Whose discourse? Dialogic Pedagogy for a post-truth world

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Robin Alexander


If, as evidence shows, well-founded classroom dialogue improves student engagement and learning, the logical next step is to take it to scale. However, this presumes consensus on definitions and purposes, whereas accounts of dialogue and dialogic teaching/pedagogy/education range from the narrowly technical to the capaciously ontological. This paper extends the agenda by noting the widening gulf between discourse and values within the classroom and outside it, and the particular challenge to both language and democracy of a currently corrosive alliance of digital technology and “post-truth” political rhetoric. Dialogic teaching is arguably an appropriate and promising response, and an essential ingredient of democratic education, but only if it is strengthened by critical engagement with four imperatives whose vulnerability in contemporary public discourse attests to their importance in the classroom, the more so given their problematic nature: language, voice, argument and truth.[1]

[1] This paper is an edited version of the author’s keynote at the EARLI SIG 20/26 conference Argumentation and inquiry as venues for civic education, held in Jerusalem in October 2018.

Article Details

Author Biography

Robin Alexander, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

Robin Alexander is Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick, Fellow of the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences, and past President of the British Association for International and Comparative Education. He has held senior posts at four UK universities and visiting posts in several other countries. He directed the Cambridge Primary Review, the UK’s biggest enquiry into public primary/elementary education, and has worked extensively in development education, especially in India. His research and writing, whose prizes include the AERA Outstanding Book Award, range over policy, pedagogy, culture, primary and comparative education, with work on classroom talk a prominent subset culminating to date in the successful large-scale trial of his framework for dialogic teaching. www.robinalexander.org.uk


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