Using dialogue for leadership for

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Dr. B.K.Passi1 and Dr. (Ms) Subhashini Passi



1 Educational Leadership 2

2 What is Dialogue? 3

3 Holistic Learning Environment 6

4 Using Dialogue in Formal Settings 7

5 Using Dialogue in Nonformal Settings 10

6 Using Dialogue in Informal Settings 15

7 Using Dialogue in an Innovation of DIA_SHOPS 17

8 Brain Based Learning (BBL) 19

9 Conclusions 20

10 References 21

Authors 22

Dr. B.K.Passi 22

Dr. (Ms.) S. Passi 23


Human development and institutional development are playing the complex role of leadership. A leader needs to deal with a wide range of purposes, situations and persons. A successful leader has to learn a powerful technique of dialogue for making vision and mission. Dialogue is a skillful exchange or interaction between people that develops shared understanding as the basis for building trust, fostering a sense of ownership, facilitating genuine agreement, and enabling creative problem solving. The emphasis is on deep listening. Here, we see the possibilities of using it in all the three - formal, nonformal, and informal settings. The popular nature of formal learning can be face to face learning in a physical room. An environment becomes formal through the fixation of goals, curriculum, teaching-learning processes, evaluation, certifications, rules of management, etc. Examples of nonformal educational settings are many other kinds of schools, staff meetings etc. Other examples are parent’s meetings for eliciting cooperation, student’s meetings for improving learning environment, and involvement of community & management, and organizing conferences & holding seminars. Similarly, the mode of informal education too can be used to guide human development. The head of an institution must understand the possibilities of using dialogue in all kinds of environment. The overall use of dialogue helps brain-based learning.

1Educational Leadership

An educational institution is headed by a person who is generally called Head, Principal, or an Institutional Leader. Institutional leadership has as many definitions as we have educational thinkers. We need to differentiate between a manager and a leader.

Who is a leader? Someone once said that there are as many definitions of leadership as there are of love. We have a common sense viewpoint about leadership. From literature, like the American Heritage Dictionary, we can find that a leader is: (i) one who leads the team or guides the group, (ii) one who is in charge or in command of others, (iii) one who heads an organization, and (iv) one who has power to influence. However, one can also find a professional viewpoint of leadership in four kinds of theories: (i) Trait theories, (ii) Behavioral theories, (iii) Contingency theories, and (iv) Transformational theories. You can find literature about these theories.

Leadership process involves four elements. First is that leadership involves influencing others. Second is that leadership has followers. Third is that a leader does pro-action when there is a special problem. Fourth is that leaders have a vision about what they want to achieve and why. Thus, leaders are people who are able to think and act creatively in non-routine situations – and who set out to influence the actions, beliefs and feelings of others.

Heads of institutions have to build a wide range of relationships with many kinds of people from inside and also outside the institutions. These insiders could be stakeholders like teachers, staff, and students. The outsiders could be people from media, government, management and parents who could belong to mixed positions. Heads of institutions have to play many roles for creative and smooth leadership.

Heads of institutions have to deal with diverse issues like policy decisions, formulation of programs, recruiting faculty and staff, providing buildings, arranging infra-structure, procuring finances, managing media, developing curriculum, and what not. The duties of heads of institutions are complex and time demanding. The heads of institutions must know the art and science of communication. Techniques like general presentations, lecturing for seeking or giving information, conducting meetings for motivating people are not enough for building a creative environment.

A head of the institution has to transcend beyond creating professional relationships. The institutional head has to formulate a shared vision within the framework of a wide range of stakeholders. Sometimes some heads of institutions do not succeed to harmonize the diversity of all needs and demands of these stakeholders.

We remember that we were conducting a workshop of formulation of shared vision. The participants were role playing the part of state officials, management, parents, principal, faculty, staff, students, and service providers. They were supposed to make and explain the mission statement of their school. The participants were experienced. They devoted a whole day in the workshop. In the end they reported that it was a very educative but an exceptionally difficult exercise, even though it was in a simulated environment.

As proposed by David Bohm, a successful head of an institution must go beyond the mere art and science of communication. The new technique of using Dialogue is essential for solving chronic problems. Both the leader and the manager of an educational institution should master the art of dialoguing for team building, team working and more so for team learning. A leader can use this technique for vision-making and for solving personal problems and social issues.

2What is Dialogue?

