A Dialogical Pedagogy for Inclusive Education - Introduction
David Skidmore (University of Bath, Bath, UK, D.Skidmore@bath.ac.uk)
Deborah Gallagher (University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Drawing mainly on the theoretical ideas of Bakhtin on the dialogic nature of language (Bakhtin, 1981, 1984; Voloshinov, 1986), a number of authors have stressed the educative potential of teacher-pupil interaction which enables students to play an active part in shaping the agenda of classroom discourse. Examples include: dialogic instruction, characterised by the teacherís uptake of student ideas, authentic questions and the opportunity for students to modify the topic (Nystrand, 1997); dialogic inquiry, which stresses the potential of collaborative group work and peer assistance to promote mutually responsive learning in the zone of proximal development (Wells, 1999); dialogic teaching, which is collective, reciprocal, cumulative and supportive (Alexander, 2004); and dialogical pedagogy, in which students are invited to retell stories in their own words, using paraphrase, speculation and counter-fictional utterances (Skidmore, 2000). These proposals share a common concern with the ritualistic nature of the predominant patterns of teacher-student interaction exposed by empirical observation studies, and an emphasis on the importance of maximising active student participation in classroom talk as a means of enhancing intersubjective understanding.
With their emphasis on offering students the opportunity to construct meaning in their own words, there is an affinity between these dialogic conceptions of pedagogy and the constructivist approach to education. From a constructivist perspective, learning does not take place apart from the active intellectual, moral, and social engagement of the learner. To recognize this point is to acknowledge the essentially transactional nature of teaching and learning: teaching is not a unidirectional act, something teachers do to students; rather, constructivist theory implies the need for a democratisation of the traditional power relationships between teachers and students, built on a view of students as intellectually autonomous meaning-makers.
In this paper, we will explore the ways in which a dialogical pedagogy aimed at enabling the co-construction of knowledge between student and teacher may contribute to the development of an inclusive educational praxis (Gallagher, Heshusius, Iano, & Skrtic, 2004; Skidmore, 2004). We will discuss the changes to prevailing instructional frameworks which are needed if schools are to make substantive progress toward an inclusion that goes beyond mere physical co-presence in classrooms, and ask what conditions might support the development of a pedagogy in which students are invited to articulate an actively responsive understanding in the course of their learning.