Fostering learning through dialogue (Part 1)

This year my SPELTAC inquiry is to create and deepen more structured oral language strategies to engage all learners in an equitable classroom.

We got feedback on our goals and one of the questions that arose often was: does the use of oral language have to be equitable?

I don’t know the answer to this but I’m starting to read up on the power of oral language in learning.  My bias is to say ‘yes’ as without my thoughtful conversations with my colleagues, I’m not sure I would have gravitated towards this inquiry.   And, upon some pre-reflection, this inquiry is necessary – my bag of teaching tools is relatively empty!

Acquiring knowledge is not a linear process.  However, sometimes the flow of information often travels in that direction:  From source to recipient.  If we are to deepen our understanding, we need to expose ourselves to multiple points of view.  This involves reflecting, asking questions, and acquiring more information from a variety of sources.  And repeat.

Senge and Brohm argue that dialogue is an important tool for doing so.  Keeping in mind that dialogue is different from discussion where participants explore issues and share multiple perspectives ultimately coming to a shared understanding of the issue itself.

Image source:

So, what better topic to engage in dialogue than climate change?  We need to acknowledge the worldviews that surround this topic and we need to evaluate them by asking the right questions and engaging deeply in the scientific evidence while being respectful of social systems.

In my first lesson, I presented students with statements made by individuals about climate change.  A favourite:

Image source:

I started the discussion off by utilizing the QFocus strategy from the orientation course. Small group were assign claims and worked on step 2 – developing question using ground rules.  Groups then switched claims and questions and the process continued.

After this process, students chose a claim that they were most interested in.  They then worked on steps 3 & 4 of the QFocus strategy – refining and prioritizing their questions.


Using their questions as a guide, student then navigated the evidence to support or refute their claims.  Here, I provided some excellent websites such as NASA and the NOAA for them to do some fact checking.  In this step students will have an opportunity to develop their own understanding about the issues and reflect.

Next lesson, students developed a shared understanding of what we know about climate change using a technique called the Spiderweb Discussion.  I have tried this strategy with two very different groups of students and so I will share the process and my reflections in a separate blog post.

Rekindling passion through my Twitter feed

Six months ago I was the biggest Twitter skeptic.  Six months ago I was also an overwhelmed environmentalist who felt that bringing about change in Cambodia was nigh impossible.

I always assumed that Twitter would be another internet time-waster for me where I would be subjected to a plethora of inane information.  It wasn’t until I started to see how my partner @matthewdolmont used Twitter as a tool to connect with tech coaches around the world that I began to change my mind.  His Twitter feed was a source of inspiration for lessons and he was able to share his own resources with the world.

He encouraged me to start my own Twitter account and he gave me some solid advice:

  1. It’s not Facebook.  Do not feel the need to follow friends or family.
  2. Use Twitter as a tool for professional learning.  Follow the people you respect in this field.  Then follow the people they’re following.
  3. Find your “niche” and follow the people who fit in that niche.
  4. Unfollow people if they are not contributing to your professional learning.
  5. Don’t spend hours on Twitter.  Check it once in a while for a few minutes whenever you feel like it.

Within an hour I was following a vast network of environmental educators.  The next day I participated in my very first #EnviroEd chat with strangers from around the world.  Within a month, I was sharing resources with some of these people and bouncing ideas of how we could improve student learning.

I was hooked.  I no longer felt so isolated.  I now had a support network of people from around the world who shared the same worldviews as me.  My fire, my passion for environmental education, was relit.   It has translated into the work that I do at this school.  I’m now more motivated than ever to put in the hard work to bring about change in this community.

I’ve expanded the network of people I follow to include colleagues, IB educators, experts in the field, and so on.  How cool is it to connect with people who are as passionate as you about teaching and learning and to have a digital window into their classrooms?  It’s inspiring!

So, I hope you will take the plunge – trust me, you won’t regret it!


Hello world!

Welcome to SPELTAC, a community of international educators building resources and understanding about language in learning. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging using the SPELTAC approach!