Adult 610 #4: Creating safe space for dialogue

Community-of-Practice-finalJSThe instance to create a space for conversation is sometimes difficult for adults.  As a graduate student, I find that I have more time now to engage in lengthy conversations with my friends as we schedule coffee or lunch gatherings frequently.  The dialogue in this space is open and hospitable. Our meetings allow us to know and be known by each other. In few situations, though, does dialogue occur where we create shared knowledge about our learning. We do not necessarily share the same space during the day as we would in a work setting.

When I was an educator in a public setting, I rarely talked in depth with any of my colleagues. An exhausting work schedule left little room for anything of depth or quality.  Dixon, in Perspectives in Dialogue, suggests that “…people long for a more authentic kind of interaction with their co-workers but that they are not sure that it is possible, or even if their longing is legitimate” (Dixon, 2). My longing is legitimate. Unfortunately, I find that many colleagues are unaccustomed to  a conversation that surrounds praxis. I find this rather paradoxical in an educational setting.

The developmental dialogue described by Dixon suggests that if people cannot be themselves at work, they cannot develop at work.  Wow!  What a novel idea.  An adult who spends 1/3 of their day working must find an opportunity to voice a concern or perspective.  My current work, as a graduate student, affords me time to engage in deeper levels of conversation. Discussion occurs  as part of a planned topic for class, however, it does not necessarily continue beyond the setting of the class.


The dialogue from Monday’s class Adult Educator as Consultant and The Heart of the Matter gave voice to the perspectives of my classmates. While not a part of any particular conversation, I found it beneficial to listen to the way in which classmates framed their views. While we may have used the term “dialogue,” I imagine that what occurred were discussions about separate points of view. When and where is there space to move from discussion to dialogue?

Dialogue education brings the adult educator as consultant into a new role. Vella suggests that the educator becomes the listener and designer of learning experiences. She references Freire’s ideas regarding dialogue between the teacher and the student in the epilogue of her book. The concept of becoming jointly responsible for the process by which each individual learns encourages accountability and engagement which allows for shared meaning (Vella, 2008:2014).  When blurring the roles of teacher and student talk transitions from discussion to dialogue.

Parker Palmer, in the chapter Learning in Community: The Conversation of Colleagues, suggests that if one wishes to grow in one’s practice, that there are two places to go: (1) the inner ground from which good teaching comes (meaning inside one’s self) and (2) the community of fellow teachers from whom we can learn more about ourselves (Palmer, 2007: 146).

Bohm’s guidance for dialogue is minimal, according to Dixon (1996:12). He suggests that we meet without purpose or a specified goal so that everyone can talk freely.  This would be a novel way to grown one’s praxis as a process consultant. In one specific instance last spring, my classmates and professor sat and spoke freely about ourselves first and then about organizational change.  The dialogue was engaging and the community feeling allowed us to learn more about ourselves as adult educators. It was a conversation that Palmer would have enjoyed! As I come to the end of the semester, I am reluctant to let the conversation end.

Something to Chew on-dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

How do I engage other adult educators in keeping the conversation going in the midst of the demands of life? 


Dixon, N. M. (1996). Perspectives on Dialogue: Making Talk Developmental for Individuals and Organizations. Center for Creative Leadership, PO Box 26300, Greensboro, NC 27438-6300 (Stock No. 168: $20)..

Palmer, P. J. (2010). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. John Wiley & Sons.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting the principles and practices of dialogue education into action. John Wiley & Sons.


One thought on “Adult 610 #4: Creating safe space for dialogue

  1. I love your words, “I find that many colleagues are unaccustomed to a conversation that surrounds praxis. I find this rather paradoxical in an educational setting.” I am reminded of a saying by Confucius: “Study without reflection is useless; reflection without study is dangerous.” It makes sense that we should be getting together regularly with one another whose vocation we share to enter into a dialogue that Bohm (1985) asserts will develop shared meaning. Perhaps we don’t do this because, as teachers, we have too little time, not wanting to discuss “work” when we are away from it, and not having time to discuss anything when we are in it. This “on/off” mentality plagues our work relationships, forcing us to put on masks, focus solely on technical accomplishments, and often view dialogue that raises questions and expands our understanding as inefficient and threatening. Thank YOU for opening up this dialogue, and I look forward to many conversations in the future!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s