The dictionary defines `Dialogue' as a conversation between two or more people and also as an exchange of opinion or ideas. Dialogue has been used by thinkers of the East and the West like Socrates, Paulo Freire, David Bohm, J. Krishnamurti, Martin Buber and many more. Dialogue is a famous and an old technique. It is divergently used. However, the core idea is that dialogue is a process for sharing our ideas in a safe and happy environment but this environment must not turn into mere gossip. Dialogue aims at learning about self and also about other’s beliefs, feelings, interests, and/or needs in a non-adversarial and an open way. Although the participants may challenge ideas or raise questions, the idea is to create understanding rather than debate with each other. The bottom line is that dialogue must result into some productive outcomes.
Dialogue has various connotations ranging from opposing adversary culture to nurturing culture. Literature says that dialogue is skillful exchange or interaction between people that develops shared understanding as the basis for building trust, fostering a sense of ownership, facilitating genuine agreement, and enabling creative problem solving. The emphasis is on deep listening. Martin Buber has also made a significant contribution to the appreciation of encounter and dialogue in education. David Bohm - the eminent physicist and friend of Krishnamurti, whose example and practical proposals for dialogue have met a response from a number of different areas - but particularly from those like Peter Senge, who are concerned with organizational development.  The notion of dialogue has been linked as an educational manifestation by Paulo Freire. Dialogue, discussion, debate, conversation, and gossip are common terms used in education. They have their special purpose and varying meanings.

2.1Dialogue and Discussion

Dialogue is something different from discussion. Discussion has its roots in breaking things up. Discussion is based upon analysis whereas Dialogue gives importance to synthesis. A discussion is usually between people who have adopted definite points of view and who wish to convince each other or compare their outlooks. Dialogue is more of listening but discussion is more of speaking. Dialogue demands and uses the art of deeper listening.
Discussion is a multi-way communication with a view to arrive at win-lose outcomes. Discussion involves advocacy, competing, convincing, and then deciding by votes or otherwise. Dialogue aims at win-win outcomes. In dialogue, people learn to listen not only to the spoken words but all facets of the views of others in their context. Dialogue is exploring for full synthesis and not necessarily quick agreement. In Dialogue people are supposed to create new understandings which are 'explicitly critical’ and aim at action.
Dialogue is not a debate. Dialogue is not chat either with an intention of entertaining, exchanging friendship, gossiping and even information sharing. Dialogue is not an agreement but an exploration for construction of harmony, cooperation, understanding, and creativity.

2.2Dialogue and Conversation

Dialogue and conversation are different from each other. In common sense the term dialogue could be seen as a form of simple conversation of a particular format. Dialogue is much more serious and is applied for chronic problems.
Conversation is a comfortable talk. Topics of conversation are comfortable and fluid. Conversation can be used as an exercise of building relationship. In conversation, the participants engage themselves on any subject matter. Seriousness of topic is less important compared to building social relationship. But a happy thing is that conversation entails concern, trust, respect, appreciation, affection and hope.
Inclusion of conversation is of central importance and if neglected may lead to major problems. Conversation looks like a small talk between friends or neighbors. This is the way it has to be - if we attempt to eliminate conversation from our lives then relationship building is shunned. Conversation takes the form of a gossip if it is prolonged and is without any purpose.

We have identified five kinds of dialogues, namely Instructional dialogue, Debate dialogue, Conversation dialogue, Inquiry dialogue, and Wisdom dialogue. The Wisdom Dialogue is a process of sharing and learning about another group's beliefs, feelings, interests, and/or needs in a non-adversarial, open way, usually with the help of a facilitator. The Wisdom Dialogue is skillful exchange or interaction between people that develops shared understanding as the basis for building trust, fostering a sense of ownership, facilitating genuine agreement, enabling creative problem solving, and asking basic questions from self. The emphasis is on "deep” listening and responding by building-on what has been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding together.

2.3Guidelines and Questions for Organizing Dialogue

Dialogue aims at building trust amongst the involved parties. Trust cannot be built by giving instructions. We need to create a culture that must reflect the goal of creating a setting in which individuals feel that it is safe to reveal the thinking behind their thinking. A feeling of mutual closeness is generated among the participants though they may differ widely in various things – views, line of thinking, way of doing things, the belief system and so on.
In dialogue one must be enabled to examine and cleanse one self as regards prejudices, restrictive belief systems, non productive mental models etc. She/he achieves this by listening to the spoken words of others and to self. The aim is not to arrive at a consensus or unification of ideas but to enable oneself to look at ones mental models. For such a constructive and productive outcome the following rules are observed to build the dialogue environment.

  1. Dialogue members in a group can vary; numbers can be anything around 10 to 40 so that we can hear each other without mike and speakers.

  2. Seating arrangement is circular so that everyone can see everyone else.

  3. Time duration for the dialogue meetings can be according to our convenience with all kinds of flexibility.

  4. Communication is informal and language is simple. How to talk when there is no hierarchical structure in the group?

  5. How to start a dialogue? How to stay focused? How to save a situation when safety is at risk? How to speak and avoid persuasion? How to turn ideas into habits?

  6. How to select the topic? Agenda is self chosen where there is personal concern so that there is full motivation and involvement.

