Четверг 20 октября 2011

Dialogue as means of change. Автор иллюстрации Ольга ЧУБАРОВА

Dialogue represents my personal and professional credo in life. It underpins the theory of meaning-centered education, which I advocate as a scholar, as well as the global learning activities that I have been engaged in as a practitioner. My whole self resonates when I anticipate the possibility of a true dialogue occurring in a professional or a personal setting. I consider having a reflective dialogue with my inner world critical to my professional and personal self-development. Dialogue would rarely occur within a traditional oppressive educational system, which I experienced when I was growing up, but dialogue repeatedly occurs in my classroom now… and I can see the positive change
it provides.


настроение: сосредоточенное

ключевые слова: true dialogue, personality, individuality, global learning, meaning-centred education, self-reflection


With my reflections on dialogue as a means of change, I hope to contribute to the current debate about the changing environment of education.

Very often, dialogue is perceived and interpreted as the formal exchange of messages and ideas, but such exchange can hardly be called a dialogue.  The world could have escaped many troubles had people learned the art of true dialogue. In education, we often have a monologue with each other and with our students because, when we exchange ideas, we do not necessarily engage in a true dialogue (although on the surface it could look like we communicate dialogically). My teacher, the esteemed professor Lydia Kulikova, would name this kind of communication and interaction as one which goes “along the formal counter of a human being”[Kulikova, 2005, p.74] thus failing to foster teaching-learning meaningfully. She taught me “to hear the strings of the human heart”[Kulikova, Ibid, p.30] when in a classroom.

According to M. Buber and M. Bakhtin, dialogue entails such qualitative relationships between interlocutors as mutuality, responsibility, engagement and acceptance.  Only the true dialogue discovers one’s personality.  Personality is different from individuality. While individuality can be described by a unique combination of individual characteristics and attributes, personality is defined by the human capacity to become the subject of one’s life.  Personality is characterized by her/his inner world, which cannot be understood by another personality unless both are engaged in a true dialogue with each other.  Consequently, one is able to cognize her/his own self only when engaged in a dialogue. That is why Freire called dialogue “an existential necessity”, and Bakhtin referred to dialogic interaction with self as the major factor of self-creation: “Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education”[Freire, 2004, p.93].

Contemporary traditional school is knowledge-oriented. Actual education makes our students to correspond the expectations of society and so they have no opportunity to reveal their individuality.  Knowledge can be tested but the inner world is personality’s sovereign space that cannot be measured by numbers and tests. Simple understanding is a transfer of meanings, but not a transfer of knowledge. “I can’t teach you, but I can only hope you understand me. Understanding cannot be predicted, but may occur as a result of transfer and re-construction of meanings”[Leontiev, 2008, p.233].

As educators, we should consider that personal transformation brings out not only linear progress but also the points of regression and even stagnation as we progress. In fact, students should learn to welcome confusion and chaos as a transitory state between their prior convictions and newest personality. It can also be viewed as a reversible process of quantitative and qualitative transformations of psychological attributes and states which add to one another in timely reformations.

A true dialogue is open ended; interlocutors may be unaware of conclusions they reach at the end. In the process of a truly dialogic interaction, it requires courage from those engaged in a dialogue to admit the possibility of change and re-construction of one’s views and intentions. So the possible change and transformation within self may serve as a criterion of a truly dialogic interaction.   Regrettably, we often tend to oppose a true dialogue, because we are often reluctant to change. It is easier to remain rigid than to admit the possibility of change. In such a way, we block our capacity for exploring new chances and ideas.

Educative dialogue is the fact of collaboration between learners and teachers. “Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students, and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers”[Freire, Ibid, p.80]. The dialogic position of learners and teachers constitutes their independence, freedom, and responsibility.  True dialogue requires developing of “efforts towards others”[Bakhtin] and consequently facilitates meaningful interaction between people and cultures.

I believe that the global learning, incorporated in academic studies, facilitates recognition of different cultural modes. As a Stanford student wrote in his evaluation essay: “One of the outcomes for me is a more critical understanding of Russian youth (and female) culture. The videoconferences allowed me to see and recognize the perspective of a group of students in Russia that I would not have been able to see otherwise. I was specifically struck by the students’ conceptions of happiness and their focus and perceptions of gender roles which were so different from my conception”.

My experience indicates that meaning-centred education encourages learners to actively seek, express and negotiate meanings in dialogues. True dialogues represent the potential of value-oriented relationships and appreciation for the diversity of the world, as well as the potential of developing students’ critical self-reflection and collaborative skills. Meaning-centred education is holistic because it embraces all aspects of personal growth.

Regrettably, much of education today still prioritizes intellectual over emotional, memorization over critical thinking and creativity. Schools still tend to manipulate passive learners rather than nurture personalities who make the maximum effort to become full human beings.

So we hold that the new generation school should support developing of the personality much more than to just help pupils acquire certain attributes. And the way of this development is the strict way of open conversations and true dialogues.

[links & resources]
Bakhtin, M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. (Caryl Emerson, Trans.)
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
(Original work published in 1929).
Freire, P. (2004). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Buber, M. (1995).  (Gurevich, Trans.) Two Modes of Belief. M: Respublika.
Kulikova, L. (2005). Personality Self-Development: Psychological and
Pedagogical Foundations. Kh: HGPU.
Leontiev, D. (2008). Psychology of Meaning. M: Smysl.

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