What is dialogue?

What do we mean by educational dialogue and how do we characterise it?

Dialogue is more than ‘just talk’. It involves teachers and learners commenting and cumulatively building on each other’s ideas, posing questions and constructing interpretations together.
(Alexander, 2008)

Key features of educational dialogue:

  • Dialogue means being able to articulate ideas seen from someone else’s perspective
  • It is characterised by chains of (primarily open) questions and answers.
  • It may be sustained over the course of a single lesson or across lessons.
  • It builds on the idea of ‘exploratory talk’, where learners explore different perspectives, construct shared knowledge, make reasoning explicit and are willing to change their minds (Mercer, 2000).
  • It has a critical dimension: learners respectfully critique their own and others’ ideas.

Video | What is Educational Dialogue?

For more helpful videos, please visit our collection of introductory video resources.

Dialogic teaching

Aims and key indicators of dialogic teaching

Whole-class dialogue

Indicators and ways of promoting whole-class dialogue

Dialogue between peers

Indicators of dialogic interactions between learners