  7. Who plays the role of a chairperson especially when all members are equal?

  8. Decisions and outcomes are dynamic and evolving.

2.4Art of Using Dialogue

In such an environment all the participants freely share their views and thoughts in an informal and safe setting. Following questions are seriously considered.

  1. How to control someone who is talking too much?

  2. How to use talking stick for controlled talking?

  3. How to overcome hesitation and shyness?

  4. How to cultivate the culture of care, execute symbolic conduct, and improve generative life?

  5. How to learn the art of deep listening?

  6. How to avoid looking at someone so that there is no visual conflict?

  7. How to avoid yes-but game?

  8. How to avoid anger, conflict, confrontation, pressurizing, too much advocacy, prevailing over the views of others?

  9. How to avoid external manipulation and unnecessary flattery?

  10. How to check our assumptions, mental models and buried belief systems?

  11. How to create trust amongst members?

  12. How to ensure the plans and programs of development of structural support?

  13. How to learn five disciplines - Personal Mastery, Shared Vision, Mental Models, Team Learning, & Systems Thinking through dialogue?

  14. How can Dialogue be used in al kinds of formal, nonformal, and informal learning environment?

3Holistic Learning Environment

Educational leadership should draw on the potentials of three kinds of learning for having comprehensive view of life long learning. The informal encyclopedia gives three kinds of learning:

3.1Three formats of Life Long Learning

  1. Formal learning: learning typically provided by an education or training institution, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and leading to certification.  Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.

  2. Nonformal learning: learning that is not provided by an education or training institution and typically does not lead to certification.  It is, however, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support).  Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.

  3. Informal learning: learning resulting from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure.  It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically does not lead to certification.  Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or “incidental”/ random).

3.2Using Dialogue in Life Long Learning

Dialogue is useful in many kinds of formal, nonformal, and informal settings. The head of an institution must appreciate the possibilities of using dialogue in all kinds of environment. A principal must understand innovative techniques including dialogue for Human Resource Development & Organizational Development. Likewise, a principal must understand the judicious use of dialogue in formal, nonformal, and informal systems of education for the full development of the potentials of institutions.

Firstly, let us understand the situation of a formal teaching-learning in classrooms. This kind of environment does act as a barrier for the use of dialogue. The school environment represents strictness of formalities and it consists of fixed goals, pre-determined curriculum, formal teaching-learning processes, standard procedures of evaluation, market driven certifications, business rules of private management, and dominance of state level bureaucracy. Many of these formalities do not allow the free use of dialogue for teaching, learning and even management. Some of the examples of formal environment can be: (i) face to face learning in a formal classroom, and (ii) distance mode learning and evaluation of school subjects. The principal has to negotiate the formal conditions for bringing in the much useful technique of innovation like dialogue. We must understand that it is not easy to use dialogue in a formal environment.

Secondly, let us understand the situation of a nonformal teaching-learning environment. Likewise, one can think of nonformal education like that of life-long learning and continuing learning. Dialogue can be used in the settings of life-long learning and continuing learning through the modes of conferences, seminars, lectures and discussions.
Thirdly, let us understand the situation of an informal teaching-learning environment. We know that one can learn through the informal mode. We know that brain learns through all kinds of formal, nonformal, and informal environments. In order to arrive at new kind of education, we must learn the use of dialogue in an informal environment.

4Using Dialogue in Formal Settings

Formal classroom imposes many constraints against the use of dialogue learning. Formal classroom is curriculum-based. There are boundaries of space, timings, seating arrangements, and even the nature of evaluation. Formal education is working in very tight jackets. And it is here that dialogue kind of learning is essential. How to play the game of transforming formalities into a new kind of pedagogical space? Some innovative work of dialogue is going on in the name of collaborative learning, group learning, and cooperative learning. The IBO system of education is encouraging the use of dialogue for enriching the school learning environment.
At school stage, a few experiments of using dialogue are going on. A teacher of Mumbai is using dialogue with children of Grade-2. We must appreciate that some improvement in formal education is going on in spite of the fact that formal rules and regulations create difficulties for the smooth implementation of dialogue innovation. There are other experiments that are in vogue in the world.
Apart from the use of dialogue in school environment, some other experiments are going on at the university stage. A university teaching department of education is trying out another experiment called ZLP (zero lecture program). Further, an experiment is in progress at Vanasthali in Rajasthan where dialogue is being tried out with B.Ed. students. Results of Vanasthali experiment are encouraging. Inspired by such outcomes another teacher educator of ILVA College of Education in Indore has launched a similar experiment.

4.1Steps for Organizing Teaching through Dialogue in Classrooms

There are no fixed patterns and steps for organizing dialogue in the classroom setting. The following can be the steps of using dialogue in a classroom setting. These steps are- Orientation about Dialogue, Deciding Groups, Declaring Topic and Questions, Disseminating Findings, Drawing Synthesis, Directing Reflection, and Evaluation of Learning Outcomes.

