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Abstract

Dialogic education is a relatively new force in educational theory and practice. Despite the variety of approaches to dialogic education, it nonetheless offers a coherent theory of education with implications not only for how education should be practiced but also for the purposes of education. Dialogic education takes place through dialogue which means opening up dialogic spaces in which different perspectives can clash or play together and new learning can occur. But dialogic education is not only education through dialogue, it is also education for dialogue, meaning that as a result of dialogic education learners become better at learning together with others through dialogue. The intellectual background of dialogic education theory goes back at least as far as Socrates and includes thinkers as varied as Freire, who saw dialogic education as a means of liberation from oppression, and Oakeshott, who understood education to be a process of engaging learners in their cultural inheritance, described as “the conversation of mankind.” Bakhtin, an influential source for recent dialogic educational theory, argues that meaning requires the clash and interaction of multiple voices. There are a range of approaches to implementing dialogic education, varying in the extent to which they focus on teacher to student dialogue, small group dialogues, and whole class dialogues. All approaches include some idea of (1) a dialogic orientation toward the other, characterized by an openness to the possibility of learning, and (2) social norms that support productive dialogue. Published assessments of the impact of dialogic education in relation to general thinking skills, curriculum learning gains, and conceptual understanding have been positive. However, the assessment of dialogic education raises methodological issues, and new methodologies are being developed that align better with dialogic theory and with the idea of measuring increased dialogicity, or expanded “dialogic space.” Assuming that dialogic education works to promote educational goals, various hypotheses have been suggested as to how it works, including some that focus on the co-construction of new meaning through explicit language use, others that focus more on changes in the identity of students, and others on changes in the possibilities of engagement afforded by the culture of classrooms. There are many issues and controversies raised by dialogic education. One issue is the extent to which dialogue as a goal is compatible with a curriculum that pre-specifies certain learning outcomes. Another is the extent to which teaching a set of social norms and practices promoting dialogue might be a kind of cultural imperialism that fails to recognize and value the culture of the students. These and other challenges to dialogic education are part of a lively and constructive debate in the field, which values a multiplicity of voices within the broader context of convergence on the value of teaching through dialogue and teaching for dialogue.
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
Dialogic Education
Rupert Wegerif, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Cite as: Wegerif, R (in press) Dialogic Education. In Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of
Education. http://education.oxfordre.com/
Abstract
The term ‘dialogic’ is now quite widely used to refer to educational approaches but often
without sufficient clarity as to what exactly the word ‘dialogic’ means. This article will
explore what unity there is behind the different approaches to dialogic education. The title of
this article, ‘dialogic education’, is being used here as a kind of umbrella term including
within its meaning a range of cognates such as dialogic inquiry, dialogic teaching, dialogic
instruction, dialogic learning and dialogic pedagogy. After setting up some definitions, this
article offers a brief history of dialogic education, outlines some of the main strands found in
classrooms today, looks at research evidence on the impact of dialogic education and finally
presents a few key issues and controversies in the field.
Key words:
dialogic, social interaction, cognition, epistemology, ontology, democracy, pedagogy,
educational theory
Contents
Introduction................................................................................................................................2
Defining dialogic education.......................................................................................................2
A brief intellectual history of dialogic education.......................................................................4
Oral beginnings......................................................................................................................4
Socrates...................................................................................................................................5
Dewey and Mead....................................................................................................................6
Buber......................................................................................................................................6
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Bakhtin...................................................................................................................................7
Vygotsky.................................................................................................................................7
Freire.......................................................................................................................................8
Habermas................................................................................................................................9
Oakeshott................................................................................................................................9
Some dialogic education approaches.......................................................................................10
Learning communities..........................................................................................................11
Dialogic teaching..................................................................................................................12
Philosophy for children........................................................................................................13
Thinking Together................................................................................................................14
Accountable talk...................................................................................................................16
Assessing the impact of dialogic education.............................................................................17
How dialogic education works.................................................................................................18
Appropriation.......................................................................................................................18
Co-construction....................................................................................................................19
Transformation.....................................................................................................................19
Dialogic switch in perspective..............................................................................................20
Identification.........................................................................................................................20
Culture change......................................................................................................................21
Issues and controversies...........................................................................................................21
Dialogic versus curriculum...................................................................................................21
Cultural imperialism.............................................................................................................22
The role of technology..........................................................................................................22
Conclusion................................................................................................................................23
References................................................................................................................................24
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
Introduction
The term ‘dialogic’ is now quite widely used to refer to educational approaches but often
without sufficient clarity as to what exactly the word ‘dialogic’ means. This article will
explore what unity there is behind the different approaches to dialogic education. The title of
this article, ‘dialogic education’, is being used here as a kind of umbrella term including
within its meaning a range of cognates such as dialogic inquiry, dialogic teaching, dialogic
instruction, dialogic learning and dialogic pedagogy. After setting up some definitions, this
article offers a brief history of dialogic education, outlines some of the main strands found in
classrooms today, looks at research evidence on the impact of dialogic education and finally
presents a few key issues and controversies in the field.
Dening dialogic education
Dialogic education emphasises the importance of dialogue for learning. But what exactly is
meant by the word ‘dialogue’? And what does it entail for an educational programme or
approach to be ‘dialogic’?
In everyday speech the term ‘dialogue’ can be used to refer to almost any kind of social
interaction where words or other signs are exchanged between people. Bakhtin, a philosopher
referred to as a major source for recent approaches to dialogic education, defined dialogue by
claiming that; ‘If an answer does not give rise to a new question from itself, it falls out of the
dialogue’ (Bakhtin 1986, 168). Robin Alexander quotes this sentence from Bakhtin in
outlining his Dialogic Teaching approach. The aim of the approach is to engage students in
sustained stretches of talk which enables speakers and listeners to explore and build on their
own and others’ ideas (Alexander, 2006)
It is sometimes assumed that dialogic education is about talk in classrooms but the definition
of dialogue by Bakhtin given above does not necessarily limit itself to explicit spoken
language or even to any form of explicit language. Since personality and tone of voice are
part of dialogues for Bakhtin, it is clear that some forms of music, Jazz for example, and
some forms of improvised dance can be dialogic. Bakhtin was interested in the way in which
holding different ideas or perspectives together in the tension of a dialogue led to new
insights. For Bakhtin dialogue is not just about talk or texts but includes the more general
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
idea that the inter-animation of different perspectives can lead to mutual illumination
(Bakhtin, 1984).
