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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #147

When we sit in a circle we offer a powerful symbol that we are united and equal participants. Where i
The Dialogic Learning Weekly
The Dialogic Learning Weekly #147
By Tom Barrett • Issue #147 • View online
When we sit in a circle we offer a powerful symbol that we are united and equal participants. Where it is practical, I try and start my workshops this way. I did this yesterday with teachers in a school in Sydney. After committing to some protocols, a few provocations encouraged a dialogue about teaching and learning.
In this issue I share what I am learning as I attempt to deepen, extend and abstract my experiences of dialogue. Recently I have been learning some of the indigenous origins of dialogue and how it is used within different cultures. I hope you enjoy the ideas and they get you talking.

Dadirri - Yarning Circles
“We cannot hurry the river.”
The oral language tradition of the Yarning Circle has been used by Australian Indigenous communities for thousands of years. They are used to discuss issues in a way that is inclusive, safe, and collaborative.
Yarning circles are sometimes called Dadirri which is the practice of inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. I often speak about active presenteeism, but I may begin to incorporate speaking of Dadirri in my work.
“In our Aboriginal way, we learnt to listen from our earliest days. We could not live good and useful lives unless we listened. This was the normal way for us to learn – not by asking questions. We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting.” ~ Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann.
I taught through the ‘circle time’ years in the UK but only now do I see the rich tradition of this practice. It is not just about taking turns to talk and share, but also to stop, slow down, listen and contemplate.
In addition to the link below you may also enjoy Yarning Circles in the Literacy Classroom. It provides some great examples of using dialogue to instigate and develop writing.
Implementing yarning circles in your classroom
No Language
A starting point within a Yarning Circle can be to draw and communicate without language. Participants draw ideas in the dirt or sand, to help plan and share their thinking. People have been making their thinking visible for thousands of years.
“This ‘no language’ method originated from watching elders. Very few questions are asked; the primary method of learning is through observation.”
These ideas resonated strongly with me this week. It is a powerful provocation for us to consider when we are designing learning. How might we learn these concepts without language?
In the last fortnight, I have worked alongside teachers to critique and design assessment and learning experiences. At one school we noticed that written language was getting in the way of children expressing their geographical and scientific understanding? At another, a worded maths problem created barriers to students sharing their understanding of division.
For many students the 'no language’ method may provide an accessible way in for them. It may also help us refine how children show what they have learned.
The no language method
Healing Circles
Native American spirituality is circular in nature
Dialogue within a circle is also used in restorative, reconciliatory and healing processes. In North America, they are widely used among the First Nations people of Canada and among the many tribes of Native Americans in the US.
“Healing circles are often called hocokah in the Lakota language (Teton Sioux), which means a sacred circle and is also the word for altar. The hocokah consists of people who sit together in a talking circle, in prayer, in ceremony, and are committed to helping one another and to each other’s healing.” ~ Lewis Mehl-Madrona
In New Zealand the youth justice system incorporates a similar restorative healing circle that follows Māori cultural processes. The Rangatahi Courts, Ngā Kōti Rangatahi, is held on a marae (traditional tribal meeting place) to better engage rangatahi (young people) and their whānau, hapū and iwi (family, sub-tribe, tribe) in the justice process.
Rangatahi Courts, Ngā Kōti Rangatahi
Thanks for being here with me this week. Take a moment to reflect and consider what resonated the most with you. (We would have been better off in a circle, in dialogue.)
If there is anyone interested in these original cultural dialogic practices in education I would be delighted to hear from you. I have so much more still to learn.
See you next week.
~ Tom 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Tom Barrett

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