Step1 – Orientation about Dialogue – the teacher sets the stage for the Dialogue by making a quick presentation about the finer details of this approach. Clarifications, if any, are made at this stage.
Step2 – Deciding Groups – during this step all the students are divided into groups based on the number present. All the students sit comfortably close to one another in a circle, where everyone is able to see and hear peer individuals with ease.
Step3 – Declaring Topic and Questions –the groups are formed and the members are seated in their respective sub-groups. The teacher presents the dialogue questions related to the learning topic of the day on the board. Time is allotted for each question. Then dialogue proceeds in such a way that every student is active. Every student is enabled to participate. A cyclic mode may be used for ensuring equal participation. The participation is loud enough so that it can be heard but low enough so that other groups are not disturbed. The teacher acts as facilitator.
Step4 – Disseminating Findings – this step takes about 15% of the total classroom period. Each sub-group of the class presents their discussion learning to the larger consisting of other sub-groups. The learning and the findings are discussed. The students finish the task of dialogue presentation.
Step5 – Drawing Synthesis – this step takes about 20% of the total time where the groups synthesize the findings of all the questions. The learning principles are drawn. One uses of the pedagogy of constructivism to create specific knowledge.
Step6 – Directing Reflection – this Step takes about 15% of the total time and the students in their respective groups reflect on the findings and the points that have been synthesized, which emerged as a result of dialogue among group members. It also churns the minds of the students and new ideas are generated. This is the end of Stage 1 of Dialogue Mode.
Step7 – Evaluation of Learning Outcomes– this step is about the evaluation of learning outcomes. It is a crucial Step for knowing and certifying the utility of the dialogue. Formative evaluation is carried out by the peers and the teacher-educator. Formative evaluation is fearless and constructive. They apply the principle of politeness. There is neither fear nor fight. The summative evaluation is ultimate touchstone for the utility of the dialogue method. It could use various tools and techniques. One can use multiple evaluators.
The above experiments have shown the use of dialogue in formal settings of given timetable, available space settings, fixed subject allocations, and even culture of noisy environment. They found that the students are proactive. Students do self study. Students participate in their own evaluation. They also gave feedback to each other. Volunteers from each group present the synthesis. After these presentations, the participating students reflect and express their feelings. This process comes to an end after all the groups present their synthesized recommendations related to the topic of that day.

5Using Dialogue in Nonformal Settings

The dialogue can be used wherever group thinking and collective consultations are required. This kind of outcome of dialogue is useful for the nonformal settings of (i) developmental staff meetings, (ii) parents meetings for eliciting cooperation, (iii) student’s meetings for improving learning environment, and (iv) involvement of community & management, and (v) organizing conferences & holding seminars

5.1Organizing Staff & Faculty Meetings

The internal stakeholders of a school system are staff and faculty. They are professionally responsible for the development of students and eliciting the goodwill of parents. The principal should organize manifold meetings with staff and faculty. Also, the principal should organize the required number of dialogue meetings with the staff and faculty especially when a new kind of learning culture is to be created.
We tried and a principal organized dialogue for staff meetings. He received good feedback from the faculty and the staff. The environment was friendly and free from bureaucracy when he organized dialogue in one school at Indore. Same kind of feedback was received from the faculty when we used dialogue for Human Resource Development & Organizational Development. Our observation is that we need to have enough training in understanding the intricacies of this technique otherwise there is a danger of slip back.
The nonformal settings like those of holding seminars and organizing conferences are prevalent in the academic circles. We have frequently used dialogue in the faculty development programs of UGC academic staff college (ASC) in Indore. Our experiences and experiments with ASC’s are excellent. The outcomes are very rewarding and successful.

5.2Organizing Parents Meetings

The external - cum internal stakeholders of a school system are the parents. They are socially and emotionally responsible for the development of students. They need to create goodwill for the school so that the principal and faculty can work with confidence. The goodwill of parents can be an added force to design the needed programs for their wards. We need to build trust in these stakeholders. The dialogues between the internal and external partners are essential for this kind of interaction and interdependence.
The outcome will culminate into the involvement of parents in the development of students and that of faculty and the school system at large. All schools want to handle the parents in a smooth manner. Parent teacher associations are running the show on traditional lines. It is quite difficult to involve all the parents in a dialogue meeting. It is a challenge to take care of the problems of a large number of parents and learning the intricacies of dialogue by the faculty and the principal. Job is tough.

5.3Organizing Student Meetings

The direct users of a school system are the students. Apart from academic learning the students must learn new life skills. They must learn democratic skills for political governance of the society. The development of democratic skills is important and is thus gaining importance.
In fact, senior students are the real engines for the political governance of the country.

Schools must accept this new responsibility for the development of youth for creating a win-win culture particularly where the old win-lose culture is prevalent.

