In the April issue of Educational Leadership is an article called “The Art of Dialogue.” I think it’s an important read for both teachers and administrators. Oscar Graybill–director of Socratic Seminars International–and Lois Brown Easton discuss the benefits of dialogue in an organization over other forms of communication. “Genuine dialogue affects a school’s culture,” they write. The authors cite a former study that divides talking into four different categories:
- Conversation: talk about personal and social matters that is usually not directed or facilitated
- Discussion: talk that has a purpose and the purpose is often to make a decision
- Debate: talk that is an extreme form of discussion where people are forced to take sides
- Dialogue: talk that is more structured than conversation with the goal of engaging people in building their understanding of an issue
These four ways of talking all achieve different results. However, the authors contest that a focus on using dialogue during meetings can help people “dig deeper into ideas, become more thoughtful, listen well, recognize assumptions, and see connections.” For organizations, dialogue can help improve how people talk about ideas and can lead to more collaboration.
Learning and practicing dialogue take time. Schools that understand and value the benefits of a culture of shared understanding don’t just find the time—they make the time for teachers to practice both structured and open dialogue. –Oscar Graybill & Lois Brown Easton
I think it’s true that organizations do not make enough time for dialogue. The authors believe that if dialogue is implemented regularly the “resulting power shift breaks down traditional, hierarchical leadership.” I also think it’s true that organizations (and classrooms) need to find the time for genuine dialogue. A good place to start is with establishing norms for what successful dialogue looks like. The authors include a list of fifteen rules for guiding dialogue that I’ve included below. Let’s use them to bring back dialogue!
Graybill, Oscar, and Lois Brown Easton. “The Art of Dialogue.” Educational Leadership 72.7 (2015): n. pag. Web. 27 April 2015.