Beyond Dormant Instructive Walls: A Shove Towards Adopting a Dialogic Teaching Model ‎as a Springboard for Broadening ‎ Literature Didactic Horizons in EFL Classes

ما وراء الجدران التعليمية الخاملة: دفعة نحو تبني نموذج تعليمي حواري كنقطة انطلاق لتوسيع الآفاق التعليمية للأدب في فصول اللغة الإنجليزية كلغة أجنبية

Au-delà des murs instructifs dormants : Une poussée vers l'adoption d'un modèle d'enseignement dialogique comme tremplin pour élargir les horizons didactiques de la littérature dans les classes d'EFL

Amina Bouali et Ilhem Serir-Mortad

p. 121-141

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Amina Bouali et Ilhem Serir-Mortad, « Beyond Dormant Instructive Walls: A Shove Towards Adopting a Dialogic Teaching Model ‎as a Springboard for Broadening ‎ Literature Didactic Horizons in EFL Classes  », Aleph, 8 (1) | 2021, 121-141.

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Amina Bouali et Ilhem Serir-Mortad, « Beyond Dormant Instructive Walls: A Shove Towards Adopting a Dialogic Teaching Model ‎as a Springboard for Broadening ‎ Literature Didactic Horizons in EFL Classes  », Aleph [En ligne], 8 (1) | 2021, mis en ligne le 25 janvier 2021, consulté le 21 juin 2021. URL :

With the phenomenal awakening to ‘active learning’ as an enlivening instructional philosophy, ‎the paper draws new academic roadmap towards adopting ‘dialogism’ ‎as a ‎cutting-edge teaching model and depicts its effectiveness in enhancing teaching and learning inside EFL literature classrooms. The ‎development techniques incorporated in this model are fundamentally extrapolated from ‎Bakhtin’s theory of discursive talks and Socratic inquiry-conflicts, which epitomise one of the ideal ‎complements for stimulating learners’ interaction with the literary texts both analytically and ‎contemplatively.
The sui genesis strength of this model lies in its endeavour to encourage the ‎learners to deploy most of their critical, synthetic and reflective thinking resources at a higher-‎level complexity. It also aims to inculcate in the students some learning ethics, like listening to others and ‎heuristic meaning ‎discovery that enrich and reinvigorate, overall, the study of literature.‎

نظرا للاستيقاظ الهائل للتعلم النشط كفلسفة تعليمية حيوية، تهدف الورقة الحالية إلى رسم خريطة طريق أكاديمية جديدة نحو تبني "الحوارية" كنموذج تعليمي متطور وترسم إمكاناته الفعالة في تعزيز أساليب التدريس والتعلم داخل أقسام الأدب الخاصة بتدريس اللغة الإنجليزية كلغة أجنبية. تم استيحاء تقنيات التطوير المدمجة في هذا النموذج بشكل أساسي من نظرية باختين للمحادثات الخطابية والصراعات الاستقصائية لسقراط ، والتي تلخص أحد المكملات المثالية لتحفيز تفاعل المتعلمين مع النصوص الأدبية من الناحية التحليلية والتأملية.
تكمن قوة التكوين الفريدة لهذا النموذج في مساعيه لتشجيع المتعلمين على توظيف معظم موارد التفكير النقدي، التجانسي و الجدلي لديهم على مستوى عالي من التعقيد. كما يهدف إلى غرس بعض أخلاقيات التعلم لدى الطلاب ، مثل الاستماع إلى الآخرين والاكتشاف الاسترشادي للمعنى الذي يثري وينعش دراسة الأدب بشكل عام.

Avec l'éveil phénoménal à “l'apprentissage actif” en tant que philosophie pédagogique vivifiante, l'article trace une nouvelle feuille de route académique vers l'adoption du “dialogisme” comme modèle d'enseignement de pointe, et décrit son efficacité à améliorer l'enseignement et l'apprentissage dans les classes EFL de la littérature.
Les techniques de développement incorporées dans ce modèle sont fondamentalement inspirées de la théorie de Bakhtine sur les discours discursifs et les conflits argumentatifs de Socrate, qui incarnent l’un des compléments idéaux pour stimuler l’interaction des apprenants avec les textes littéraires analytiquement et contemplativement.
La force sui genèse de ce modèle réside dans son effort d'encourager les étudiants à déployer la plupart de leurs ressources d’esprit critiques, synthétiques et réflexives à un niveau de complexité supérieur. Il vise également à inculquer aux étudiants une certaine éthique d'apprentissage, comme l'écoute des autres et la découverte heuristique du sens qui enrichissent et revigorent, dans l'ensemble, l'étude de la littérature.


