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Maximising Student Participation: Factors that Affect Educational Dialogue
Ridge and S. Islania, University of Surrey, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences / Department of Chemistry
- What, in your opinion, is the value of educational dialogue in science classrooms?
- What would you consider the role of debate to be in science classrooms?
- In which practical ways would you highlight the difference between dialogue and debate to your students and how would you encourage a collaborative (rather than a competitive) atmosphere?
Our project was a staff-student co-enquiry into educational dialogue in lectures and tutorials. Working together helped in a number of ways. The student researcher was brilliant with interviews and focus group discussions with students. She created an environment where everyone talked openly and, as a result, the conversation moved to build on a number of suggestions. So, we had dialogue about dialogue between students. In a similar way, the tutor researcher, did lecture observations and talked to colleagues bringing dialogue about dialogue into the staff community. The whole research project helped to close the usual student – tutor ‘gap’ between the two researchers. As we planned, collected and analysed data together, we discovered another level of dialogue about dialogue. So, this research, fostered an atmosphere of trust and openness between students, academics and between students and academics.
Positive relationships was one of the factors that our results showed as important for encouraging educational dialogue in lectures, along with specifically allocated time for discussion, especially for content that is difficult. The students also spoke about the importance of positive encouragement of contributions by the tutor. Offering an opinion in an academic subject can be daunting and many of our students appeared concerned about ‘getting it wrong’. This then possibly highlighted the difference between debate and dialogue. In a debate you can get things wrong but in a dialogue there is no error in contributions that contain mistakes.