Avoiding Dialogues of Non-discovery through Promoting Dialogues of Discovery

Kendall Richards, Nick Pilcher

Abstract


International students and direct entrants—those entering a higher year of a degree—often come from socio-economic or cultural backgrounds different from traditional students, and have different educational backgrounds. It is assumed such students need help with unfamiliar assessment tasks such as essays, reports, and so on, and many sources aim to help with these elements. Further assumptions are that dialogue helps, and that the words used in such dialogue will be understood similarly. Yet, if the assumed meanings of the words actually differ, then such dialogue is based on a false assumption; rather than genuine dialogue, what actually occurs is an exchange of monologic utterances. This article is a structured narrative of our ongoing research into how key assessment task words such as ‘discuss,’ ‘analyse,’ and ‘critically evaluate’ are understood differently in higher education. We describe how such differences are perpetuated through Martin Buber’s (1947) ideas of monologic utterances, and what we call ‘dialogues of non-discovery’. Here we detail a research-based approach to promote genuine and technical dialogue: what we call ‘dialogues of discovery.’ We first introduce a dialogue that led to the genesis of the study and theoretical context of our dialogues with the literature. We then detail our methods of data collection in a section of ‘dialogues of exploration’. We present our findings in the form of categorizations of the different elements underpinning people’s understandings of ‘the word.’ Our own categorizations of these elements encourage dialogue around the elements of language, culture, stakeholder, subject, weight, and development over time. This is an approach we term an ‘anti-glossary approach’ in that it is opposite to, and against, ‘fixing’ or ‘ossifying’ the language in a glossary. In the Bakhtinian tradition of ‘incompletedness,’ we conclude by encouraging readers to take and adapt our findings as an ‘anti-glossary’ approach to engage in genuine and technical dialogue with their students. In this way, we believe the quality and depth of student work can improve.

Keywords


Higher education; assessment task words; dialogues of discovery

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2015.101

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