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Social learning and conversational moves

Strategies for putting the social into social learning.
Three reviews in bubbles on a phone.
© Deakin University
Let’s look at some strategies for putting the social into social learning.
In any social learning platform, responses to Your task prompts can become a series of monologues as each learner responds individually to the task: each person writes an individual response but generally doesn’t engage with others. It means we’re not making the best use of the social aspect of this social learning platform.
An alternative to a string of individual responses is a discussion where learners engage with others’ ideas, insights, examples and reflections.
Brookfield and Preskill identified ‘conversational moves’ to help develop discussion skills. These conversational moves are designed to strengthen connections among learners and to reinforce the notion that engaging in discussion, and learning, is a collaborative and social process.
Using these conversational moves might seem awkward at first but they’re designed to help learners develop their capacity for dialogue in an online learning context: to help develop the skills of discussion (which often don’t come naturally).

Conversational moves

Here are just some conversational moves you might like to try throughout this course as suggested by Brookfield and Preskill:
  • Ask a question or make a comment that shows you’re interested in what another person says.
  • Ask a question or make a comment that encourages another person to elaborate on something they’ve already said.
  • Make a comment that underscores the link between two people’s contributions – make this link explicit in your comment.
  • Make a comment indicating that you found another person’s ideas interesting and useful. Be specific as to why this was the case.
  • Contribute something that builds on, or springs from, what someone else has written. Be explicit about the way you’re building on the other person’s thoughts.
  • Make a summary observation that takes into account several people’s contributions and that touches on a recurring theme in the discussion.
  • Disagree with someone in a respectful and constructive way.
(Brookfield & Preskill 2005, p. 188)

Learning with and from your peers

Discussions are generally difficult to start and maintain (they often devolve into a question and answer session), so it might take time to practise the skills involved until they become a natural part of your online learning experience.
Don’t be put off if your initial attempts don’t seem to go anywhere; persevere and give yourself plenty of opportunities to learn through practice. It’s a process of learning, and because it’ll be new for many learners – and possibly for you – allow yourself time to fail, or to be ineffective. But keep honing your skills, keep trying new things, keep reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and how your learning is impacted through a more deliberately collaborative and social approach to online discussion.
We’re all pushed for time, but while you’re here, engaged in the process of learning, give one or two of the conversational moves a go and see how they feel. Reflect not only on what it means for your own learning but also what it means for the ways you contribute to others’ learning.

Your task

What might be some of the challenges to engaging in conversational moves in this course? How might you overcome these challenges?
Why might you choose not to overcome them?
© Deakin University
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