India has initiated a brave experiment where younger age students will be the voters of the country. Adolescents have the political rights in a country where they are the voters. Number of adolescents is very large.
This kind of development of democratic competencies is not only useful to students, but also to the development of our schools, and even to our country.

5.4Involvement of Community and Management

Schools are large systems that require the involvement of community and management. The community gives mandate and formulates broad policies for the school system. The management of the school implements the policies. There are large variations in viewpoints of such external and internal stakeholders. The educational principals have to balance the demands and the nature of educational theories. They need to consult, deliberate, and have dialogue within very challenging environments.

5.5Organizing Conferences and Holding Seminars

In the conferences, we have seen that the conventional approach of paper presentation is less productive Experience has shown us that this conventional approach is easier and also more acceptable to the organizers but it is less productive in terms of outcomes.

In conventional approach of presentation, the delegates read their papers in a stand-alone format. At the end of a presentation, some discussion is allowed. Usually, during conventional presentations, the delegates doze off. Some delegates go into their own make belief world. Sometimes the delegates leave the room. The outcomes are non-productive. We have found that sometimes, the presenter skips the remainder scheduled sessions. What can we do so that the presenter and the listeners are alert and remain present throughout?

Dialogue Approach (DA) of organizing conferences is the answer. This approach is much more effective. In DA the delegates act as presenters and also the participants at the same time and for the whole session.

5.5.1Organizing Conferences through DA

  • The dialogue creates an open, safe and informal, yet, serious environment

  • Delegates help in creating collective and meaningful patterns out of diversities of their views

  • Listening is preferred to advocacy as the primary principle of dialogue

  • The delegates act as presenters and audience too. All the participants act as chairpersons and accept the responsibility of leadership and follower-ship.

Let us look at an example of organizing a conference.

5.5.2Readiness Cycle

  • Seating arrangement is circular

  • Full papers if available are distributed by paper presenters

  • White boards can be used for visuals only if necessary

  • Participants introduce themselves by giving their own name, institutional address

  • Chairperson ( if there is one) reinforces the group attention

  • Questions, comments, and even clarifications can be entertained

5.5.3Title Cycle

  • Each delegate individually presents and explains the title of his paper

  • Group Clarification by asking questions, giving comments, and seeking similarities amongst the titles by all the delegates are sought

5.5.4Methodology Cycle

  • Each delegate in turn describes the methodology used in terms of design, sample, tools, and analysis

  • If a paper is conceptual or philosophical then the delegate describes the steps of the relevant methodology or proposed action plan

  • Group Clarification by asking questions, giving comments, and seeking similarities amongst the delegates are sought

5.5.5Findings / Outcome Cycle

  • Each delegate in turn describes the methodology and procedure used

  • Group Clarification by asking questions, giving comments, and seeking similarities amongst the delegates are sought

5.5.6Reflections Cycle / Link your Title with Theme

  • Creating subject linkers between individual presentations with that of others and finally, creating a composite whole (theme)

  • Instant and individual clarification by asking questions, giving comments, and seeking similarities amongst all findings by all delegates

  • Examining one’s own mental models by un-surfacing, analysis and reformulation of one’s views, assumptions, and belief systems

5.5.7Recommendation Cycle

  • Make group recommendations based upon the findings of all the papers

  • Make recommendations for others based upon insight and experiences of the members of the group

  • Find best points for implementation in your individual situation

  • Share with other sub-groups if any

Dialogue Approach (DA) is used in many conferences of AIAER. We used this approach in a conference where hundreds of papers were presented. Examples of other similar conferences of AIAER are Pondicherry, Tirunelveli, Patiala, Ghaziabad, Udaipur, Chennai, Surat, Chandigarh, Jorhat, Kolhapur, Vadodara and Ujjain. It is interesting to note that more the diversity of papers in a group better and better will be broadening of understanding about the theme.

There is further innovation of using dialogue in the conferences given below.

6Using Dialogue in Informal Settings

Socrates used dialogue in an informal environment. In Indore, we have used Dialogue in a social setting An informal group of adult learners have employed dialogue for purposes of life-long learning. Such meetings are randomly organized and sometimes they are weekly scheduled.

6.1Ashram Meetings and a Temple Setting

This social-setting group consists of 15+ male and female participants. The age range of this group is from 20 to 75 years. Due to varied age range we have the benefit of young as well as mature thinking patterns.

