What is dialogic pedagogy?

Dialogic pedagogy is a term used by a growing number of scholars, practitioners and policy-makers to describe learning processes in which teacher and pupils critically interrogate the topic of study, express and listen to multiple voices and points of view, and create respectful and equitable classroom relations.  In Better than Best Practice: Developing Teaching and Learning through Dialogue we review central ideas about dialogue and dialogic pedagogy, and develop our own approach, which –

(a) is informed by actual practice and grounded in existing classroom conditions.  Rather than starting with an ideal image of what we believe dialogue should look like and then criticising teachers and pupils for not living up to that lofty standard, we start with the actual activities and communicative practices that we have encountered in English classrooms, and endeavour to understand them on their own terms.  That is, we first seek to understand the rules of the classroom game and the conditions constraining teaching practice, and work out from them to the development of dialogic possibilities.

(b) is multi-dimensional, that is we examine a range of different aspects of classroom communication and interaction.  These include communicative forms, interpersonal relations, the exchange and development of ideas, power, pupil and teacher identities, and aesthetics.  This multi-dimensional analysis locates classroom communication within broader contexts of pedagogic activity and educational and social structures.  As such, our approach to dialogic pedagogy looks beyond classroom talk to consider additional factors such as the use of space, organisation of the curriculum, design of learning tasks and assessment.

(c) views dialogue as a problem rather than a solution.  We argue that dialogic pedagogy is most helpful as a set of dilemmas to consider, concepts to think with, commitments to pursue and balance, and practices to add to our repertoires.  It is less helpful as a narrow best practice solution to each and every classroom situation.