Dialogue as an opening of the mind

10 Oct

Another principle Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game derive from their corpus of interviews is:

Although commonly mistaken as an exchange of views, dialogue is a pedagogic process in which new ways of thinking emerge between people. The teacher’s skill lies in modelling the ethics of openness: they hold their knowledge until students call for it; when they ask questions, they are ready to learn from the answers; rather than instructing, the teachers listen to students and feed back challenging questions.

Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t…

Here are two relevant, if slightly tangential, thoughts:

1. Jacob Needleman, author and professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, on the act of listening.

2. Luciano Mariani on the need for autonomy and its opposite, that is, the need for dependence. This is a necessary corrective to, or nuance on, the principle at the top of this post.

In this paper I would like to take a closer look at the concept of learner autonomy and discuss the ways in which this concept affects us as educators.

I will try to do this, first, by discussing the relationship between the need for autonomy and its opposite, that is, the need for dependence: in the light of this opposition, I will argue that autonomy is not an absolute value, but is in fact a very relative and individual feature. Then I will try to describe the role we, as teachers, play in this context: to do this, I will introduce and contrast two ways of behaving that are part of our basic stock-in-trade, i.e. the challenge and the support we give our students. I will try to show that a valuable way of describing our own individual teaching style is to look at the ways in which we provide challenge and support, both in the tasks we set for our students and in the interaction patterns we establish in the classroom. Finally, I will argue that this challenge/support framework is more than just a feature of the learning process – it is indeed a condition for learning to take place…

That’s one of the best papers on teaching practice that I have read in recent years. It came my way through the UTS/Department of Education Scaffolding Project I was part of from 2001 to 2003.


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