Level 1, dictionary or everyday definition of dialogic
The term ‘dialogic’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an adjective applied to
describe anything ‘relating to or in the form of dialogue’. This is the first level of definition
that can be applied to dialogic education. Where there is group work or a high level of open-
ended teacher student interaction this might be referred to as ‘dialogic education’ without
specifying any more technical meaning for dialogic than that the teaching and learning takes
the form of a dialogue.
Level 2: epistemological definition of dialogic
Dialogic is often used in a more technical way to refer to the claim that the meaning of an
utterance is not given by that utterance alone but can only be understood in a context, more
specifically through the position and role of that utterance in a larger dialogue in which it is a
response to previous utterances and is trying to elicit or have some impact upon future
utterances (Rommetveit, 1992: Linell, 2009). To put this another way, if a friend sends a text
with a happy face emoji the meaning of that text does not stand alone but depends on the
previous message and also on how your friend might want you to respond. The term dialogic
used in this more technical way is a contrast to the term ‘monologic’ which expresses the idea
that everything has one correct meaning in one true perspective on the world. For dialogic, by
contrast, knowledge is never direct knowledge of an external world but always emerges only
within dialogue as an aspect of dialogue. This is simply because knowledge has to take the
form of an answer to a question and questions arise in the context of dialogue, both dialogue
between human voices and dialogue with the larger context or the world around. Since the
dialogue is never closed the questions we ask will change and so what counts as knowledge is
never final. The dialogue is never closed because when you think it is over and look back
upon it to reflect upon it, that reflection is itself a new utterance in the dialogue. This is why
there is a new interpretation of what Socrates really meant almost every year. It follows from
this dialogic understanding of knowledge that it is more important to teach students how to
construct knowledge together with others so that they can participate more fully and
effectively in ongoing dialogues then in is to teach them lists of fixed knowledge or so-called
facts.
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
This focus on how we gain knowledge gives a second or epistemological level of definition
for dialogic education which is that education should be understood as engaging students in
an ongoing process of shared enquiry taking the form of a dialogue (Wells, 1999: Linell,
2009). Dialogic teaching, for example, developed by Robin Alexander, mentioned above, is
epistemological in focus, drawing students into the process of the shared construction of
knowledge. A similar epistemological focus can often be found in the community of enquiry
approach in Philosophy for Children (Lipman, 2003), in the promotion of Exploratory Talk
(Littleton & Mercer, 2013) and in the promotion of Accountable Talk (Michaels, O’Connor, &
Resnick, 2008).
Level 3: ontological definitions of dialogic
Epistemology is about how we know things and so any purely epistemological approach in
education does tend to assume that there is a knowing self on the one hand and an external
reality that is known about on the other hand. Some claim that taking dialogic seriously as a
theory of meaning implies that it is not just a means to knowledge construction mediating
between selves and reality, but, that selves and reality are also part of the dialogue. Applied to
education this ontological interpretation of dialogic suggests that dialogue is not just a means
or tool to be used in education to help construct knowledge, but, more than that, engagement
in dialogue is a way to change ourselves and to change our reality.
Different versions of ontologic dialogic education focus differently on either understanding
and transforming a) the self, or b) reality as a whole or c) social reality. Understanding the
self as a kind of dialogic author and education as developing both the freedom and the
responsibility of this authorial self, seems to be a focus of one strand of ontologic dialogic
educational theory (Matusov 2009: Sidorkin 1999). Another strand puts more focus on the
transformation of reality seeing education, and science understood as dialogue, as a journey
of discovery from the naturally occurring illusion that selves and objects are separate
substances within an external fixed reality to the realisation that all identities are aspects of a
kind of universal dialogue that we can learn to participate in more fully and more effectively
or at least more playfully (Wegerif, 2007: Kennedy, 2014). A more political interpretation of
dialogic education can be seen in the vision of Freire (1971) and those influenced by Freire
(e.g Flecha, 2009) of dialogic education as a way to empower the oppressed such that they
can learn to ‘name’ their own reality in a movement that is both an expansion of
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consciousness (‘conscientization’) and at the same time a transformation of social reality.
Where a particular concept of what counts as social justice is established in advance of
dialogue then this Freirean vision may be accused of being instrumental and manipulative
rather than genuinely dialogic (Matusov, 2009). However, if the focus is on liberating all
students to be able to participate equally fully in dialogues that shape a shared social reality
then this is a truly dialogic educational goal albeit one which may often have obvious
political implications.
In practice, despite claims to the contrary (e.g Matusov in Matusov & Wegerif, 2014), these
three levels of definition are not mutually incompatible. Most approaches to education that
describe themselves as dialogic combine some element of all three levels. It is not uncommon
for approaches to combine a concern for taking the form of a dialogue in which all
participants are given opportunities to participate with ideas, a concern to promote knowledge
age skills through shared inquiry and also an interest in developing dialogic dispositions and
promoting more dialogue as a valued end in itself (eg Flecha 2000, 16: Phillipson and
Wegerif, 2016; Nystrand, 1997 and Lefstein and Snell, 2013).
A brief intellectual history of dialogic education
Oral beginnings
The historical roots of dialogic education can be traced back to oral educational traditions that
possibly pre-date the advent of literacy and certainly pre-date mass literacy and modern
schools based upon literacy. Amartya Sen claims dialogic education has a special association
with India, especially in Buddhist intellectual traditions (Sen, 2005). Others find a dialogic
element in Confucian education (Li and Wegerif, 2014), and traditional Jewish education
(Schwarz, & Baker, 2016). Interstingly raditional Islamic education took place in small groups
seated in circles in the mosque called "Halaqat al-'Ilm" or circles of knowledge where
questioning and debate was encouraged sometimes debate involving every conceivable topic
(Makdisi, 1990, p210) Although many recent approaches to dialogic education originate in
Europe and the USA this does not necessarily mean that it is a specifically ‘Western’
approach or that it comes out of the values of the European enlightenment. Recognition of the
educational value of dialogue is deeper and more widespread than the impact of the European
Enlightenment, influential as this has been.
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
A line of continuity can be traced from Socrates’ practice of questioning his students in the
Athens agora to some recent approaches to promoting dialogues in modern classrooms.
