“Selfish” Science Courses and the Dialogic Classroom

May 8, 2019


Photo: Students in dialogue

As part of our industry-leading evaluations program, we collect stories and reflections from program participants, trainees, and students. These stories and metrics are used to refine and develop our approach, our workshops, and our community of practice.

Since it's the end of the academic year, we're collecting evaluations from students and faculty. I wanted to share just one testimonial from an undergraduate student who had the opportunity to take a course that uses our Dialogic Classroom paradigm:

Most of my classes have been selfish, for lack of a better word. I take large science classes where people are wildly competitive and conversation rarely exists: where learning only depends on what the professor tells us, what the PowerPoint slides read, and the work I put in after class is over.

I thought this was going to be the outline for every course, and I was wrong.

This class has taught me the power of discussion. I have been impressed by my classmates' thoughts and insights. Their words have broadened my views. I have learned that without the voices of others, I may be blind to the World and even to my own cognition. From here, I want to encourage others to speak up because even the shortest comment can make an incredible impact.

I have also learned the power of having an open mind. After my not ideal history of one-sided ‘discussions’  at my high school, I was nervous about the discussions that we would have in class. Would people call me homophobic for being Christian? The answer is, now, no.

At first, I was very judgmental of what people would say in class because I thought there were ill intentions behind it. After reviewing who I wanted to be in this class, I was able to see how wrong I was. After losing this judgement, I was able to see the thoughtfulness of my classmates. From here, I want to enter more situations with an open mind and check my baggage at the door.

We hear versions of this story over and over. The student didn't know that a different kind of class, with a different kind of learning, was possible. They didn't recognize the value of sharing their own views and values, or of listening carefully to the beliefs of others. And they plan to bring these dialogue skills with them into the rest of their lives.

This testimonial captures our great hope for the Dialogic Classroom—not only that it improves academic learning and engagement, but that it also embeds skills of discernment and dialogue that are essential to a healthy civic life.

If you're interested in learning more, visit the Higher Education section of our website or register for our next Dialogic Classroom Workshop for Faculty.