Negotiating dialogic pedagogy in higher education: Cogenerating socially just practices in a teacher education course

Year: 2019

Author: Heck, Deborah, Willis, Linda-Dianne, Grimmett, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Pre-service teachers in their first year of study are making the transition from school to university and from student to teacher. Our challenge as teacher educators was to disrupt their view of what it means to be both teacher and student, as our contribution to the development of socially just pedagogies. In a first year English curriculum course, the task was to unsettle traditional monologic discourses that support recitation and recall and increase the dialogic discourses focussed on purposeful discussion and reasoning. Alexander (2018) suggests that while our pedagogy might draw on the breadth of teacher and student talk in the context of the classroom, the principles of dialogic teaching are underpinned by notions of collectivity, reciprocity and supportiveness that impact on student engagement and achievement. Our previous work explored the value of cogenerative dialoguing in progressing our own academic agency (Heck, Grimmett, & Willis, 2019). Hence, this project sought to examine the question of how human agency is expressed by both academics and students as they negotiated the processes of dialogic pedagogy. The work is premised on the notion that agency operates differently as social engagement and is embedded temporally in different contexts (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998). The research problem required the creation of spaces to authentically engage with students using dialogic pedagogy in a higher education context that demands large group lectures and tutorials. Data were generated during one semester of the course from students and academic staff involved as course participants and others involved in developing the course. The pilot study drew on design-based research to guide the generation of data including, staff and student reflections on dialogic teaching at 10 points during the semester, teaching materials, academic teaching journals, and interviews with teaching staff, preservice teachers, students and critical friends. A thematic analysis was undertaken to identify the key aspects involved in the processes of negotiating dialogic pedagogy, and the research explored how these themes connected with Alexander’s notions of collectivity, reciprocity and supportiveness, and Emirbayer and Mische’s (1998) notion of agency. The knowledge contributes to the teaching and research practices of teacher educators by cogenerating sustainable ways of engaging in socially just pedagogical practices in higher education.