Robin Alexander, mentioned already as the developer of ‘dialogic teaching’ in the UK, was
influenced by what he found in some Russian classrooms where teachers applied the ideas of
Bakhtin. Bakhtin was a classics scholar and some of his key ideas about dialogic were taken
almost verbatim from the dialogues of Socrates as written down by Plato (1984). Socrates
was an oral thinker. In his lifetime the use of the new technology of alphabetic writing was
spreading throughout Greece. This new technology was changing the nature of education in a
way that troubled Socrates. In the Phaedrus (Plato, 360 BCE/2006) Socrates shows concern
about the cognitive impact of writing asserting that real intelligence is only to be found in
living face to face dialogues and cannot be found in text books.
Socrates was, of course, wrong to claim that writing could never carry real dialogic
intelligence. Bakhtin’s own version of dialogism is based on an analysis of the way in which
texts, particularly part of Dostoevsky’s novels, enter into dialogic relations which illuminate
what he refers to as ‘infinite’ spaces of ‘contextual meaning’. But, overlooking this
exaggeration, Socrates was profoundly right when he pointed to the difference between a
living meaning within a dialogue and the dead mere form of meaning when words are treated
as meanings-in-themselves as if outside of any dialogue. It is the crucial, but still largely
overlooked, distinction drawn by Socrates that is the basis for the contemporary dialogic
reform movement within education.
Dewey and Mead
American pragmatism found in the work of Charles Sanders Pierce, William James, John
Dewey and George Herbert Mead, is not obviously dialogic but lays an intellectual
foundation that is influential for some forms of dialogic education. Matthew Lipman adapted
Pierce’s and Dewey’s account of how progress in science depends upon a community of
Inquiry in creating the dialogic education approach that he called ‘philosophy for children’.
(Lipman, 2003). Dewey’s essentially dialogic concept of ‘transaction’ in Dewey’s last book
(Bentley and Dewey, 1949) inspired the promotion of transactive dialogue in moral
education (Berkowitz, 1980). Berkowitz writes: ‘Transactive discussion is the label used to
identify a form of verbal interaction which is more simultaneous, mutual, and bi-directional
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
than simple verbal interaction,’ in other words this is a synonym for the kind of ‘dialogue’
promoted in dialogic education.
Mead’s idea that we learn to reason through engagement in interaction with significant others
and then with a generalised virtual other or ‘what every reasonable person in this community
would think’ suggests an essentially dialogic theory of cognitive development (Mead, 1934:
Wegerif, 2011). Meads account of how children learn to reason includes the idea of learning
to hold your own thoughts accountable to the norms of good reasoning within a community
which is an idea that partly inspired the ‘Accountable Talk’ dialogic education programme in
the USA (Resnick, Michaels, & O’Connor, 2010).
Buber
Socrates, as we have just seen, distinguishes between living words that are carried on the
warm breath of relationships and the dead words of written accounts. This same distinction is
picked up by Paul in the New Testament in a resonant phrase: ‘the letter kills but the spirit
brings life’. Buber, made this distinction the basis of his philosophy (Buber, 1958). He
defined it as the difference between the attitude of objectification, ‘Ich-Es’ (‘I-it’) and the
attitude of dialogue ‘Ich-Du’ (‘I-thou’). The external ‘objective’ view that locates things in
their proper place is ‘monologic’ because it assumes a single correct perspective within which
everything can be situated or located. The internal view that takes the other seriously is
‘dialogic’ because from this perspective meaning always assumes at least two perspectives at
once and, the moment there are at least two perspectives then the gap between them opens up
the possibility of an infinite number of possible new perspectives and new insights. Buber
celebrated the dialogic attitude, describing how it is possible to take this attitude towards
everything, including nature and God, not only in relation to specific others. In addition to
talking about the significance of the dialogic orientation to others and the shift from the ‘I-it’
attitude to the ‘I-thou’ attitude, Buber also talked about the importance of what he called the
space of the ‘in-between’ or the ‘space of meeting’. This is the first clear reference to the idea
of the opening up of a ‘dialogic space’ that is now a theme of dialogic education (e.g Mercer, ,
Warwick, Kershner, & Staarman, 2010).
Bakhtin
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
Bakhtin was aware of Buber’s work as well as being influenced by Socrates. He continued
and developed the awareness Socrates and Buber had of the essential dialogic distinction
between the inside space of dialogue and the outside space. His characterization of the
essential dialogic distinction in terms of the difference between an authoritative word and a
persuasive word has obvious implications for education. The authoritative word, which he
explicitly associated with school teachers, remains outside us, he writes, not entering us so
that we either have to accept it or reject it. Think about a poster on the wall saying ‘No
Smoking!’. He contrasts this to the ‘the internally persuasive word’ that is half-ours and half-
someone else’s. Its creativity and productiveness consist precisely in the fact that such a word
awakens new and independent words, that it organises masses of our words from within, and
does not remain in an isolated and static condition’. (Bakhtin, 1981, 343) In contrast to the
poster saying ‘No smoking’ think about a friend who tells you the story of how his mother
died of lung cancer after smoking heavily. You may or may not give up smoking but your
friend’s story is likely to enter into you and become part of how you understand the world. In
educational terms the idea is that children learn through persuasive dialogue that enables
them to understand by seeing from different points of view and that authoritative
transmission of facts is not likely to promote deeper understanding.
