How to engage students in dialogue across classrooms
Ever thought to engage students in dialogue across classrooms? Say, you have a classroom of 20 to 30 students who don’t seem to have much in common. Some are culturally overrepresented (in terms of skin color and thinking). Others seem to have come from unknown cultures. In addition, some want to dominate the entire class; others are counteracting the dominant group. Still, others remain aloof and detached, only conforming to the school policy. You immediately notice that your dream to cultivate an academic environment is in trouble.
A simple solution is to engage students in dialogue right from the beginning. The spirit behind carrying out dialogue in classrooms is to engage in a non-directional conversation. Sure, while some conversations have directions, and objectives, the goal of true dialogue is to have open-ended, unrestricted communications, and for the long haul. David Bohm, the author of On Dialogue, put it this way. “This [open-ended communications] will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding.”
Unrestricted by time and ideology, sincere dialogue can help eyes open and minds change. It can generate a shared meaning for all. Monica Lawson wrote in an essay: “Open dialogue attempts to see the person in her or his home context….” Seeing students in their diverse context could the school system much easier.
Sure, dialogue may force the postponement of lessons for a while until the classroom environment becomes favorable. The idea is to foster constant communications in the classroom and no one should be declared a winner. In true dialogue, everybody should win by engaging openly and equally, according to Bohm. Dialogue, in its truest form, is to provide a solution-oriented venue in which all can reap the benefit of making their ideas in common.
With the emergence of new understanding and meaning, the words spoken and the physical expressions are in complete harmony with the intended meaning. What was “us-versus-them thinking” now become a “thinking together” process. Now that the classroom is in order, academic discourses are positively generated. And the teacher guides the learning process.