“Public dialogues have deep historical roots across the world."
Photo: David Troyer, for the University of Calgary
Science in Society. Professional Communication and Interviewing. These course topics might not encourage immediate comparison, but three instructors who teach the courses in the Taylor Institute’s dynamic, adaptable forum — one of the building's three flexible learning spaces — find common ground in the value and importance of dialogue. In fact, these instructors argue that the forum comes to represent the content of the courses, manifesting the very act of learning through engagement.
Gwendolyn Blue, associate professor in the Department of Geography, emphasizes the crucial nature of respectful and critical conversation in learning about science in society. Critical exchanges help students work through challenging concepts and contentious topics that are part of everyday public dialogues.
“The course is grounded in dialogue and deliberation. We start with some ground rules, and those ground rules are that everybody speaks while appreciating that there are others in the room who may not hold similar assumptions and values,” she says. “We also are very conscious of some basics from rhetoric, such as no ad hominem attacks — criticize the argument, not the person. And so we keep our focus always on the argument. We’re also bound, because it’s about dialogue and deliberation, to consider all views on a topic, no matter how uncomfortable they might make us.”
Co-teaching a course called Professional Communication and Interviewing in the forum, social work instructors Sally St. George and Les Jerome believe that students benefit from watching instructors work together respectfully and thoughtfully. Watching collaborative teaching in action leads to effective collaborative learning.
Jerome reflects, “I think that students can clearly see that Sally and I both hugely respect each other, and I think that’s important for them to see.”
“We can’t predict everything that’s going to happen in the classroom,” St. George adds. “We can be quite well-planned, but we can’t predict, and so we also have to demonstrate that spontaneity. That’s so important; the students have to see us doing that.”
Learning by exchanging ideas
Both courses’ instructors appreciate the forum’s technological capacities, but more strongly emphasize the possibilities for engagement offered by the room’s most basic attributes: movable chairs and round tables...
Learning through dialogue
Both classes use the Taylor Institute forum’s movable round tables and chairs to incorporate regular group discussion and active learning. This method gives students the opportunity to engage in the kinds of collaborative processes that cut across disciplines. It’s all about having the space required for meaningful, learner-directed conversation...
The Taylor Institute invites instructors teaching university-level courses to submit applications to teach in TI learning spaces.
Visit our Learning Spaces webpage to find out more information and to submit your application.
Source: UCalgary News