Dialogic Learning


Dialogical Learning


Learning that happens within and through dialogue

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … consensual interpretation
  • Knowing is … coordinated action
  • Learner is … an interlocuter
  • Learning is … co-construing
  • Teaching is … facilitating (dialogue)




Dialogic Learning encompasses a range of discourses concerned with the learning that happens within and through dialogue. Interpreted in various ways, the notion has been applied within a number of Activist Discourses (where the focus is typically egalitarian action), among researchers (where the focus is typically dispositions associated with collaborative inquiry), among some Personal Agency Discourses (where the focus is typically social dimensions of identity and thought), and within most curriculum areas (where the foci are typically the same as those within Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings and Discourses on Learning Collectives). As might be expected, then, Dialogic Learning has many subdiscourses – many of which are included in the clusters identified in the previous sentence. Others include:
  • Accountable Talk (Lauren Resnick, 2000s) – any discussion that contributes to learning through being true to the knowledge domain, committed to rigorous thinking, and being respectful to others in the learning community
  • Convergent Conceptual Change (Collaborative Conceptual Change) (Jeremy Roschelle, 1990s) – a pragmatic discourse concerned with social learning that results in conceptual change – that is, with the creation of shared knowledge by, e.g., building on one another’s ideas and helping to repair one another’s gaps in understanding
  • Crosstalk (Cross-Talk) – a conversation between two people, each of whom speaks a different language. Crosstalk has been developed as an effective strategy for language learning, by which two fluent speakers of different languages engage with one another. As well, the notion has been extended metaphorically to other domains of learning (e.g., in mathematics, where the familiar terms and symbols can take on very different meanings from everyday usage).
  • Dialectic (Dialectical Learning; Dialectical Method; Minor Logic) – most often, a discussion involving people who hold different perspectives and who are committed to using agreed strategies of reasoned argumentation to come to the truth. In some usages, Dialectic (and especially Dialectical Learning) refers to the critical analysis of new concepts through explicit associations to previously established concepts).
  • Dialogism (Dialogic; Dialogue) (Mikhail Bakhtin, 1930s) – as taken up in education, a rejection of a sum-of-its-parts view of human interaction in favor of a view of dialogue as co-emergent possibility – as participants present, interrogate, and integrate one another’s thinking
  • Exploratory Talk (Neil Mercer, 2000s) – a form of interaction that involves genuine engagement with others’ thinking – through, e.g., Active Listening (see Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings), Open Questions (see Questions), and a general willingness to let the conversation flow. It is contrasted with squabbling “Disputational Talk” and transmissive “Cumulative Talk.”
  • Group Cognition – any manner of group expression that can be interpreted as an act of cognition – that is, an instance that can be seen as an instance of coherent thinking. The expression can be as simple as a statement of social accord in a small group or as complex as a collectively generated website by a global community.
  • Hermeneutic Pedagogy (Peter Sotirou, 1990s) – oriented by Hermeneutics (see the Phenomenology entry), a mode of engagement that locates teaching and learning in the space of conversation focused on a text (i.e., a cultural artifact to be interpreted), where learning is understood as an inevitable transformation through the engagement. Hermeneutic Pedagogy sees learners as members of a Discourse Community (see Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses), rejecting the popular belief that knowledge begins with the self.
  • Internally Persuasive Discourse (IPD)  (Mikhail Bakhtin, 1980s) – contrasted with “authoritarian discourse,” an involvement in dialogue that resonates with one’s current sense-making while being open to potential needs to elaborate or otherwise revise that sense-making
  • Learning Conversation (Conversational Learning; Learning-By-Talking; Learning Through Conversation) (various, 2000s) – phrases that have different nuances in different discourses communities and/or when applied to different age groups, but that are almost always roughly synonymous with Dialogic Learning
  • Reciprocal Teaching (Ann Brown, 1980s) – focused on promoting learners’ reading comprehension, Reciprocal Teaching is a reading technique that is conceived as a dialogue between teacher and students in which all participants take turns being the teacher.
  • Transcendental Learning (Mihnea Moldoveanu, 2020s) – a type of Dialogic Learning that foregrounds collaboration, Interdisciplinarity (see Epistemology), and Multimodality (see Unaffiliated Discourses)


While Dialogic Learning has a relatively brief history, some argue that the concept dates back thousands of years (compare, e.g., Socratic Method) and others note that the underlying principles are common to many pre-modern cultures and non-western societies. Those points, considered alongside the wide diversity of interpretations and applications in the current edusphere, prompt the suspicion that the construct, while clearly useful to many, is not precise enough to be of much value to those pursuing impactful educational change.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

Most versions of Dialogic Learning tap into the social and cultural dimensions of individual learning, but none further develop the associated principles of learning. As such, we are aware of no versions of Dialogic Learning that be properly described as a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

A common theme across interpretations of Dialogic Learning is an intention to affect learner actions and interpretations. Consequently, most versions are appropriately described as theories of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Because the phrase is interpreted in so many different ways and applied across such a variety of context, Dialogic Learning cannot be described as a scientific discourse.


  • Accountable Talk
  • Convergent Conceptual Change (Collaborative Conceptual Change)
  • Crosstalk (Cross-Talk)
  • Dialectic (Dialectical Learning; Dialectical Method; Minor Logic)
  • Dialogism (Dialogic; Dialogue)
  • Exploratory Talk
  • Group Cognition
  • Hermeneutic Pedagogy
  • Internally Persuasive Discourse (IPD)
  • Learning Conversation (Conversational Learning; Learning-By-Talking; Learning Through Conversation)
  • Reciprocal Teaching
  • Transcendental Learning

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2024). “Dialogic Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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