Dialogic 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:
  • 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
  • Learning Conversation (Conversational Learning) (various, 2000s) – a phrase that has different nuances in different discourses communities and/or when applied to different age groups, but that is almost always roughly synonymous with Dialogic Learning
  • Reciprocal Teaching – 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.


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.


  • Dialogism (Dialogic; Dialogue)
  • Learning Conversation (Conversational Learning)
  • Reciprocal Teaching

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Dialogic Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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