“Dialogic Spaces” – Dialogic Education and Research Group

On Monday June 22nd I had the pleasure of participating in the first meeting in a study group “Dialogic Spaces” aimed at exploring dialogue from various perspectives within educational research and practice. The group was initiated by Assistant Professor, PhD Thorkild Hanghøj and several of his colleagues all from Dept. of Curriculum research at the Danish School of Education. Thorkild specializes in educational gaming and will incidentially join me at the Master in ICT and Learning (MIL) in the fall in our ICT and Educational Design module. Coming from Aalborg University’s Dept. of Communication I’m very happy to get the opportunity to collaborate with this group of researchers who all have such very strong foci on educational research. Besides Thorkild the following people are part of the group:

  • Lars Birch AndreasenE-learning; netbased education; virtual learning environments, Netmediated communication and collaboration.
  • Lisbeth FrølundeMultimodality theory and visual culture, Design and development of digital learning and play materials.
  • Jeppe BundsgaardEducational Theory and Curriculum in relation to the Danish Subject and Information Technology, Critical Discourse Analysis.
  • Mads HaugstedMother tongue and didactics; verbal communication, colloquial language, speech skill.
  • Christian Brund – just started as a PhD Candidate with a project on the role of the teacher in relation to educational gaming … no link yet

Together we cover a wide range of research interests but with the concept Dialogic we have found a common denominator.  Dialogic is most commonly attributed to the work of the Russian philosopher, literary critic and scholar, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin and though his work will play an important role in our endeavors it isn’t an exclusive Bakhtinian group.  We spent our first meeting stating our interests in using Dialogic perspectives, defined the organization and goals of the group and finally discussed a couple of papers (Dysthe. 2006 & Wegerif. 2006) both focusing on the use of Bakhtin in educational research. So far we’ve decided to meet f2f once a month in the fall primarily to discuss literature hoping that these dialogues! will inspire all of us in our future work. Further down the line we hope to be able to hold public seminars and finally write an anthology covering especially, but not exclusively  Scandinavian Dialogic perspectives within educational research and practice which also means that we will invite international colleagues to come join us.

I was first introduced to Bakhtin in the early 90’ies when I studied literature for three years, but it has been years since I actually used his ideas and concepts more explicitly. In spite of this, I do find the Dialogic perspective interesting on multiple levels in relation to my current PhD research:

  • Ontological level – according to Bakhtin living is participating in an ongoing dialogue and I couldn’t agree more. Accepting dialogue as ontological premise naturally influences the main purpose and the main processes of education; empowerment as preparation for and – as it is the case in HE/FE –  continuation of democratic, participatory citizenship. This way of thinking and practicing education very much aligns with a Scandinavian approach to both education and research in general and with exploration of new social media in particular (e.g. Rheingold. 2008 on Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies).
  • Epistemological level – as a consequence of the ontology it is through dialogue with both ourselves and the surrounding world that we’re able to create meaning. Thus, as educators we need to focus on teaching students how to engage in the dialogues through which knowledge is constantly being constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed (Wegerif. 2006:60). It’s also worth noticing that if we accept the dialogic premise, the main mechanism for learning is taking the perspective of another in a dialogue (ibid:64)!
  • Methodological level– up until now I’ve been reluctant to coin my methodological approach, usually just stating that I’m applying some sort of Action Research. However, I recently decided to try to apply and further develop a methodology called Dialogue Design which was developed by three of my colleagues from the MIL steering committee, Janni Nielsen, Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Oluf Danielsen (2003) back in the late 90’ies in relation to a large European research and development project on Multimedia and Network in Co-operative Research and Learning (MANICORAL). This particular methodology, based on different types of Action Research, puts forward dialogue and mutual learning as guiding principles.  Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Nielsen are also my PhD supervisors, and I will be spending most of the fall with Nielsen at Copenhagen Business School focusing on this part of my PhD work.
  • Didactic/pedagogical level – as teaching and learning space SL offers many possibilities of engaging in dialogic activities. Communicating simultaneously via both text and voice, incl. via avatar (as embodiment) and context are probably the affordances I currently find most interesting and I anticipate Bakhtin’s polyphony concept and his ideas on intertextuality (both in multimodal variations) will be useful in my attempt to theorize/analyze and design for such phenomena.

In applying a Dialogic perspective on my PhD I’ve got a sense of coming full circle and I’m really looking forward to an inspiring fall with extended readings and lots of dialogue … yeah :-) It also means that I’m in the process of editing my PhD page here on the blog … it’ll be back sometime during the summer.



Dysthe, O. (2006): Bakhtin og pedagogikken – Kva ein tidlegare ukjend artikkel fortel om Bakhtins pedagogiske praksis. IN: Norsk Pedagogisk Tidsskrift. 06/2006

Nielsen, J.; Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L. & Danielsen, O. (2003): Dialogue Design – with Mutual Learning as Guiding Principle. IN: International Journal of Human-Computer-Interaction. 15(1)

Wegerif, R. (2006): Dialogic education: what it is and why do we need it? IN: Education Review, vol. 19, no 2.


Stephen Downes recently directed my attention to a post on Streams vs. Blogs written by Jay Cross. In this post Cross reflects on blogs stating that:

Blogs are author-centric in a world that’s increasingly about relationships. Blogs are slanted toward me, me, me, me, me; the net is inexorably moving to us, us, us, us, us. Dialog trumps monolog.

While I do agree that some blogs tend to be very author-centric the few blogs/bloggers I chose to follow on a regular basis are highly Dialogic in my point of view. Adapting a Bakhtinian view engaging in dialogue with oneself can be very fruitful and furthermore the very nature of blogs (the intertextuality and the multiple voices coming forward through extensive linking) exemplifies a connected perspective on relationships and dialogue in a networked world.  The mere fact that I learned about Cross’ post via Downes shows my point. Granted that the premises for dialogue have changed dramatically, it still is dialogue to me … Nonetheless, I do agree with Cross that new services gradually will change the way we communicate, but like Downes I will not stop blogging any time soon – it’s just one way of communicating among others ;-)

4 thoughts on ““Dialogic Spaces” – Dialogic Education and Research Group

  1. georgeumbrasileiro September 8, 2009 / 2:08 pm

    Dear Mariis,
    I came across your weblog by chance while in search for people’s takes on dialogic perspectives. I’m a Brazilian PhD student, sessional lecturer and seminar tutor of Media, Comunications, Language and Education at London Metropolitan University and here I find myself slightly isolated in terms of the research I am attempting to develop, so it was actually a grat delight to have come across this post which talks about quite a few interesting people and respective works. I shall keep an eye on your page and would appreciate if you could let me know of any upcoming conferences or seminar sessions so that I can organise myself and try to attend.
    Many thanks,

  2. Mariis Mills September 8, 2009 / 3:41 pm

    Well, you’re welcome George :-)
    We will resume our activities later this month, so I’m hoping to be back with further elaboration on the Dialogic perspective and I’ll let you know if I hear about relevant events …

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