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
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
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
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’
Synonyms / Opposites
Popular phrases /
ally, buddy, companion,
comrade, mate, pal –
adversary, enemy, rival
best friend, true friend,
friend in need, friends
reunited, facebook
Loyalty, care, love,
reciprocity, trust,
unconditional, fun
Connected ideas
helping with tasks,
sharing celebrations,
sharing secrets,
offering sympathy
Examples / 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 21st 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
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)
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