Vygotsky
There is some debate as to whether or not Vygotsky’s thinking as a whole should be called
dialogic but his account of cognitive development has certainly inspired a dialogic
understanding of thought and how children learn to think (Fernyhough, 1996). Vygotsky’s
notion that education always occurs in a ‘zone of proximal development’ stretched between
teacher and student brings the idea of dialogic relations into education. In the ZPD the teacher
has to engage with the perspective of the student and vice-versa in order to connect the
development of ideas in the student to the pre-existing culture (Vygotsky, 1986) The dialogic
relation, which can be characterised as ‘attunement to the attunement of the other’
(Rommetveit, 1992) is implicit in the idea of the ZPD. Vygotsky’s claim that good thinking
is first found in social interactions and only later ‘internalized’ or appropriated by individuals
lies behind many claims that teaching dialogue is the best way to teach for thinking (Resnick,
& Schantz, 2015: Wegerif, Mercer and Dawes, 1999). It is common to combine Vygotsky’s
claim that cognitive development involves the internalisation of dialogue into inner thought
with Bakthin’s claim that dialogue is a dialogue of culturally embodied voices (Wertsch,
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1991: Fernyhough, 1999). This hybrid form of Vygotskianism or neo-Vygotskianism implies
that children learn to think not only by internalising words and ways of using language but
also by appropriating cultural voices with personalities and histories. Learning to reason, for
example, is not just about learning how to use language in a logical way as a tool to solve
problems but it is also about having a good relationship with the ‘voice of reason’ such that
one can learn to reproduce it convincingly and ultimately speak with that voice when that is
needed. With this Bakhtinian twist learning to think becomes not only a story of how students
acquire voices but also a story of how cultural voices, the voice of mathematics for example,
acquire students (Wegerif, 2011)
Freire
Paulo Freire, a Brazilian-born educator, explicitly argued for the need for dialogic education
in the context of what he called the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ (Freire, 2000). Conventional
education, Freire claimed, followed what he called a ‘banking model’ in which knowledge is
treated as something to be deposited in the heads of students. Education on the banking
model is a way of oppressing people through manipulation in which the words and meanings
of the oppressors are inserted into the heads of the oppressed. Dialogic education, by contrast,
is about empowering the oppressed to speak their own words and so to name the world in
their own way. Freire offers three key elements that can contribute to an understanding of
dialogic education: first, the importance of starting with the lived experience of students;
secondly, the idea that dialogic education is about making a real difference in the world
through empowerment or giving a voice to those initially without a voice and finally the
importance of genuine respect and collaboration between educator and student so that
meaning can be co-constructed rather than imposed.
‘Because dialogue is an encounter among women and men who name the world, it must not
be a situation where some name on behalf of others. It is an act of creation; it must not serve
as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.’ (Freire 2000, 69)
Here we see that Freire argued clearly for a kind of dialogic education that did not impose
meanings on people. However, he has been accused of doing precisely what he argued
against, that is manipulating people into meanings prepared in advance. Freire made it clear
in his writings and actions that he was committed to a particular socialist vision of liberation.
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
This can be seen in his location of education within the dichotomy of oppressor and
oppressed. Many commentators agree with the conclusion of Mark Smith that: ‘what is
claimed as liberatory practice may, be rather closer to banking than we would wish. In other
words, the practice of Freirian education can involve smuggling in all sorts of ideas and
values under the guise of problem-posing’ (Smith, 2002). Freire’s practice of education was
probably not as dialogic as his espoused theory of education.
Habermas
Habermas does not engage explicitly with educational practice but some of his ideas have
been influential on the development of dialogic education approaches. He argues that
strategic rationality that seeks to solve problems and win arguments is secondary to a more
fundamental communicative rationality which seeks to understand the other. His account of
communicative as opposed to strategic rationality involves a description of intersubjective
orientations similar in essence to that of Buber (Habermas, 1984). He further argues that
argumentation always implies an appeal to an ideal speech situation in which all relevant
voices have an equal right to speak and to be heard (Habermas, 1979). His point is that in the
vary act of advancing arguments you are making a kind of promise that just as you expect the
others to listen and to be open to changing their minds as a result of your arguments so you
are willing to listen and potentially also change your mind. This account of the social and
communicative roots of reasoning has been influential in different ways on the Thinking
Together programme in the UK (Wegerif & Mercer 1997a) and on the Flecha’s dialogic
learning communities approach that has had an impact on education in Spain (Flecha, 2000)
Oakeshott
Writing in a very similar period to Freire, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott
articulated an essentially dialogic theory of education that is interesting partly because it does
not share Freire’s socialist political vision (Oakeshott, 1969). Oakeshott did not explicitly
use the term dialogic but he applied the metaphor of conversation to education and he linked
education to his idea of what he called ‘the conversation of Mankind’ (Oakeshott, 1962).
Oakeshott saw the role of teachers as drawing students into the conversation of mankind
through what he called a ‘conversational encounter’. The idea is to put them into the position
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
of being taken over by this long term conversation of the culture such that they get a taste for
it and are even, to some extent, possessed by it. In conversation, Oakeshott writes:
‘facts’ appear only to be resolved once more into the possibilities from which they
were made; ‘certainties’ are shown to be combustible, not by being brought in contact
with other ‘certainties’ or with doubts, but by being kindled by the presence of ideas of
another order; approximations are revealed between notions normally remote from one
another. Thoughts of different species take wing and play round one another,
responding to each other’s movements and provoking one another to fresh exertions.’
(1962)
His account of culture as conversation offers a clear expression of several key dialogic ideas.
Facts are never fixed and final but constructed and deconstructed within dialogues. A
diversity of voices is essential for meaning. There is no privileged outside standpoint offering
a ‘correct’ view. Dialogue is an end in itself and not a means to an outside end such as profit
or adaptation to the environment.
Oakeshott’s account of the importance of the ‘conversation of Mankind’ implies an
understanding of education as initiating newcomers into this conversation. People only
become fully human through their engagement with the collective culture so to deny them
education, in this sense, is to deny them their humanity. In a way he shared Freire’s concern
to preserve education from the banking model and a concern that education served the end of
intellectual emancipation rather than an economic or productive end. But he would have
rejected Freire’s belief that dialogic education should be about transforming society towards
greater social justice. For Oakeshott education should be a space separate from economic
concerns or political concerns where the distinctively educational freedom to imagine
alternatives is protected from the encroachment of outside agendas of every kind.
For Oakeshott education can only liberate students and help to create a better future, through
first engaging them within their inherited traditions of thought so that these can be inhabited
and developed from within.
This short history of the ideas and voices feeding into contemporary dialogic education is
necessarily highly selective. Many more names could be mentioned such as Merleau-Ponty, a
phenomenologist whose account of meaning is seen by some as an important source for
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
understanding the true nature of dialogic (Wegerif, 2013), Derrida and other post-structuralist
philosophers such as Kristeva (‘intertextuality’) who can build on or add to our understanding
of the implications of aspects of Bakhtin’s dialogism. More recently, the feminist philosopher
and quantum physicist, Karen Barad, whose ‘new materialist’ account of meaning emerging
out of ‘intra-action’ seems to some to expand dialogism to engage with the latest
understanding of real relationship to the physical world (Barad, 2007). These are all
fascinating and important theoretical avenues but space is too short in one article to cover all
the many intellectual sources of contemporary dialogic education.
