for reflection and consolidation

What are the key words about D T & L so far?


(esp. w.r.t.

T & L)


Dialogic Teaching and Learning –

5 main principles

1. Collective: teachers and children address learning tasks together, whether as a group or as a class, rather than in isolation;

2. Reciprocal: teachers and children listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative viewpoints;

3. Supportive : children articulate their ideas freely, without fear of embarrassment over ‘wrong’ answers; and they help each other to reach common understandings;

4. Cumulative: teachers and children build on their own and each others’ ideas and chain them into coherent lines of thinking and enquiry;

5. Purposeful : teachers plan and facilitate dialogic teaching with particular educational goals in view.


P4C improves thinking and talking

“The teacher’s goal is to teach students to be better thinkers, and to do so by engaging students in dialogue.”

“No programme I am aware of is more likely to teach durable and transferable thinking skills than Philosophy for Children.”

Robert Sternberg, Current President of the American Psychological Association


Aims of P4C

“ The aim of a thinking skills program such as P4C to help (children) become more thoughtful , more reflective , more considerate and more reasonable individuals.”

Matthew Lipman

(1924 - )


The 4 C’s of P4C

Thinking mode Thinking focus









Community of enquiry

A group of people used to thinking together with a view to increasing their understanding and appreciation of the world around them and of each other

- SAPERE Level 1 Handbook, 2004


Making sense of Things

“Pooh began to feel a little more uncomfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and 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”

- The House at Pooh Corner (A.A. Milne)


Concept Corners or a Concept SPEC for ‘Friend’

S ynonyms / Opposites

P opular phrases / usages ally, buddy, companion, comrade, mate, pal – adversary, enemy, rival best friend, true friend, friend in need, friends reunited, facebook friends


Loyalty, care, love, reciprocity, trust, unconditional, fun

C onnected ideas helping with tasks, sharing celebrations, sharing secrets, offering sympathy

E xamples / situations


Concept Target or ‘IN/OUT’






Continuum between extremes

(concept lines)

Arrange the following (which are in a random order) along a continuous line from most conducive to healthy learning to least conducive: chat, debate, conversation, quarrel, argy-bargy, banter, dialogue, argument, conference


Socratic / Critical Questioning – the MTV steps

The model of questioning set by Socrates

(470 – 399 bce) remains fit for the 21 st century

In his search for better understanding and judgement, the first step that Socrates often took was to enquire into the

MEANING of key words or ideas

The second step he took was to question the

TRUTH of what was being said or claimed

Then, if a claim was both clear and believable, his third and final step was to enquire about its

VALUE or importance


Socratic Questioning – promoting understanding and appreciation in communities of enquiry

Questions seeking…

Explanation – if the meaning is not clear

Illustration – if an example would make the meaning more vivid

Distillation – if much has been said and a summary would help

Elaboration – if not enough has been said, and more detail would help

Proportion – if the extent or scale of a claim needs to be checked

Precision – if an exception or distinction needs to be drawn

Evidence – if a claim to truth needs support

Reason – if a belief or point of view needs strengthening

Implications – if assumptions or conclusions need to be drawn out

Alternatives – if other considerations or applications need to be elicited

(C larify )

( Exemplify )

( Simplify )

( Amplify )

( Quantify)

( Qualify )

( Verify )

( Justify )


( Diversify )


Thinking Schools

Statements to justify – from SAPERE handbook p. 41

Children shouldn't be allowed to watch scary movies

It is possible to be kind to everyone

It is possible to always be good and never be bad

Chocolate is better than fruit

A Mars bar is better than an apple

Children should never hit teddy bears

All children can learn new things

Watching TV is more interesting than being at school

Children should always be allowed to have pets

All pets are nice

No one should ever be forced to do something they are scared of

Everyone is different

Everyone is the same in some ways

N.B. You could use a continuum line for dis/agreement, but the main aim is to draw out reasons for and against.


Bigger Issues for Socratic Questioning

‘There’s no sense in apologising for the Slave Trade’ (History)

‘Climate change is for the scientists to advise about, the politicians to do something about, and ordinary people not to be worried by’

(Science, Geography)

‘Sales of alcohol should be much more restricted than they are’


‘The country needs more mathematicians and linguists if it is to compete economically’ (Maths, ICT, D & T, Modern Languages,


‘Whatever ‘modern’ music and art are, I don’t like them’ (A & D, Music)

‘Top footballers and authors are paid far too much!’ (PE, English,



Aims of Education

“The development of the general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost … not the acquisition of special knowledge.”

- Albert Einstein, Out of my Later Years, 1950

(1879 – 1955)