A dialogic vision
A dialogic vision of education
The dialogic prespective I propose is that need to teach engagement in dialogue, that is the ability to hold more than one perspective together in creative tension, as an end in itself. I argue that dialogue, in this sense, is the primary thinking skill upon which all other thinking skills are derivative. Critical reflection implies being able to take the point of view of the other in a dialogue. Learning to learn comes from learning to ask good questions and to listen carefully to the responses. Creative thought requires learning to see things from multiple perspectives at once and having the patience to remain in uncertainty while new perspectives emerge. Dialogic pedagogy is not just any use of dialogue as a teaching technique but can be conceptualised as moving learners into the paradoxical ‘space’ of dialogue.
Dialogic space is paradoxical because it is the idea of an inclusive boundary. One way to understand this is to think about the way in which, for each participant in a dialogue the voice of the other is an outside perspective that includes them within it. An utterance in a dialogue already presupposes an orientation towards the response of the other person. The boundary between selves is not therefore a demarcation line, or an external link between self and other, but an inclusive ‘space’ of dialogue within which self and other mutually construct, de-construct and re-construct each other.
Whilst being able to participate in the construction of shared knowledge is clearly an important aim of education, the dialogic perspective I argue for claims that it is even more important, as both a preliminary requirement for construction and as the context of construction, that students in the networked society learn how to listen to other voices. The emergence of creative new insights presupposes a capacity for suspending assumptions and dissolving previous constructions, in order to be able to enter more deeply into the space of dialogue.
In a number of ICT related research projects I have explored how the distinctive characteristics (or ‘affordances’) of ICT suit it to opening and deepening dialogic spaces and so to inducting learners into dialogue as an end in itself. The internet is, amongst other things, an expanding cacophony of competing voices. Teaching general thinking and learning skills, in the context of the shift to a global ‘Networked Society’, is at least partly about teaching students how to use the internet for thinking and learning. Another way of looking at the significance of technology in education is to think of education as preparing students to participate in global dialogues across difference in every area, where the aim is to deepen shared understanding rather than necessarily to agree on a single ‘true’ perspective. I would argue that this proposed combination of education, dialogic theory and technology is probably a requirement for future world peace.