Developing dialogue through questioning
Culture Chat is a column that considers how race and culture feature in the classroom and the effect this can have on learners. Activities suggested range from sharing individual reflections and opinions to those that require bringing something from the outside world into the classroom, such as an excerpt from the newspaper or a piece of artwork. The aim of the activities is to encourage open talk about the themes of race and culture within settings so that understandings can be constructed in a safe, sensitive environment, wherever you are in the world.
One of the greatest understandings in life is the realisation that everyone is an individual. You, me, our families; all of us are composed of unique thoughts, ideas, memories and experiences, which when you think about it, is pretty amazing isn’t it? Yet despite this awe inspiring individuality, it can be a challenge to incorporate ‘who we are’ into the classroom. What do you know about your learners? How do you know it?
Currently, teaching is a pressured profession. As educators we are charged with ensuring our learners have a good grasp of the content we deliver and are given the best opportunities to reach their full academic potential. We hold a lot of responsibility. Yet, how often do we take the time to develop our learners as people beyond the curricula content? The people we teach enter our classrooms with interpretations and opinions about the world around them yet it can take time and confidence to include this aspect of our students within our workspaces because when it comes to discussions about race and culture, many educators do not feel comfortable allowing open talk to take place. In fact, some educators discourage open talk because they are worried about the conversations that may develop; what good can come of this? Be open, take risks and ask questions that will spark a reaction in your learners: play a part in developing who they are as people as well as academically!
One way to develop dialogue between learners is to use questioning. The quality of dialogue will depend on the quality of questions so I recommend planning at least three prompts that you’d like to use to start conversations going. Once dialogue between learners appears to flow, your role as a teacher will be to listen and facilitate, interacting if necessary to help maintain the interactions. You are likely to find that sub-conversations strain to take place; as the facilitator, you will need to judge how long you allow this for as they may help fuel the main discussion. If you are using questioning effectively, the talk within your classroom will feel like you’re watching a good game of tennis!
What are the benefits of dialogue I hear you say? Unfortunately, there are far too many to mention on this blog! One of the beautiful things about dialogue is that it connects us with what makes us human; talk, communication, thinking. Surely there’s nothing more valuable than that?