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Although modern interest in dialogic pedagogy seems to emerge only in the 1960s, it was a very old and probably widespread educational practice. Perhaps one of the best known examples of dialogic pedagogy in the Ancient times is the Socratic method described by his student Plato. However, dialogic practices and dialogic pedagogy existed in Ancient Greece, before, during, and after Socrates' time, possibly in other forms than those depicted by Plato. There has been a long tradition of dialogic pedagogy, called Chavruta/Chavrusa/Havruta, in Jewish Yeshivas, involving dialogic studies of Talmudic texts, that goes back to the eras of the Tannaim (Rabbis of the Mishnaic period, 10-220 CE). Economist Amartya Sen argues that dialogic pedagogy has been well situated within the Indian religious and civic traditions and spread across Asia with the rise of Buddhism.
In more recent times, Mikhail Bakhtin introduced the idea of dialogism, as opposed to "monologism", to literature. Paulo Freire's work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed introduced these ideas to educational theory.
There are a number of formats of instruction, that have been recognized as "dialogic" (as opposed to "monologic").
- Interactional: Dialogue involves a high student-teacher talk ratio, short utterances/turns, and interactive exchanges.
- Question-answer: Dialogue involves either a teacher asking students questions and eliciting answers from the students or students asking questions and eliciting answers from the teacher and/or one another.
- Conversational: Instructional dialogue is modeled after natural mundane everyday conversations.
- Without authority: Dialogic guidance occurs among equal peers as authority distorts dialogic processes. Jean Piaget was the first scholar who articulated this position.
There are a number of types of dialogic pedagogy, that is, where the form and the content is recognized as "dialogic".
- Paideia: Learning through asking thought-provoking questions, challenging assumptions, beliefs, and ideas, that involves argumentation and disagreements. This notion comes from Socratic dialogues described and developed by Plato.
- Exploratory talk for learning: Collective mindstorming and probing ideas, enabling "the speaker to try out ideas, to hear how they sound, to see what others make of them, to arrange information and ideas into different patterns" (p. 4).
- Internally persuasive discourse: Bakhtin's notion of "internally persuasive discourse" (IPD) has become influential in helping conceptualize learning. There are at least three approaches to how this notion is currently used in the literature on education:
- IPD is understood as appropriation when somebody else's words, ideas, approaches, knowledge, feelings, become one's own. In this approach, "internal" in IPD is understood as an individual's psychological and personal deep conviction.
- IPD understood as a student's authorship recognized and accepted by a community of practice, in which the student generates self-assignments and long-term projects within the practice.
- IPD is understood as a dialogic regime of the participants' testing ideas and searching for the boundaries of personally-vested truths. In this approach, "internal" is interpreted as internal to the dialogue itself in which everything is "dialogically tested and forever testable" (p. 319).
Instrumental dialogic pedagogy uses dialogue for achieving non-dialogic purposes, usually making students arrive at certain preset learning outcomes. For example, Nicolas Burbules defines dialogue in teaching instrumentally as facilitating new understanding, "Dialogue is an activity directed toward discovery and new understanding, which stands to improve the knowledge, insight, or sensitivity of its participants".
The teacher presets the endpoint of the lesson, for example, "At the end of the lesson, the students will be able to understand/master the following knowledge and skills." However, the teacher's method of leading students to the endpoint can be individualised both in instruction techniques and in time taken. Different students are "closer" or further" from the endpoint and require different strategies to get them there. Thus, for Socrates to manipulate Meno to the preset endpoint - what is virtue is not known and problematic - is not the same to manipulate Anytus to the same endpoint. It takes different and individualized instructional strategies.
Instrumental dialogic pedagogy remains influential and important for scholars and practitioners of dialogic pedagogy field. Some appreciate its focus on asking good questions, attendance to subjectivity, use of provocations and contradictions, and the way it disrupts familiar and unreflected relations. However, others are concerned about the teacher's manipulation of the student's consciousness and its intellectualism.
In contrast to instrumental approaches to dialogic pedagogy, non-instrumental approaches to dialogic pedagogy view dialogue not as a pathway or strategy for achieving meaning or knowledge but as the medium in which they live. Following Bakhtin, meaning is understood as living in the relationship between a genuine question seeking for information and a sincere answer aiming at addressing this question. Non-instrumental dialogic pedagogy focuses on "eternal damn final questions". It is interested in the mundane only because it can give it the material and opportunity to move to the sublime. This is seen, for example, in the work of Christopher Phillips.
The non-instrumental "epistemological dialogue", a term introduced by Alexander Sidorkin, is a purified dialogue to abstract a single main theme, a development of a main concept, and unfold the logic. According to Sidorkin, ontological dialogic pedagogy priorities human ontology in pedagogical dialogue:
Sociolinguist Per Linell and educational philosopher Alexander Sidorkin evidence a non-instrumental ecological approach to dialogic pedagogy that focuses on the dialogicity of the mundane everyday social interaction, its non-constrained nature, in which participants can have freedom to move in and out of the interaction, and the absence or minimum of pedagogical violence. Using the metaphor of "free-range kids", Lenore Skenazy defines the participants in this ecological dialogue as free-range dialogic participants.
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