Some dialogic education approaches
From the brief history above we can see that dialogic educational philosophy has a variety of
strands and that there are significant differences in focus across these strands. Nonetheless
some shared themes emerge. The first of these is the dialogic form. Approaches to education
that call themselves dialogic tend to involve dialogue, usually in the form of face to face talk
including questioning and exploration of ideas of a kind that would have been familiar to
Socrates. However what makes this talk ‘dialogic’ is not the external form but the
internal or lived experience of a shared space which Buber called ‘the in-
between’ and which more recently is being referred to as ‘dialogic space’ (e.g
Mercer, Warwick, Kershner, & Staarman, 2010). The idea behind dialogic space is
summed up by Merleau-Ponty who wrote that when dialogue works it is no longer
possible to say who is thinking (Merleau-Ponty, 1968, 15) because we nd
ourselves thinking together.
In teaching through the opening of a shared dialogic space, dialogic education draws students
into participation in the processes through which shared knowledge is constructed and
validated. In other words dialogic education promotes dialogue as an end in itself. As a result
of participation in dialogic education students are expected to become better at dialogue
which means better at learning things together with others.
Dialogic education programmes have elements of these three characteristics, firstly, a
dialogic form, secondly, opening a shared dialogic space and thirdly, the aim of teaching for
more dialogue or teaching dialogue as an end in itself as well as using dialogue as a means to
knowledge construction. A few currently active educational programmes have been chosen to
illustrate the various ways in which dialogic education theory can be implemented.
Learning communities
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
This is an educational approach currently being applied in Spain which owes a great deal to
Freire as well as to Habermas and claims to implement a concept of ‘dialogic learning’
(‘Aprendizaje dialógico’ ). (Flecha, 1999: 2000). As well as raising education achievement in
literacy, mathematics and other standard subjects the learning communities approach aims at
social transformation of broader communities based around schools through egalitarian
dialogue among all community members, including teaching staff, students, families, entities,
and volunteers. The argument is that learning is more effective if it takes place, not just in
school, but also in all of the important relationships of a student, so including the home, and
the workplace.
The concept of ‘Learning Communities’ has learnt from many similar projects. One
important precursor was the “Accelerated Schools” project at Stanford (Levin, 1998) but
there were others in the USA, Canada, Brazil and Korea. The model was partly inspired by
worker cooperatives and democratic models of work distribution. Its starting point is forming
a community that can analyse its current situation and create a joint vision for the future of
the school.
The “Learning communities” project begins with activities to raise awareness. The awareness
raising stage involves discussion of the needs of the Information Society as well as issues of
social inequality. Following these activities, which are required for all members of the
community, the community is given the chance to decide, jointly, to implement the
transformation of the school into a learning community. At least 90 percent of the teaching
staff of the school must agree to carry out the Project along with the parents association and
other stake-holders. A plan of action is then drawn up for a period of 2 to 3 years including
actions such as establishing teaching in what are termed ‘interactive groups’. Extra resources
are often needed by teachers to handle this new pedagogy and, if so, volunteer members of
the community are encouraged to come in and help. One example given by Flecha is of a
Roma grandmother who herself was not literate but was able to come into school and very
effectively organise a learning group.
Families are engaged and offered help with literacy and the use of ICT in the schools. Where
conflicts or concerns arise these are dealt with through dialogues where all parties are equal
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
participants. Through interactive groups and the presence of parents within the classrooms,
conflicts between groups tend to disappear from the classroom.
The learning communities approach is particularly interesting in its explicit concern with
social transformation as well as with educational attainment. Evaluations using mixed
methods found that the support from families in the programme claim that the approach has
had a very positive impact on children’s achievement and engagement in education (Flecha
and Soler, 2014: Flecha, 2014)
Dialogic teaching
Robin Alexander developed dialogic teaching after a comparative education study looking at
talk in classrooms in a number of countries (Alexander, 2001). In some of the schools he
observed in Russia, Alexander found that dialogue was a common feature of the way that the
teacher spoke with members of the class, engaging individual students in thinking through
issues in public and supporting them in long sequences of authentic questions and answers.
These schools had been influenced by the theories of Bakhtin. Alexander then used Bakhtin’s
claim that in dialogue answers give rise to further questions as an inspiration for his
development of a UK talk-based dialogic education programme.
In Dialogic Teaching:
1 Questions are carefully framed to encourage reflection and good answers.
2 Answers are not end points but a stimulus for further questions in a long chain of dialogue.
3 The teacher’s role is to weave contributions into a coherent whole, leading children to find
meaning and helping them think of further questions.
Alexander (2017) gives five core criteria for dialogic teaching, it is:
• collective: teachers and children address learning tasks together, whether as a group or as a
class
• reciprocal: teachers and children listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative
viewpoints
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
• supportive: children articulate their ideas freely, without fear of embarrassment over
‘wrong’ answers; and they help each other to reach common understandings
• cumulative: teachers and students build on their own and each other’s ideas and chain them
into coherent lines of thinking and enquiry
• purposeful: teachers plan and steer classroom talk with specific educational goals in view
Dialogic Teaching is not focussed on either group work or whole class teaching but takes
what Alexamder calls a ‘repertoire’ approach including a range of talk-based teaching and
learning activities.
Alexander’s Dialogic Teaching has been subject to a large scale independent evaluation by
the Education Endowment Fund (EEF). Using standardised tests, the evaluation found that
after 20 weeks over 2000 Year 5 pupils (nine and 10 year olds) who received the
intervention made, on average, two months’ more progress in English and science than a
similar group of pupils who did not receive the intervention. The intervention also boosted
mathematics results by two months for pupils qualifying for free school meals (a standard
poverty measure in the UK) and one month on average for all pupils. Participating teachers
were highly supportive of the approach whilst acknowledging some difficulties and
challenges (EEF, 2017).
Philosophy for children
Philosophy for Children (P4C) is a worldwide movement that began in the USA developed by
former Philosophy professor, Matthew Lipman (2003). Although it did not originally
explicitly claim to be a dialogic education approach it clearly promotes what Bakhtin would
recognise as dialogue in a form that Lipman calls ‘philosophical reflection’. The main
pedagogical strategy of P4C is teacher facilitated philosophical reflection in a circle called a
‘community of inquiry’. In the UK P4C courses describe the kind of thinking requires in
terms of 4Cs, that is, creative, critical, caring and collaborative thinking skills (Lipman
identified just 3Cs, caring, critical and creative but Roger Sutcliffe added a fourth C,
Collaborative and this has been found to work, Sutcliffe, R, 2016).
