Avoiding Dialogues of Non-discovery through Promoting Dialogues of Discovery

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Kendall Richards
Nick Pilcher


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.

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How to Cite
Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2015). Avoiding Dialogues of Non-discovery through Promoting Dialogues of Discovery. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 3. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2015.101
Author Biographies

Kendall Richards, Edinburgh Napier

Kendall Richards is a lecturer with the role of academic support adviser in the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University (UK) with a focus on addressing academic support, retention, progression and widening access. He works with a significant proportion of non-traditional, international, mature and direct entrants and his research interests are in education as social justice and language. He has presented globally and is published in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and elsewhere such as in the book Researching Intercultural Learning (edited by Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi)

Nick Pilcher, Edinburgh Napier

Nick Pilcher is a lecturer in the School of Marketing, Tourism and Languages at Edinburgh Napier University (UK) and teaches English for Academic Purposes. His research interests centre around education, language and qualitative research methods. He has published and contributed to work published in journals such as Qualitative Research, Psychology of Music, Teaching in Higher Education and Quality in Higher Education, and books such as Researching Chinese Learners and Researching Intercultural Learning (both edited by Lixian Jin and Martin Cortazzi).