Can one teach through dialogue? Plato did it. Presumably, he learned it from Socrates. One’s intuition could respond to this question with an emphatic yes, and be done with it. But, what is dialogue? Two people talking? Several people talking, each taking his or her turn to speak his or her mind? There are of course many theories of dialogue by excellent thinkers of past and present. I like Martin Buber’s, as it is simple and to the point. According to Buber, and I tend to agree with this, a dialogue is essentially a conversation, which can be conducted between two people or many folks. To be sure, the more people involved in the act of dialogue, the more complex and complicated this conversation will be. In discussing dialogue Buber uses the terms “I” and “Thou” (i.e., me and you) and implicates the two. A conversation is a dialogue only when each participant is willing to listen and absorb the other’s words and be willing to be a subject to the other, and conversely.
How often does this happen between the teacher and the pupil? Is most teaching reduced to dictation and a certain amount of tolerance by the teacher when the pupil speaks? How much valuable and transformative learning can take place in a monological teaching? Very little of course, perhaps none at all. Teachers should not be agents of knowledge transfer. They ought to enter into dialogue with their pupils, whereby the teacher and the pupil are each other’s subjects and knowledge is an integral topic of dialogue. That is dialogical pedagogy.