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comment helped me to reframe my role as an educator and at the same time remember
my father. His remark was a relational moment of past meeting present and now our
dialogue will undoubtedly find itself extending into future conversations with my students.
Creating A Space In The Classroom For Conversation
How do I motivate and serve students? Student reviews have suggested that they enjoy
my course because they can speak their mind. Active classroom engagement goes back to
the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian philosopher, who “emphasized the power of
discourse to increase understanding of multiple perspectives and create myriad
possibilities. Bakhtin held that relationships and connections exist among living things, and
that dialogue creates a new understanding of a situation that demands change” (B. Sloan,
2008, p. 5).
Carolyn Shields, author of Bakhtin, suggests that Bakhtin principles of openness would not
only enhance educational reform but also extend to dialogue on critical issues and notes:
Bakhtin suggests an ontological approach one that takes difference and
heteroglossia as foundational to life itself. Life as he comprehends it is vibrant, open,
fluid, and temporary. Education, if it is to truly bring people to a fullness of life, should
also be vibrant exciting, challenging, and open, with the goal of deeper
understanding rather than rigid knowing. . .Helping people to have dialogue about
such central topics both with others, and internally, rather than silencing debate
about critical issues out of fear of losing control would be consistent with Bakhtin’s
writing. (Shields, 2007, p.174)
With screenwriting projects ranging from cannibalism to cannabis, the creation of a space
where students could feel safe discussing their work while offering critiques contributed to
the success of that course. bell hooks in Talking Back discusses the influence of the
educator Paulo Freire who challenges the downstream model of education where
knowledge flows from a “powerful” educator to a “powerless” student. hooks says,
“Education, it was suggested, could be a space for the development of critical
consciousness, where there could be dialogue and mutual growth for both student and
professor” (hooks, p. 101). Kenneth Gergen in The Saturated Self concurs, “Teachers
should invite students into modes of dialogue as participants rather than pawns, as
collaborative interlocutors instead of slates to be filled” (Gergen, p. 250).
The most interesting teaching and learning environments are places where the student and
teacher relationship is constantly shifting roles. The classroom must be an educational
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