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Caring means listening and valuing the contributions of others but also engagement
in the topic
Collaborative means responding and supporting each other, building on each other’s
ideas, shaping common understandings
Critical means questioning, reasoning about and evaluating ideas
Creative means connecting speculating; providing comparisons, examples, criteria,
alternative explanations or ideas.
P4C is different from some other dialogic education approaches in being a specialist
programme that is not integrated with the normal curriculum. However the 4Cs ‘community
of inquiry’ approach to learning can easily be adapted to curriculum lessons where issues and
core concepts can be explored together in curriculum (Phillipson and Wegerif, 2016).
The impact of P4C has been extensively evaluated. In 2015 an evaluation by the Education
Endowment Fund in the UK worked with over 2000 with upper primary age children over
one year. This evaluation found evidence that P4C had a positive impact on pupils’ progress
in reading and maths. This is significant in that P4C was not explicitly focused on improving
such outcomes (Gorard, Siddiqui, & See, 2017). This study did not, however, find any
significant increase in scores on cognitive ability tests which is different from an earlier large
scale evaluation over a longer period (16 months) which found quite marked increases in IQ
scores for children after doing just one session of P4C a week (Trickey and Topping, 2007).
Thinking Together
The Thinking Together approach to promoting more effective classroom dialogue is
influenced by Bakhtin and Habermas but is most centrally based on ideas from Vygotsky and
particularly his claim that individual ‘higher mental functions’ such as reasoning originate in
forms of social interaction (Vygotsky, 1991). Thinking together promotes dialogue in the
specific form of ‘Exploratory Talk’ which is described as talk in which ‘participants pool
ideas, opinions and information, and think aloud together to create new meanings, knowledge
and understanding’ (Mercer and Littleton, 2007). Generating Exploratory Talk depends on the
willingness of all participants to respect some basic behavioural norms, which are called
‘ground rules’ (Edwards & Mercer, 1987/2013). Suitable ground rules for talk can be created
and agreed by a teacher and class. They are then used when children talk and solve problems
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
together. The aim is to ensure that each student’s repertoire includes the speech genre of
Exploratory Talk. Each class can develop its own set of ground rules, but these are all
variations of the ground rules suggested by the original developers of the approach:
All relevant information is shared openly.
Each group member should be actively encouraged to contribute to the discussion.
Everyone should listen to others attentively.
Each suggestion should be carefully considered.
Group members are asked to provide reasons for ideas and opinions.
Constructive challenges to ideas are accepted and a response is expected.
Alternatives are discussed before a decision is taken.
The group works together with the purpose of reaching agreement.
The group, not the individual, takes responsibility for decisions made.
(Dawes, Mercer and Wegerif, 2004)
Working closely with primary teachers, the original Thinking Together research team
members (Dawes, Wegerif & Mercer, 2004) produced a series of 'Talk Lessons' for teaching
these ground rules and applying them within normal curriculum teaching and learning
(Dawes, 2010: Phillipson and Wegerif, 2016). The Talk Lessons encourage teachers to model
dialogue and guide children to use language as a tool for both individual reasoning and
collaborative problem solving.
There have been many experimental implementations and evaluations of the Thinking
Together approach in the UK and other countries including Mexico and South Africa. These
evaluations tend to show that significant improvements can be achieved in curriculum areas
and in reasoning tests linked to IQ (Ravens tests). (Mercer & Dawes, 2014: Webb, Whitlow, &
Venter, 2016).
Accountable talk
Accountable talk is a rather similar approach to Thinking Together developed independently
in the USA (Resnick, O’Connor and Michaels, 2008). The word "accountable" in
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
Accountable Talk refer to three dimensions: Accountability to the Learning Community,
Accountability to Accurate Knowledge, and Accountability to Rigorous Thinking.
Accountability to the Learning Community is about how students talk to and with each
other. They focus on classmates' contributions so they can understand, challenge, build upon,
and refine each other’s ideas. Students are expected to agree or disagree. Teachers ask
facilitative questions like, "Could anyone repeat what Miguel said so that everyone can
hear?" "Does anyone agree or disagree?" "Does anyone want to add on?"
Accountability to Accurate Knowledge is about the content of what students discuss. They
are expected to make claims and to try to be as specific and accurate as possible. Students ask
each other challenging questions such as: "Are those statistics accurate?" "What is your basis
for that conclusion?" "Where did you see that in the text?" So, Accountability to Accurate
Knowledge is about getting at the facts and the truth of things, as much as possible at least.
Accountability to Rigorous Thinking is related to Accountability to Accurate Knowledge
but focused on developing a logical and coherent line of argument. Students are expected to
use good reasoning, as well as evidence, to back up their claims. This might lead to questions
like, "Why do you think that?" Or, "What's your reasoning behind that explanation?"
Teachers make these expectations explicit to pupils and use them to build norms of talk for
use in their classrooms. In the Accountable Talk programme teachers use a variety of moves
to help pupils articuate and deepen their thinkig. The six most important talk moves are:
(1) Revoicing: “So let me see if I’ve got your thinking right. You’re saying XXX?” (with
time for students to accept or reject the teacher’s formulation);
(2) Asking students to restate someone else’s reasoning: “Can you repeat what he just said in
your own words?”;
(3) Asking students to apply their own reasoning to someone else’s reasoning: “Do you agree
or disagree and why?”;
(4) Prompting students for further participation: “Would someone like to add on?”;
(5) Asking students to explicate their reasoning: “Why do you think that?” or “How did you
arrive at that answer?” or “Say more about that”;
(6) Challenge or Counter Example: “Is this always true?” or “Can you think of any examples
that would not work?”
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Michaels, O’Connor, and Resnick (2008) refer to many years of research on Accountable
Talk indicating that it leads to, ‘robust, sometimes remarkable, academic achievements for
working-class and middle-class students alike, and for students from a range of linguistic
backgrounds’. At the same time they acknowledge that this research has revealed challenges
with the programme especially the extent to which its success depends on the commitment
and ability of particular teachers. This challenge is not, of course, unique to Accountable
Talk but is found across all dialogic education programmes.