We meet every Wednesday from 5 to 7 PM in Bisarjan Ashram Indore. Right at the entry point of dialogue, we individually express our concerns / spot topics or problems. Then we choose one of the topics that get selected on the basis of interest and complexity. Some of the topics are like: ‘What is dialogue?’; ‘Are love-marriages better than arranged marriages?’; Chatting is harmful for the young minds’; ‘How do we decide whether our actions are justified’; ‘What is Pratyahar?’; and so on.
The social dialogue setting is informal. Every step and procedure gets evolved as we progress. There is no fixed procedure of interactions. Sometimes dialogue looks cyclic whereas at other times the group gets split into patchy sub-groups. Accordingly, we have fixed the last fifteen minutes for comfortable, casual talks enquiring about personal reflections if any. These relaxed meetings are interspersed with laughter, humor and often times sweets and other eatables. The dialogue meeting ends with some songs like ‘insaan ka insaan se ho bhai chara, yehi paigam hamara, yehi paigam hamara’.
We have experienced that the new comers generally speak more than the experienced participants. Slowly, people have learnt deep listening. They have realized the importance of slowness in thought. They have asked questions like: Are some changes coming in my own thinking styles? Are some changes coming in our own analysis of thoughts and our assumptions? Am I helping others to examine their thoughts? Is my habit of critical thinking developing over time?
Our experience and findings have shown that trust is built amongst the members of this group and some of them have openly started sharing their personal difficulties. Some of the members revealed that they have become more confident and self-assured in their attitude towards life and its positive outcomes. Their behavior is more assertive though polite and poised. We now look forward with reassurance and happiness for the next meetings. Similarly, we have organized dialogue in a temple setting.

6.2Using Dialogue in Family Settings

Dialogue approach can be accepted in the family settings also. Our idea of Dialogue was shared with some Indian families in Bangkok. Let us share with you all one such meeting. In one family, we were eating and enjoying the evening. It was one of those familiar dinner get-togethers. Suddenly, we agreed to know about the idea of dialogue, understand the procedure of dialogue and also feel the uses of dialogue. Before and after dinner we sat in a circle and carried on a dialogue meeting. The family members had informal discussions related to the chosen topic of happiness and success in life. The environment of dialogue was comfortable and relaxed.
During our conversation we felt that many of the ladies suffered the pain of unhappiness in spite of all the physical comforts and riches they possessed. There was no deficiency of money, servants, pleasure and ease, yet some of the participating ladies were deeply discontented and melancholic.
One of the participants narrated that she was well qualified and married of her own choice yet she did not find happiness. The participants were living a life of pretense and make-believe. The activities of kitty parties, watching television and playing cards did not solve the deep-rooted problem of absence of happiness. During the early days of their married life, parties, sight seeing, going to the beaches, gave them enjoyment and immediate gratification. Later on, they engaged in decorating their homes, rearing kids and serving relatives and guests with home made food and so on. But they shared that now those things had no meaning in their lives. They found that those activities were temporary shields. They killed time in these boring and tiresome activities. There was nothing like ‘flow’ and deep involvement.
This dialogue discussion created openness in the environment. The participants felt encouraged to learn the skills related to tasks in which they wished to engage themselves. They thought of designing activities with full awareness and challenge in the areas of their skills. After the discussion, they agreed to create new opportunities, where the newly learnt experimentation would be tried out.

Dialogue created a positive impact for the lady of the family as she told me that once again life seemed to make sense and was worth living. Later on, we heard from them that the message of this meeting was influencing their families. Changes in lifestyle about recreation had changed their personal lives. It had contributed to improve the environment of happiness in certain homes. It was a win-win situation. The above features of the ‘Dialogue Mode’ indicate that it can be successfully used in the informal family settings.

6.3Using Dialogue in a Journey

Dialogue has also been tried out with passengers during a night journey in an express train. These four passengers were unknown. They were males and became known to each other during the journey. They were from middle level trader community. The environment was informal. We were traveling in a second class ordinary sleeper. They were not having any allotted seat and hence were sitting on the floor near the toilets. I just said hello to them and they acknowledged it casually. On the floor, near the door, I sat along with them. They were surprised and did not like my intrusion. I just started asking who they were. They retorted and counter asked me who I was? I told my identity that I was a professor traveling by this coach as I could not get any other reservation in a higher class. With great effort of hesitation, doubts, and cultural gap, we could become informal. We talked about many social and even personal things. Two hours passed in the chat kind of conversation. Slowly, it took the form of dialogue. We decided about its rules. We continued for two more hours. It was very deep and intimate talking. We could make a few promises for our own future lives. At the end we parted with a very cordial environment. One of them said that in his life he has never ever felt that kind of intimacy and utility of talking.

7Using Dialogue in an Innovation of DIA_SHOPS

The story of using Dialogue approach lies in the Innovation of Dia_shops (dialogue + workshops) in an international conference of AIAER at Patiala in 2005. There were some doubts and uncertainties regarding the acceptability of this new experiment and innovation. We doubted whether our participants will be supporting the idea. Dialogue was the core methodology of our workshops. Dia_shops were proposed to be organized day-night round-the-clock in 24 hours time slot.
The innovation of Dia_shops aimed at developing Intimacy and Tenacity. Development of intimacy and tenacity are difficult but very important traits for building the societies. Intimacy brings in trust & transparency whereas, Tenacity brings in determined involvement with persistency. The Dia_shop topics were related to the theme of the main conference in particular and to life in general. They were planned as a pre-conference activity.
We dispelled these misgivings. We brought in flexibility of contents which were directly and/or indirectly related to the theme of the conference.  The topic of DIALOGUE was chosen as DEMONSTRATION in the first Dia_shop so that other workshop-organizers and delegates understood the idea. Full freedom was given to the participants to join the Dia_shops. Option was open to just walk away if the participants did not like any of the Dia_shops. But if they wished to develop their tenacity, then they were welcome from 0800 AM of first day to 0800AM of the second day.

