Category Archives: Dialogic Theory

Dialogic Reading Group 4, December 11th at 11-12 in BC116: “Science Teaching as a Dialogue – Bakhtin, Vygotsky and some Applications in the Classroom”

The next reading group on dialogic theory focuses on the article titled “Science Teaching as a Dialogue – Bakhtin, Vygotsky and some Applications in the Classroom”. Below is the full citation and the abstract.

Kubli, F. (2005). Science Teaching as a Dialogue – Bakhtin, Vygotsky and some Applications in the Classroom. Science & Education, 14, 501-534.

Science Teaching as a Dialogue – Bakhtin, Vygotsky and some Applications in the Classroom


Abstract. The theory of dialogism, developed by the Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895– 1975) with regard to literature and everyday communication, can be used to improve the teaching of science. Some of Bakhtin’s conceptual instruments are helpful in analysing the teaching process, and it is interesting to compare them with former ideas about teaching and learning, especially with the points of view of other constructivists. Together with Lev Vy- gotsky’s analysis of thought and language, Bakhtin’s dialogism shows how teachers can support students effectively by addressing them as producers of a meaningful picture of the world. The differences between ‘dialogic’ teaching and the well-known ‘Socratic’ method are shown and analysed, as are Bakhtin’s discussions of a ‘carnivalistic’ approach to the students.

Dialogic Reading Group 3, November 19th at 2pm in BC212: ‘Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences’ by Bakhtin

Meeting time and place: 19th November, 2pm, BC212

The next reading group on dialogic theory focuses on the book chapter titled ‘Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences’ in Bakhtin, M.M. (1985). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series).

This text is on the web in various translations

Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences

Understanding. The dismemberment of understanding into individual acts. In actual, real concrete understanding these acts merge insepa­rably into a unified process, but each individual act has its ideal se­mantic (content-filled) independence and can be singled out from the concrete empirical act. 1. Psychophysioiogically perceiving a physical sign (word, color, spatial form). 2. Recognizing it (as familiar or un­ familiar). 3. Understanding its significance in the given context (immedi­ate and more remote). 4. Active-dialogic understanding (disagreement! agreement). Inclusion in the dialogic context. The evaluative aspect of understanding and the degree of its depth and universality.

Dialogic Reading Group 2, 01/11/13: ‘On the Dialogical Basis of Meaning: Inquiries Into Ragnar Rommetveit’s Writings on Language, Thought, and Communication, Mind, Culture, and Activity’

Meeting is on Nov 1st, 2013, 14:00-15:00, BC 116

Suggested reading for the next reading group on dialogic theory is: Bente Eriksen Hagtvet & Astri Heen Wold (2003) On the Dialogical Basis of Meaning: Inquiries Into Ragnar Rommetveit’s Writings on Language, Thought, and Communication, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 10:3, 186-204, DOI: 10.1207/ s15327884mca1003_2

On the Dialogical Basis of Meaning: Inquiries Into Ragnar Rommetveit’s Writings on Language, Thought, and Communication, Mind, Culture, and Activity


Given the complexity of cognitive and language development, and given that most scholars con- sider humans to be products of biological–individual and sociocultural forces, the tendency to study language and cognition as either primarily a sociocultural or primarily a biological–psycho- logical phenomenon is striking. This tendency to compartmentalize research is not unique to the study of language and cognition. Rather, academic systems tend to organize their activities in dichotomies—for example, natural scientific versus humanistic research paradigms, quantitative versus qualitative research, modern versus postmodern conceptualizations. A position may in rare cases reflect theoretically based convictions, but more typically there “seem to be few bases other than personal preference or disciplinary affiliation for making a selection among the alternatives” (Wertsch, 1995, p. 58). In fact, both ethical and scientific considerations make dichotomies inadequate for dealing with multifaceted, complex reality.

Ragnar Rommetveit represents an alternative to research approaches that enhance the segmentation of insights into language, thought, and communication, rather than their integration. The aim of this article is to explore some crucial dimensions of Rommetveit’s thought in order to demonstrate their relevance and importance to scientific disciplines, in particular to the study of language and communication in psychology and education.

In his research writings and academic life as an adviser and lecturer, Rommetveit has advocated an open position toward methodological issues as well as toward theoretical paradigms and scientific traditions. For example, he used experimental methodology in studies of reading under conditions of binocular rivalry (Rommetveit & Blakar, 1973) and used humanistically oriented discourse analysis in examining the opening dialogue between Nora and Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (Rommetveit, 1991a). Thus, experimental and humanistic methods are viewed not as being in opposition but as being complementary tools representing different perspectives on mental activities and human interaction.

Dialogic Reading Group 1 20/09/13 ‘What is Dialogism’ Per Linell

Per Linell (2003) What is Dialogism

This reading is on the web in various places so try typing it into google to find it.

Really we wanted to look at Linell’s book ‘Rethinking Language, Mind and World Dialogically’ but a book is a bit long for a reading group and this free text has the key concepts. For the first meeting of the group we wanted to establish the core concepts of ‘dialogism’ or ‘dialogic theory’ as relevant to education and Linell is a good start. Here is the opening text to give an idea:


What is dialogism? Aspects and elements of a dialogical approach to language, communication and cognition

The purpose of this text is to summarise in a concise manner some aspects and elements of a ”dialogical” or ”dialogist” approach to language, communication and cognition.

1. A first approximation: Dialogism is not one coherent school, or theory, not even anything that “dialogists” of different extractions would agree upon. Nevertheless, I shall treat it here as a fairly coherent theoretical framework. Only towards the end, in sections 11 and 12, shall I dwell upon some of its internal controversies, dilemmas and challenges.

”Dialogism” is a name for a bundle, or combination, of theoretical and epistemological assumptions about human action, communication and cognition. There are different opinions about exactly which these assumptions should be, but I would go for the following abstract points (§ 1.1-3, but see also § 1.4 and below).

1.1. Interactionism: Communication and cognition always involves interaction with others (other persons, other systems, other dimensions of one´s self etc). Such interactions involve interdependencies that cannot be reduced to outer cause-effect relations. The basic constituents of discourse are interactions (exchanges, inter-acts), rather than speech acts or utterances by autonomous speakers (authors, communicators). (Cf. § 4 below, on the role of the other; co-authorship of situated meaning.)

1.2. Contextualism: Situated discourse is interdependent with contexts. One cannot make sense of discourse outside of its relevant contexts, and, at the same time, these contexts would not be what they are in the absence of the (particular) discourse that takes place within them. Contexts include co-texts (also with non-verbal aspects), situations, activity types, interlocutors´ interactional biographies and cultural knowledge (the latter including language, encyclopedia, discourses on a Foucaultian sense).

1.3. Communicative constructionism: The meaning of discourse and texts is (partly) accomplished in and through active sense-making of the linguistic and communicative processes themselves (dialogos ”in and through words”); communication is not a transfer of ready-made thoughts. Knowledge is largely communicatively constructed, in the sociohistorical genesis of knowledge, language, communicative genres (routines) etc.


New reading group and first paper

We have started a reading group around the topic of ‘Dialogic Theory in Education’ and will be reporting on, and continuing the discussions we have around selected papers here on this blog.

In our first reading group meeting, we will be discussing Per Linell’s paper called “What is dialogism?” The reading group will be meeting on Friday 20/10/2013, 1 to 2 in BC116 (Rupert’s office). A summary of the discussion and points raised will be posted here on this blog, for others to join in with the discussion.