Assessing the impact of dialogic education
Dialogism claims that meaning emerges only in contexts where it is dependent upon unique
voices and specific histories and even then the meaning that emerges tends to be ambivalent
because informed by multiple perspectives. By contrast the randomised control trials that are
often promoted by governments and government proxies such as the Education Endowment
Fund in the UK as best practice in educational research tend to make more monologic
assumptions. Flecha has responded to this issue by developing what is called a
‘communicative method’ of evaluation that actively engages the voices of participants in the
research process (2000). Others argue for evaluation that self-consciously and consistently
combines ‘outside’ views – often statistical - with ‘inside’ views – often qualitative - in a
form of written dialogue (Wegerif, Doney and Jamison, in press: Wegerif & Mercer, 1997b).
Assessing the effectiveness of dialogic education in its own terms would require something
more than standardised tests of curriculum outcomes, for example looking at the development
of dialogic dispositions and hard to pin down ideas like ‘the expansion of dialogic space’
(Wegerif, 2013) but most evaluations, perhaps in order to be relevant to teacher’s and policy-
makers and also in order to get funded and sometimes to get published, have been conducted
in terms of proxy measures such as success on standardised tests of Maths, Literacy and
reasoning.
Despite these issues research on the impact of dialogic education consistently finds it to be
effective and successful in realising curriculum goals. Some of this research is mentioned
above under each of the five approaches. In the context of ‘dialogic instruction’ or dialogic
education within domain areas such as Maths or Science, Clarke et al write:
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
‘… a surprisingly small number of studies examine the relationship between participation
in dialogue and learning outcomes. This small set of studies collectively provide robust
evidence of the effects of dialogic instruction on valued academic outcomes. When
considered as a whole, the evidence suggests that when teachers (or computer-mediated
surrogates) lead discussions of this kind, they can produce steep increases in student
learning’. (Clarke, Resnick, Penstein-Rose, Corno, L & Anderman, 2016)
Clarke et al point to not only improved learning on immediate post-tests but also evidence of
improved retention of that learning on later tests, improved transfer of skills and knowledge
from one domain to new domains and also improvements in reasoning and general
intellegnce.
Lauren Resnick, a highly respected psychologist who has always been at the leading edge of
educational assessment, sums up the situation:
‘we have tantalising evidence that certain forms of structured, socially-supported
communication can produce learning that goes far beyond the immediate task. Although
the number of studies showing these results is still small, the evidence is growing and
comes from a diversity of settings.’ (Resnick & Schantz, 2015)
Their claim is that the evidence shows that dialogic education is managing to teach
intelligence, something that many psychologists had previously claimed was not really
possible.
How dialogic education works
Evidence of the success raises the important question of how it works. What exactly are the
causal mechanisms or processes linking dialogic education programmes to these successful
outcome? Here there is some debate but a number of plausible mechanisms have been
proposed.
Appropriation.
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Talking together effectively in groups enables children to share strategies. If one child in the
group knows how to solve a problem that the others do not know then the others can
appropriate this strategy. Having learnt a new strategy or new knowledge in this way they
might well continue to use it even when no longer working in the group (Mercer, 2016).
Co-construction.
The idea here is that individual students in the experimental groups are more able than
control class students to combine and apply their relevant knowledge and insights to solve the
task, and so construct more effective new strategies for solving the problem than they would
have done alone. On the basis of their training and practice in Exploratory Talk, they do this
through a process of reasoned argumentation, whereby any suggestions made by group
members would be critically evaluated and any resultant successful strategies constructed
would be learned and subsequently applied by individual members when working alone
(Mercer, 2016). Qualitative evidence (e.g in Wegerif et al 2005 and Wegerif, 2007) certainly
shows that this kind of co-construction does sometimes take place.
Transformation.
The idea here is that external dialogic thinking in talk between students, or between students
and teachers etc becomes internalised and becomes the “inner dialogue” of individual
thinking. The idea is that dialogic student can now engage in any new problem-solving task
in a more metacognitive, self-regulatory way, as if they heard the voice of a dialogue partner
sitting on their shoulder saying to them things like ‘have you checked that? Have you looked
at all the alternatives?’. (Fernyhough, 1999). More than that they might also be more
comfortable with the space of uncertainty and multiple possible solutions that often precedes
a creative breakthrough (Wegerif 2012). According to the “transformation” explanation, then,
the success of dialogic education would depend on it having enabled children not only
become more able to think better together with peers but also to think better and more
dialogically when on their own.
This transformation explanation fits with evidence from Howe (2010) who found that the
incidence of unresolved contradictions or disagreements during children’s collaborative
problem-solving science tasks had a positive correlation with scores on delayed post-tests of
children’s scientific understanding but not on immediate post-tests. Those findings suggest
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
that engaging in dialogues may stimulate later inner “dialogue,” which enables the individual
to achieve a new level of understanding.
Dialogic switch in perspective
In a dialogue we sometimes do not understand the other persons point of view initially and
have to work to re-construct it so that we can practice inhabiting it ourselves. This switch in
perspective to facilitate understanding is not a once and for all switch, we do not lose our
initial perspective in making the switch, but it is more about being able to hold different
perspectives in tension together. The ease with which children can make this switch depends
on the quality of their relationships. However nicely children talk together to ask each other
questions and give each other reasons this will not automatically translate into insight unless
they allow themselves to switch positions with other speakers. Such switches do not only
occur with physically present voices and physically present tools but also with virtual cultural
voices, for example the virtual voice of a ‘generalised other’ (Mead, 1934) or
‘superaddressee’ (Bakhtin, 1984) position which might be that of, for example, the point of
the community of mathematicians (Kazak, Wegerif, & Fujita, 2015).
Identification
Different ways of talking in classrooms are related to different kinds of identification
(Wegerif and Mercer 1997). Where children identify with themselves only and reject the
other they might be prone to what Mercer calls ‘disputational’ talk (Mercer and Littleton,
2007) and what Habermas refers to as ‘strategic’ reason which is reasoning that does not take
the other seriously (Habermas, 1984). However when they identify strongly with their group
they might be prone to what mercer calls ‘cumulative talk’ and what is often referred to in
psychology as ‘group think’ which is when the harmony of the group prevents critical
questioning and good reasoning. Issues of identification seem important to group thinking
and one mechanism of successful dialogic thinking might be shifting that identification away
from all static bounded objects, be that an image of the self or an image of the group, onto
identification with the open-ended process of dialogue itself. (Kumpulainen, & Rajala, 2017:
Ligorio, 2010; Wegerif, 2012).