7.1Procedure of DIA_SHOPS

Dia_shops ran over longer period and duration of time. Through longer time, we hoped to achieve the spirit of tenacity of marathon on one side and intimacy of relationship on the other.  Dia_shops followed flexible methodology thereby, creating a tripod of informal, intimate yet productive environment. Such an environment helped in creating ‘awareness of self’. Participants showed patience for artful creation through this synergistic setting.
Dia_shops continued round the clock for one full day for all 24 hours. There were 6 time-slots (0800-1200; 1200-1600; 1600-2000; 2000-2400; 2400-0400; 0400-0800). The 4 hours time slot was used for interactions. The duration of Dia_shops was 4 hours with a built in freedom to reduce and distribute the time as per need. However, the next sequential Dia_shops started at the pre-announced scheduled time. Tea/ coffee/ snacks were served without any discontinuity of Dia_shops.
Three kinds of people were involved. These were (1) Dia_shop presenters, (2) delegate participants, and (3) members of planning and support group. Each Dia_shop was managed by the individual volunteer college. Number of participants ranged from minimum of 30 and a maximum of 250 participants. The strength of the group varied according to the interest of the voluntary participants in the topic. Each Dia_shop had a separate topic selected either around the theme of the conference or around vital issues of life.

7.2Outcomes of DIA_SHOPS

The following outcomes were observed. Intimacy and tenacity could be created through this innovative environment called Dia_shops.  Circle arrangement helped to develop we-feeling and increased the level of intimacy. Listening instead of advocacy as a primary principle of dialogue could be successfully developed. The understanding of theory and practicum got integrated. Dia_shops could be organized without equipments like LCD’s. Nevertheless, some supporting material was prearranged in accordance with the topic of the Dia_shops.

On reflection, we found the claim of some people that no one would come on time was proved incorrect as the participants attended the Dia_shops with enthusiasm and interest reaching the venue much ahead of the scheduled time. The participants maintained their interest as the number increased from time to time ranging from 30 to 250 participants.

As researchers, we achieved goals of knowing and developing intimacy and tenacity. Apart from intimacy and tenacity, the participants learnt about the art of dialogue and organizing continued 24-hours workshops. We followed a win-win model of researchers, topic-presenters, participant delegates, volunteers, applied practitioners and even host organizations. It looks that by doing this kind of innovation, we moved towards our cherished goal of creating a new kind of educational research applied to the phenomenon of organizing conferences.
Flexibility-cum-efficiency was the guiding pillar for organizing these Dia_shops. This innovative arrangement of organizing conferences had gained advantages like: (i) satisfy the demand of participation in multiple workshops, (ii) develop an environment of intimacy through dialogue, (iii) increase tenacity through marathon of 24 hours during Dia_shops, and (iv) working with lesser infrastructure like one medium size room to accommodate about 30 participants who sat preferably on the floor. A few chairs were however, arranged for the ailing / old people.
Many delegates became friends in this safe-happy-informal environment. They listened to each other with closed eyes. Views were expressed to the group without personal comments. People could come in and go out of the meetings as per individual likes and interest. However, the coffee table members continued with their ongoing discussions. This kind of flexibility enhanced informality of interactions. This flexibility indicates level of one’s interest in the discussion and helps us to examine levels of our tenacity. But there is an objection about the continuity of thought in this kind of environment. Perhaps, we have to look at this continuity in terms of involvement of mind rather than presence of body. This kind of mental involvement is chosen more by self and not imposition by externalists. Networking increased due to heart to heart sharing.
How much could we gain out of such workshops? A minimum of 50 delegates formed the participating group as it was a voluntary event. Some delegates in the workshops followed opt-in or opt-out approach. Depending upon the topic, the number of presenters in each slotted event varied. The participation of delegates and quality of involvement depended on many factors including body fatigue and mental curiosity of the delegates. The organizers created an informal environment like coffee bars, and village Choupals. It is understood that the more a delegate involves herself / himself in this event and the more s/he contributes the more will s/he gain. One will reap as one will sow.
From the experiments and explanations of formal, nonformal, and informal settings we learn that dialogue is widely applicable and it is useful. Also, it is felt that dialogue creates new kind of learning environment where the brain is active.

