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The "Dialogical Method" and Children

sdane's picture

The discussion between Shor and Freire on dialogical education continually brought up questions still lingering from our partnered discussions in class yesterday about Cook-Sather’s article.  I am very interested in both how student voice can lead to participatory learning and how the classroom can become a setting for egalitarian dialogue.  However, in reading both articles my initial reaction was to think about how these ideas can be applied to early childhood education, which might make their implementation less straightforward.  Freire explains that “dialogue is a challenge to existing domination,” implying that the power imbalance between student and teacher can be broken down through dialogue-education.   He acknowledges that at all levels of learning there is an intellectual boundary between student and teacher, but doesn’t delve into the very real power imbalance that exists between very young children and adults.  Presumably teachers can still “relearn” material from five or six year old students, and dialogue is possible in primary school classrooms, but can young students truly have a voice in their education?  As much as I think that these concepts are important for all levels of education, I am having a hard time reconciling them with the incredibly imbalanced relationship between children and adults.  In many ways this power imbalance is inevitable, so how can real dialogue and participation exist within an inherently unequal framework?



Anne Breen's picture

Using the skilled teacher's Pause

An experienced former pre school teacher myself, it usually helps to slow down the verbal and physical communication process for young children because of their stage of brain development so they can have more time to think and mentally formulate their answer before they are required to respond. Its called the teacher pause, patient teachers can wait longer for answers and are more willing to accept and appreciate original and free thinking answers and new questions from their students. Sometimes parents and some teachers are too quick to demand a response from a young child, especially if they will only accept one single answer as the correct answer. Most early childhood education is given in the home and delivered by parents very concerned about child safety issues. One result can become the "terrible twos' syndrome of some toddlers who need more real life experience before they learn to trust what most adults tell them. Other toddlers can become overly shy or afraid to give a wrong answer depending on the methods of disciplne and punishment that are used by other adults in their young life. Some young children quickly learn to never question the absolute authority of their parents and other adults, most healthy children are constantly testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior and words in different environments with different adult and authority figures.

Reminds me of JOKE i just saw in my CHURCH BULLETIN, After morning communion a young child was looking at a long list of names mounted on the wall in the hall and after the church service he asked his minister who they were. The priest told him they were the names of those who had died in our service. The young child immediately asked him fearfully. Which service? 9 am or 11 am?

How did the adult react to this question and this child? Did he just laugh at the child, or did he patiently pause to explain that he meant to say in honor of those who have died in our military service? Earlier this same adult may have decided to object to a draft for military service, since not everyone believes they should have to die for their country. Especially if a draft dodger is not appreciated for following his own understanding of God's plan and going into the priesthood.
Neurolinguistics is the study of our language. Words and their meanings can produce different automatic emotional reactions in our brain wiring depending on our unique individual background and we are "creatures of habit" who can learn to live with whatever we get used to doing or seeing or hearing. Church services are one place where very young children, especially curious or loud ones, may often learn fear or revolt instead of faith and trust in silence because of various parental methods used to enforce their absolute silence at the time. Inquiring minds and curious young children usually want to know more from adults in their life unless or until they learn that most adults do not always answered fairly and honestly or respond without punishment or sarcasm.