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Culture change
Many of the proposed mechanisms for understanding why dialogic education works are
psychological, focussing on changes within individuals. But individuals can, to some extent,
be formed by cultures. One way to understand this, informed by Rom Harres positioning
theory (Harre, 1999), is about how different cultural ‘discourses’ offer different ‘speaker
positions’. In standard classroom cultures, for example, students are often positioned as not
being able to initiate dialogues. An element that is common to all dialogic education
approaches is a concern to address behavioural norms directly by explicitly questioning old
norms and teaching new norms or what mercer calls ‘ground rules’. These new ground rules
or behavioural expectation in turn shape how individuals see themselves and their
possibilities (Wegerif 2002)
Two controversies
Dialogic versus curriculum
Matusov argues that it is the essence of dialogues to be open-ended and so for the teacher to
engage students in dialogues with a clear learning outcome in mind is not, in fact, to be
dialogic (Matusov in Matusov and Wegerif, 2014). If accepted this claim would bar most of
the dialogic education programmes described above . For many teachers and schools it is not
pragmatically possible to devote time to educational activities that do not relate to the explicit
goals of the curriculum usually defined by the local state. However it is always possible to
teach content knowledge in a more or less dialogic way. So for example one can teach
Science content in a dialogic way that prepares the student to ask questions, engage in real
science and perhaps one day take the long-term cultural dialogue of science further. So oe
response given to Matusovs claim is that education can serve two functions at once, one
teaching knowledge and the other teaching how to be dialogic. Phillipson and Wegerif refer
to teaching existing knowledge as teaching ‘the dialogue so far’ on the grounds that, on
entering any dialogue, it is polite to listen and learn about what has been said already before
intervening strongly (Phillipson and Wegerif, 2016).
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
Kiyotaka Miyazaki responds to Matusov’s claim with the important point that we have a
dialogic relation with the world around us. (Matusov and Miyazaki, 2014). Science, properly
understood, is part of that dialogic relationship and education is part of science. The whole of
education and the whole of science constitute what Oakeshott calls the ‘conversation of
mankind’. Facilitating a new student’s entry into this open-ended dialogue with the universe
(science, broadly defined as ‘wissenshaft’) is an essential part of dialogic education. It may
not be undialogic to set learning goals in the process of scaffolding students into this larger
open-ended dialogue, much as one might drill Spanish verb-forms in order better to
participate later in dialogic Spanish speaking. As long as the overall end-point of the
education is fuller participation in dialogue, the dialogue of scientific enquiry for example,
then this process of guided scaffolding could perhaps be seen as part of dialogic education
(Kazak and Wegerif, 2015).
Cultural imperialism
Many approaches to dialogic education involve explicitly teaching a type of talk
characterised by ‘ground rules’ or other social and behavioural norms. Lambirth (2006: 2009)
points out that there is a danger that this might be form of cultural imperialism in which ways
of talking found amongst the powerful are imposed on the less powerful. In this case
essentially middle class rules for talking might be imposed upon working class children.
Littleton and Mercer (2007) reply to this accusation that 1) they are not replacing the talk of
the children but adding to the repertoire of the kind of talk that they are able to use when the
situation calls for it and 2) that ‘Exploratory Talk’ (one might add ‘Accountable Talk’ or
‘Dialogic Talk’ etc) is not simply a class-based or culturally based way of talking but is a
more effective and powerful way of talking together for getting things done independent of
class or culture.
The specific ground rules elaborated by Mercer and colleagues are not meant to be culturally
universal but an expression in a social and historical context of a more fundamental
intersubjective orientation that could be called dialogic and can be contrasted to other
fundamental orientations like the disagreement/fight orientation behind disputational talk and
the agreement/community orientation behind cumulative talk (Wegerif & Mercer 1997a). In
other words the way in which a dialogic orientation is implemented will vary across cultures
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
and across times, but not the orientation itself. One approach sometimes used in the Thinking
Together programme is not to impose any ground rules thought up in advance but to eleict
ground rules from students allowing them to decide together, after working in groups, what
works best for them in their context in terms of facilitating more effective group work. One
study of Thinking Together in China found that the cultural differences led to the emergence
of different ground rules than in the UK but nonetheless ground rules that were effective in
supporting group thinking in the context (Yang, 2016).
Lambirth’s challenge is an important one. In teaching ways of talking dialogic educators are
shaping cultures and so shaping subjectivities or ways of being a self in the world. This is a
big responsibility and it is important to take into account the danger of a kind of cultural
imperialism. Ironically perhaps the best response to the challenge of cultural difference is
probably to engage in genuinely open-minded and reflective dialogue about the issue.
Volosinov argued, using the metaphor of a spark between two terminals, meaning flows from
the illumination that comes from the tension between differences (Voloshinov, 1986). From a
dialogic perspective these debates should not be seen as problems that need a definitive
resolution but are more like lights that enable us to see dialogic education more clearly in a
way that can give insights into how to take it forward.
Conclusion
Dialogic education is a relatively new force in educational theory and practice. Despite the
variety of approaches to dialogic education it nonetheless offers a coherent theory of
education with implications not only for how education should be practiced but also for the
purposes of education. Dialogic education takes place through dialogue which means opening
up dialogic spaces in which different perspectives can clash or play together and new learning
can occur. Although it has been shown to be an effective way of teaching for conceptual
understanding in almost every area of the curriculum, dialogic education also imposes a
curriculum goal of its own which is the need to educate students to become better at dialogue
so that they can think and learn together with others in new contexts. Resnick and Schantz
argue that the evidence shows that that dialogic education offers a way to teach for
intelligence and that this end should now be a more explicit purpose of education (Resnick, &
Schantz 2015). Dialogic education is therefore increasingly of interest to policy makers and
Wegerif: Dialogic Education
parents who want to prepare students to be able to thrive in an increasingly complex,
globalised and information rich world. However dialogic education is not only concerned
with individual intelligence and individual success but is intrinsically social. The kind of
intelligence dialogic education promotes first of all is what Dewey called ‘social intelligence’
(Dewey 2004). This is about the capacity of a society as a whole to think together, learn
together and respond appropriately to challenges. Increasingly the Internet leads us all to
inhabit a global social context and it is possible that dialogic education is one way to respond
collectively to the many challenges that this raises.
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