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Exploring Collaborative Dialogue

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on March 18, 2012 at 10:14:14 am

Exploring Collaborative Dialogue


In this section of the presentation, participants will explore the key elements of the communication practices that matter. We’ll be looking at the characteristics of collaborative dialogue and experimenting with VoiceThread. I’ll be emphasizing the importance of teaching students the language of collaborative dialogue.





Collaborative Versus Competitive Dialogue


Another skill that students must learn to be more efficient and effective learners in today's world is the difference between collaborative and competitive dialogue.  While competitive dialogue -- debates, advertisements, arguments -- have a place in our world, collaborative dialogue is far more productive for learning.  People engaged in collaborative dialogue see one another as learning partners -- members of the same team who can build new understandings together even when they disagree.  


In this activity, we'll look at the differences between collaborative and competitive dialogue by studying an interaction between presidential candidates in a 2011 debate.  


Click here to download the handout for this activity


Video to Explore:




Additional Resources:


Limbaugh Apologizes for Calling Student a Slut - This article details the recent controversy over collaborative dialogue that started when talk radio host Rush Limbaugh called a student who he disagreed with over contraception a slut.  It can be used in conversations with high school students to further explore the competitive nature of conversations in today's world.




Three Characteristics of Effective Communication


Even though participants in the best conversations see each other as intellectual equals that are worth learning from, persuasion -- trying to convince others to change their minds about the topic of study -- will inevitably make its way into most collaborative conversations.  Effective persuasion, Don Rothman argues, is not the kind of persuasion that students see modeled in most conversations.  Instead, effective persuasion is built on three key behaviors:


Respecting the views of others:  Truly changing someone's minds depends on finding connections between their core beliefs and the new directions you want them to consider.  That means the most persuasive individuals work to truly understand what other people are thinking.


Respectfully describing sources of disagreement: Changing minds also depends on being able to identify -- and then rationally explain -- the misguided arguments that people on issues.  When we understand the positions of others well enough that we can articulate them clearly and respectfully, we stand a better chance of pointing out flaws that need to be reconsidered.   


Sustaining conversations: The most persuasive individuals also collect as much information as they can about an issue before finalizing their own positions.  Doing so leads to a stronger final stance.  Collecting information depends on sustaining conversations with -- rather than silencing -- others.  As contradictory as it may seem, to be persuasive depends on careful listening.  


These handouts can be used by students to master Rothman's characteristics of effective persuasion:


Recognizing Multiple Perspectives

Collecting and Respecting Different Perspectives

Exploring Misguided Arguments




Exploring Student VoiceThread Conversations


Working with partners, explore the student VoiceThread conversation titled Why Do People Hate.  Use the handout titled VoiceThread in Action to guide your reflections.






Structuring VoiceThread Conversations


Students need to learn the language of collaborative conversations before successfully participating in a VoiceThread conversation. This has to be practiced extensively in class.  Students also need to learn that good conversations are collaborative. In a collaborative conversation, they’re members of a team working together to explore a topic.  They should want to help each other learn more by listening to and challenging one another’s thinking.  Students are generally uncomfortable with these skills at the beginning of the year.


To help them develop a comfort level, I use these documents:


Learning About Conversation Behaviors

Scoring Student Participation in an Asynchronous Conversation

Commenting in an Asynchronous Conversation






Participating in a VoiceThread Conversation


Working on your own, explore the teacher VoiceThread conversation titled Teaching the iGeneration.  Use the handout titled Participating in a VoiceThread to guide your reflections.  You may also be interested in exploring the Reflecting on an Asynchronous Conversation handout---a tool that teachers can use to measure the level of engagement of every student, including those who don't actually add comments to a digital conversation. 







Quick Survey: What Will YOU Take Away from These Lessons?


Now that we've worked through our lessons on collaborative and competitive dialogue, it's time to do a bit of reflecting. What lessons did you learn here that you think you'll be able to use in your classroom immediately? Was there anything that made real sense? Is there anything that you’re still struggling to understand? What questions about collaborative dialogue remain unanswered for you?


Record your thinking in our shared TiG Reflection document by clicking this link.





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