8Brain Based Learning (BBL)

Brain based learning is a rather new learning approach that capitalizes on the natural abilities of the brain. We want to talk about learning that is full of life and curiosity. Learning must drive the learners to absorb everything that a learner encounters. New research has found many interesting discoveries on the brain based learning approach for teachers of early childhood as well as older students. Brain has unlimited capacities. Brain is always ready to learn through formal, nonformal and informal manner. The formal environment of teaching does not go well with the habits of mind. The suitable environment of informal education also may not be fully suitable to the development of mind. A nice combination of non-formal environment coupled with spot selection of formal and informal settings could be tried out. The school principals who are trained in the use of dialogue and have faith in all the three systems should try out the experiment.
School authorities should use a variety of ways to organize education. Teachers must immerse learners in complex, interactive experiences that are both rich and real. Students must be encouraged to have a personally meaningful challenge. Such challenges stimulate a student's mind to the desired state of alertness. Schools should help students to engage in active processing of experience. In order for a student to gain insight about a problem, there must be intensive analysis of the different ways to approach it, and about learning in general. Students must be provided with feedback which is best when it comes from reality. Let learners learn in a laughing environment. Every student should be allowed to customize their own environments.
Dialogue is one way that satisfies many of the following principles of brain learning.

  1. Brain is a parallel processor

  2. Learning engages the whole physiology

  3. Search for meaning is innate

  4. Search for meaning is through patterning

  5. Emotions are critical for patterning

  6. Parts and wholes are processed simultaneously by the brain

  7. Learning involves focused attention and peripheral perception

  8. Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes

  9. We have two types of memory: spatial and rote

  10. We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory

  11. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat

  12. Each brain is unique


Institutional leaders need to view a learning school as an (i) educational perspective of formal-nonformal-informal systems; (ii) learning as brain-based, (iii) art of dialogue for group treatment.

  • Dialogue is skillful exchange or interaction between people that develop shared understanding as the basis for building trust, fostering a sense of ownership, facilitating genuine agreement, and enabling creative problem solving. We have to be careful that dialogue is not turned into a gossip

  • Dialogue should be used by all stakeholders of education in a variety of settings like partners of formal, nonformal, and informal systems. The formal system will include school systems and colleges. The nonformal system may include seminars and conferences. The informal system will include family settings, recreation groups, traveling groups

  • Regarding topics of dialogue, one can use subject-topics and/or informal interdisciplinary contents from life problems

  • The outcome of dialogue can be both cognitive development and the development of affective domains. When action is followed by do-able projects, then psychomotor domain too is covered

  • Teacher education must introduce the use of dialogue. In order to implement dialogue in teacher education institutions we need to develop a format of lesson plans and observation tools and give it a judicious place within the section of practice teaching

  • Use of dialogue needs flexibility and patience in the users and trainers


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  • Dr. B.K.Passi

Dr. BK Passi has 40 years of experience in research, training and consultancy in government-institutions, UNESCO, UNDP, OECD, International Universities, and corporate bodies. Prof. Passi has been Rector of University, and then Vice-chairman of NCTE India. He has worked as UNESCO CHAIR of distance teacher education, and Consultant in APEID Bangkok. Now, he is Consultant to IITE, Moscow.

Professor Passi has received the recognition for the Life Time Achievement Award in Teacher Education, Best-Social-Scientist Award, World Award of Education - citations for Illustrious Scientific Career and Valuable Work for the Benefit of Mankind - World Council, and the Fulbright Scholar. He has been a creator of innovations, founder of institutions and implementer of programs. His original contributions have won him the nick-name “Father of Microteaching”. He has authored many books and Passi Creativity Tests. He has researched in Futures Studies, Models of Teaching, Research Surveys, Distance Education, ICT, and Learning Organizations. He is the President of All India Association for Educational Research. He worked as an expert for Thinking Skills and technology in Asia, Europe, and America. He is the member of the Governing Board of dozens of institutions, organizations, and associations.

  • Dr. (Ms.) S. Passi

Dr. (Ms.) Subhashini Passi works as an Expert in Creative and Critical Thinking. She is an erudite scholar, an accomplished dramatist, a charismatic speaker, and an experienced management consultant in behavioral sciences. Having provided wide consultancy to diverse organizations for nearly three decades she has attained international excellence. Her selflessness and spontaneous outpouring of concern has brought appreciation. As the Director of the Institute of Creative Thinking, she has displayed dedication and leadership in organizing more than 600+ programs in various fields in many countries. Dr. (Ms.) Subhashini Passi helps many other institutions in different capacities. Apart from this, she is a Reiki master, yoga practitioner and a meditator. She was educated in Allahabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Athens-USA.

1 Prof. B.K.Passi

exUNESCO Chair

139 Indrapuri Colony, Indore, INDIA 452 001

Phone +917312477580 Mobile +919893280007

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