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  • Writer's pictureMiao Zhi

What is the "dialogical method" of teaching? Ira Shor and Paulo Freire

What is the "dialogical method" of teaching is an optional reading for class. I would like to share my notes when I read the article as my third and last post.

Ira Shor is a professor who teaches composition and rhetoric at the College of Staten Island, New York.

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian philosopher and educator.

Togethor they wrote A Pedagogy for Liberation.

My notes:

- “The more elite the student, the more likely that he or she will have a personalized, discussion contact with the professor or the teacher.” (p. 12).

I resonated with this idea, and it made me think about my previous educational experience. When I was in my high school (a public school), around 45 students and one teacher (no teaching assistant) were in my classroom. The educational style of my classroom was that one teacher delivered the knowledge to all the students, and the only one teacher did not have time and energy to have “dialogue” with every student. I believe that the possibility of applying dialogical education is affected by the size of the classroom, which is also related to social class. More elite, fewer students in one classroom. Without experiencing dialogical education in my past learning, it is a challenge to attend my current seminars. Although “dialogue does not have a goal or requirement that all people in the class must say something even if they have nothing to say, (p. 16)” I am always worried about if I do not say anything, I am not valued in the classroom (I am not participating the dialogical classroom). Sometimes, teachers take the responsibility to encourage students to dialogue. A practical question will be “how can teachers help students who are not used to the dialogical classroom to participate,” because of the tension “between the students’ prior experiences of authoritarian education and the new liberatory class which proposes dialogue and self-discipline.” (p.18)

-Before I read the article, I also misunderstood that dialogue is a technique to improve the quality of the classroom, and the goal of the classroom is that teachers have more dialogues with students. However, “dialogue is part of our historical progress in becoming human beings, and dialogue is a moment where humans meet to reflect on their reality as they make and remake it.” (p. 13). Dialogue has a close relationship with humanity, and it cannot happen within any dominant relationship due to the root of true reflection and transformation. Through dialogue or communication, teachers and students reflect on what they know and do not know and then transfer the knowledge critically. Teachers do not own the knowledge (authoritarian) and relearn it through dialogical education.

- “Situated pedagogy” - How teachers bring their “horizons” inhibit students’ critical thinking because “dialogic inquiry is situated in the culture, language, politics, and themes of the students.” (p.18). On page 21, Paulo gives an example of how his friend, as a physics professor, starts an Astrology and Astronomy class by letting his students explore the reality around them (how the people in their communities understand sky, stars, etc.) continue to focus on materials. The physics professor's example shows that Paulo is not against the regular way of teaching physics (focus on materials). He critiques the authoritarian way of teaching. The idea of situated pedagogy is also related to “dialogue talks place inside some kind of program and context.” (p. 16).

- “Social class empowerment” – “I do not believe in self-liberation. Liberation is a social act. Liberating education is a social process of illumination.” (p. 23). This quote reveals how individualism in the USA is the opposite of critical consciousness and empowerment.

Meanwhile, the perspective of settler colonialism and white supremacy (the differences between the USA and Latin America and European) and “the historical experience rested on private dreams of prosperity and freedom” make the social class empowerment even harder.


Shor, I., & Freire, P. (1987). WHAT IS THE "DIALOGICAL METHOD" OF TEACHING? Journal of Education (Boston, Mass.),169(3), 11-31.

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