Blog Post: [Part 1] Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking

Richard Paul Archives
Jul 20, 2022 • 25d ago
[Part 1] Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Abstract"},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"This paper is divided into two sections. Part I is theoretical. In it, Richard Paul discusses the importance of dialogical and dialectical thinking. He argues that students learn best in dialogical and dialectical situations, when their thinking involves dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view or frames of reference. Part II is pedagogical. In it, Paul discusses what can be done in a classroom to engage student thought dialogically and dialectically. He discusses how to distinguish multilogical issues (those having many logics) from monological issues (those having one logic). He then discusses Socratic questioning as a way to effectively involve students in a discussion and engage their thinking about an issue or topic. The value of cooperative learning is then discussed. Paul stresses that dialectical discussions are disciplined, that students must “learn how to bring intellectual standards into their work, how to hold themselves and their classmates to standards of good reasoning and analysis."},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"size":"large","bold":true},"insert":"Part I: Theory"},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Introduction"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nWhen as the result of a trial, the jury comes to a verdict of guilty or innocent; when as a result of a political debate, a citizen decides to vote for one of the candidates; when as a result of reading the case that can be made for alternative political systems, one concludes that one is superior to the others; when as a result of hearing various sides of a family argument, one becomes persuaded that one side is more justified and accurate; when as a result of reading many reports on the need for educational reform, one is prepared to argue for one of them; when as a result of entertaining various representations of national security, one reasons to a position of one’s own; when after reading and thinking about various approaches to the raising of children, one concludes that one is better than the others; when after interacting with a person for a number of years and entertaining various conflicting interpretations of her character, one decides that she would make good marriage partner – "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"one is reasoning dialectically"},{"insert":".\n \nWhenever students discuss their ideas, beliefs, or points of view with other students or the teacher; whenever students have to role play the thinking of others; whenever students have to use their thinking to figure out the thinking of another (say, that of the author of a textbook or of a story); whenever students have to listen carefully to the thoughts of another and try to make sense of them; whenever students, whether orally or in writing, have to arrange their thoughts in such a fashion as to be understood by another; whenever students have to enter sympathetically into the thinking of others or reason hypothetically from the assumptions of others, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"they are reasoning dialogically"},{"insert":".\n \nAn open society requires open minds. One-sided egocentric and sociocentric thought, joined with massive technical knowledge and power, are not the foundations of a genuine democracy. The basic insight, formulated over a hundred years ago by John Stuart Mill, is as true today, and as ignored, as it was when he first wrote it:\n \nIn the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen all that could be said against him; to product by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and study."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThis is the dialogical ideal. Dialogical and dialectical thinking involve dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view or frames of reference. Both are multilogical (involving "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"many"},{"insert":" logics) rather than monological (involving "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"one"},{"insert":" logic) because in both cases there is more than one line of reasoning to consider, more than one “logic” being formulated. Dialogue becomes dialectical when ideas or reasonings come into conflict with each other and we need to assess their various strengths and weaknesses.\n \nIn general, students learn best in dialogical situations, in circumstances in which they must continually express their views to others and try to fit others’ views into their own. Even when dealing with monological problems (like many found in math and science) students need to move dialogically between their own thinking and “correct” thinking on the subject before they come to appreciate the one “right” (monological) way to proceed. They cannot simply leap directly to “correct” thought; they need to think dialogically first.\n \nUnfortunately, the dominant mode of teaching at all levels is still didactic: teaching by telling, learning by memorizing. The problem it creates is evident in this excerpt from a letter by a teacher with a Master’s degree in physic and mathematics:\n \nAfter I started teaching, I realized that I had learned physics by rote and that I really did not understand all I knew about physics. My thinking students asked me questions for which I always had the standard textbook answers, but for the first time made me start thinking for myself, and I realized that these canned answers were not justified by my own thinking and only confused my students who were showing some ability to think for themselves. To achieve my academic goals I had memorized the thoughts of others, but I had never learned or been encouraged to learn to think for myself."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nDidactic teaching encourages monological thinking from beginning to end. There is little room for dialogical or dialectical thinking in the mind of the didactic teacher. Rather the teacher, usually focused on content coverage, tells students directly what to believe and think about subject matter, while students, in turn, focus on remembering what the teacher said in order to reproduce it on demand. In its most common form, this mode of teaching falsely assumes that one can directly give a person knowledge without that person having to think his or her way to it, that knowledge can directly be implanted in students’ minds through memorization. It confuses "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":" with "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"knowledge"},{"insert":". It falsely assumes that knowledge can be separated from understanding and justification. It confuses the ability to "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"state"},{"insert":" a principal with "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"understanding"},{"insert":" that principle, the ability to "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"supply a definition"},{"insert":" with "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"comprehending"},{"insert":" a concept. Didactic instruction flourishes when it appears that life’s problems can be solved by one-dimensional answers and that knowledge is ready-made for passive absorption. Most teachers teach as if this were so without recognizing it.\n \nStudents today have very little experience in school of reasoning within opposing points of view. Indeed students today have little experience with reasoning at all. Most students do not know what inferences are, what it is to make assumptions, what it is to reason from an assumption to one or more conclusions. In the didactic classroom of today, the teacher is engaged in inculcating information. Classroom monologue (students passively listening) rather than active dialogue (students thoughtfully engaged) is the paradigm. Unfortunately, students then come away with the impression that knowledge can be obtained without struggle, without having to hear from more than one points of view, without having to identify or assess evidence, without having to question assumptions, without having to trace implications, without having to analyze concepts, without having to consider objections.\n \nThe result: students with no real sense of what the process of acquiring knowledge involves, students with nothing more than a jumble of information and beliefs, students with little sense of what it is to reason one’s way to knowledge. The result: teachers oblivious of the fact that knowledge must be earned through thought, who teach as if knowledge were available to anyone willing to commit information to short-term memory. The result: school as a place where knowledge is didactically dispensed and passively acquired, something found principally in books, something that comes from authorities.\n \nBut if gaining knowledge really is a fundamental goal of education – and all curricula say it is – then most students should be spending most of their time actively reasoning. That is, most of the students most of the time should be gathering, analyzing, and assessing information. They should be considering alternative competing interpretations and theories. They should be identifying and questioning assumptions, advancing reasons, devising hypotheses, thinking up ways to experiment and test their beliefs. They should be following out implications, analyzing concepts, considering objections. They should be testing their ideas against the ideas of others. They should be sympathetically entering opposing points of view. They should be role playing reasoning different from their own. In short, they should be "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"reasoning dialogically and dialectically"},{"insert":".\n \nOnly when students have a rich diet of dialogical and dialectical thought, do they become prepared for the messy, multi-dimensional real world, where opposition, conflict, critique, and contradiction are everywhere. Only through a rigorous exposure to dialogical and dialectical thinking, do students develop intellectually fit minds.\n"}]}


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Posted by: Andreea Buzduga

{"ops":[{"insert":"How can I cite (APA style) the above article?\nThank you!\n"}]}