The Art of Conversation

A slightly dour team leader I once knew had this quotation pinned on his wall: “There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.” It used to depress me, but let’s face it – how often are we guilty of just waiting to spout our next line, barely listening to what our friends or colleagues are saying?

The word ‘conversation’ is cropping up a lot in professional learning right now ...

Pose the question:
The team from Stonefields wanted to start their brand new school with a strong, learner-centred vision. They had a conversation with the staff around "What is learning?" Seems like a simple question but it can throw up some interesting ideas and paradigms. How about trying it with your team?

Fixity to Possibility:
Joan Dalton, in her Learning Talk series, says meaningful professional learning conversations can lead us out of ‘the world of fixity’ into ‘the world of possibility’. I love her phrase ‘the tyranny of but’: how often do we say, “That’s a great idea, but ...”, thus negating our colleague’s thought right away! She offers some great practical language and strategies for developing your team’s capability for purposeful conversation. We’re delighted to welcome Joan to NZ in early June 2012 to help your team share powerful professional conversations that improve and transform learning. Joan says, "Conversation is your core technology for improving and transforming learning."

Tony Ryan recently talked with us via webinar about engaging students in higher order thinking. To increase the intellectual rigour of your lessons, he emphasises the importance of ‘self-talk’, where students are encouraged to have an inner conversation with themselves around their thinking processes. In this handout from Tony’s blog he explains how to go about raising students’ awareness of self-talk.

Talk around the world:
The “death of distance” is used by Lee Crockett and his 21st Century Fluency Project team to describe the new digital landscape that enables conversation across borders over the web. Are your students having conversations on Skype with kids around the world, sharing their languages, history and ideas?

Pick it up:
It’s easy to hide behind email communication but a couple of my colleagues have inspired me to get back on the phone. That quick call not only cuts out umpteen emails ping-ponging back and forth, but it’s also likely to raise a chuckle and build your relationship.

Happy talking!