Originally started as a course reflection for my Graduate Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan, this blog has shifted into a space where I share my ramblings and rumblings about education from my "lens" as an principal in a rural school division, as a colleague and a mother, and from my conversations with lots of great people who just don't happen to be educators in the formal sense. Meaningful discussion is always welcome.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
The True Meaning of Dialogue
A new kind of mind thus beings to come into being which is based on the development of a common meaning that is constantly transforming in the process of the dialogue. ~ David Bohm
Recently, I was reading Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Jacob Jaworski. In Chapter 16, Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking, Jaworksi refers to the work of David Bohm, a quantum physicist, who distinguishes between conversations, or discussion, and the true meaning of dialogue. Jaworski’s examples of collective leadership involve groups of people engaging in dialogue to generate understanding. He points to the power of such phenomena in transforming participants. These experiences reaffirm the social constructivists’ view that people do not learn in isolation, but instead,
Bohm suggests that “thought is largely a collective phenomenon, made possible only through culture and communication. Human conversations arise out of and influence an ocean of cultural and transpersonal meanings in which we live our lives, and this process he called dialogue.” (from the Co-Intelligence Institute)
True dialogue, according to Bohm, takes place when people come together participate in a “shared exploration towards greater understanding.” As well, John Adams stresses the importance of listening: “Dialogue is people truly listening to people truly speaking.”
Distance educators can create this type of dialogue in the online environment when they become facilitators of both informal and formal conversations. Participants need a space in which they feel trust in order to engage in meaningful dialogue.
1.Develop expectations or “ground rules” at the beginning of the course. Promote the importance of differing viewpoints.
2.Provide opportunities for socio-emotional discussions. These conversations can help create a community of trust, which will lead to more open dialogue.
3.Create opportunities for both authentic content-oriented discussions and task-oriented discussions.
4.Choose discussion topics that allow learners draw on their own experiences and backgrounds. By openly sharing multiple perspectives on a topic, a dialogue similar to Bohm’s model can be generated.
Rovai also suggests that the facilitator's role is a balancing act: he or she must develop a strong social presence in the course, while at the same time avoiding becoming the center of discussion. Instead, the emphasis should be on student-to-student interactions.
The facilitator should encouraging passive participants to enter into the dialogue which can help make the dialogue more equitable. One of the ways to deter a few participants from taking over the conversation is to divide larger classes into smaller groups. Rovai also suggests that at least 8-10 participants are needed to promote good interactions.
Many online participants, including my online classmates, enjoy the ability to skim through posts, pausing to reflect or contribute to an idea when they connect to the topic. In this respect, the chance of one or two people dominating the conversation is less likely to happen in distance learning.
Some of the thoughts shared about the value of the online environment and learning through discussion, conversation, and dialogue is shared in this summary video created by student, Marc Gobeil:
With the multitude of web-based technologies available to educators, communication in distance courses has never been easier. And in a world where social media has changed the nature of communication and collaborating, teaching the skills of open, respectful dialogue, whether face-to-face or digitally has never been more important.