A few months ago, I wrote a blog post entitled 'Learning as dialogue' which was essentially about how students can learn through conversation and by discussing their ideas with each other. This theme is echoed in my new book Learning with 'e's which was published this week. An extract from the book relates one of my own student experiences:
"The teachers who have inspired me most are those who have been accessible rather than remote, personable instead of stand-offish, and knowledgeable without being arrogant. Most importantly, they conversed with me rather than lectured. One of the lecturers in the first year of my undergraduate degree inspired me to learn more and to push myself to my limits to become more knowledgeable in my subject area.
"Dr Ken Gale did this using nothing more than a whiteboard and pen, along with constant discussion and questioning. Ken has since become one of my valued colleagues. This kind of simple Socratic discourse was deceptively powerful, did wonders for my self esteem and piqued my appetite for more knowledge. There was no need for him to use any other visual aids or learning resources. Ken simply pointed us in the direction of relevant reading, and strategically slipped the names of key theorists into his discussions with us.
"For me this was a skillful, but relaxed and unobtrusive kind of pedagogy, involving every student in the room, debating, deliberating and generally exploring together the nuances and intricacies of our subject. There was no lecturing, and there were no absolutes. Just the inspiration of the discussion and the joy of knowing that you were going to leave the classroom with more questions than when you came in.
"It seems clear to me that to encourage open and frank dialogue in a formal learning environment, the power differential between teacher and student must be removed. When teachers wish to promote democratic learning, students are given license to challenge and encouraged to discuss, debate, argue. Passive consumption of delivered knowledge is then replaced by full engagement with the subject matter through conversation. The conversation around the topic becomes the new curriculum, enabling each student to act as an open minded, independent thinker who can defend his or her position without resorting to dogmatic assertions based on partial understanding or incomplete knowledge.
"The best teachers encourage all students to participate and value all contributions, incorporating as many as possible into an extended conversation around the topic."
Via Miloš Bajčetić