“If (the teacher) is indeed wise, he does not bid you an entry to his own wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind” (Gibran, 1997, p. 35)

In the current era suffused by its strong flavour of innovation and quantum academic leap towards democratic active learning, many pedestrian methods of teaching ─ grinding on under the heels of dyed-in-the-wool conservative Luddites─ seem to get today lost in the shuffle. Thereby, in keeping with the whirligig of fashionable advancement touching almost every modern sphere of life, not least education, there seems to be a magnetically recurring turn to the freshly minted theory of Dialogism inaugurated in the most influential world-spanning works of Vygotsky (1962), Freire (1985), and Bakhtin (1983). In their complementary aspects of notion (Vygotsky and Bakhtin particularly have postulated a prima facie evidence that implies language is primarily a socio-ideological (Bakhtin), or a socio-cultural phenomenon (Vygotsky), which is only shaped through the perennial interplay (reciprocate transmission) of beliefs, thoughts and values taking place between oneself and another. In this contention, the meaning of an utterance is deciphered by means of respect, equality and involvement bartered between two or more speakers interacting in a given speech community(s) (Renshaw, 2004, p. 6). In line with this assumption, Lyle (2008) ─keeping Vygotsky and Bruner’s (1990) Cultural Psychology at the cynosure of her stance─ has personified human Lives as clues that “are only understandable by virtue of cultural systems of interpretation mediated through language.” Therefore, “it is culture, and not biology, that shapes human life and the human mind” (p. 223).

On the credit side, Bakhtin’s reverberating theory —voiced by those researchers with the same cast of mind— had been translated into a widely-consensual cachet in modern pedagogy, inasmuch as many of his ideologies foregrounding the bottom line of dialogism have made vital contributions to the whole mainstream education. In this scholarly fashion, many prominent researchers today, going much captivated by his theoretical thesis, pride themselves on breaking up with traditional, ad hoc, authoritative and monologic ossified policy systems, and instead, plead for a dialogic model of teaching, which is deemed as an interactive, autonomous, and utilitarian tool of education. For instance, the implementation of discussion-based approaches to instruction against those power-based models has been qualified as the sine qua none for promoting advanced language proficiency, and for stimulating meta-level reflection at higher level critical complexity (Murphy, Wilkinson, Soter, Hennessey, & Alexander, 2009; Reznitskaya et al., 2009; Wolfe & Alexander, 2009). Analogously, a fervent upswell of empathy with this subject of interest is also emphatically pronounced by Alexander (2008, 2015, 2018, 2020) in a sequel of works he accomplished from the sunrise of the 21st century onwards. Interestingly, Alexander’s assumptions rest on the premise that the fact of encouraging dialogues inside-classes may effectively construct authentic seam for literacy enhancement, which is likely to “develop patterns of classroom interaction that open up students’ speaking and listening, and hence their thinking, and which strive to distribute the ownership of talk more equitably” (2018, p. 3). Equally significant, dialogue-intensive pedagogies also overlap kaleidoscopic patterns of teaching behaviour, which immerse both of teachers and learners in a give-and-take collision of thoughts, which exerts a prodigious leverage on how they talk, feel and think. As a consequence, the concord of ideas flashing out during whole-class discussions ought to transform the participants into meaning-making learners (Wolfe & Alexander, 2009), critical thinkers (Alexander, 2008, 2015; Cazden, 2001; Freire, 1985; Reznitskaya & Gregory, 2013; Wells, 1999), and eloquent speakers playing a pivotal role in the current global scale (Parker, 2010).

However, beyond this impressionistic outlook, the ambitious attempt, deeply embedded below-the folds of this research paper, is to cast a light on the effectiveness of implementing dialogic techniques of teaching inside the mainstream literature classrooms. By lifting the eyes to this prominent arena of study, one would admit that Bakhtin’s dialogism manifests itself as a potent subject of research, yet, it reserves a diminutive deal of space in the world of “Literature” didactics today. Resting on a priori established literature review, a variety of studies have depicted dialogic model of teaching as a state-of-the-art framework, that facilitates the operational flow of open, spontaneous, and in-depth exchange of thoughts in such an efficient way that can in and of itself spur multi-dynamic cognitive abilities and help to foster the students’ engagement with the literary texts; intellectually (Scott, Tucker, & Magnan, 2001; Seymour, Thanos, Newell, & Bloome, 2020) and emotionally (Weigand, 2004). To the same ends, a Dialogue Teaching Model, in the view of Hayes (1990), is the reinvigorating Oxygene for literature classrooms that serves to optimise, in a cheer-laden climate- students’ complex critical and analytical skills and enhance their creative reasoning. From another pros side, capitalising upon community learning in the examination of the works of art signifies a robust engine apt for building, and thoroughly revitalising, a fresh interpretive repertoire through which many reading comprehension potentials are prompted (McKeown & Beck, 2015; Wilkinson, Murphy, & Binici, 2015). As Reznitskaya (2012) put it forth: “In dialogic classrooms, teachers and students act as coinquirers, collaboratively engaging in a generation and evaluation of new interpretations of texts in order to “gain a fuller appreciation of the world, [them]selves, and one another” (p. 446).

Advantageous though, notwithstanding the sedulous attempts calling into question the dramatic potentials of dialogic learning to buttress alternative possibilities and imperatives for betterment in literature education, still typical teaching protocols continue to persist. In other terms, due to time or curriculum constraints, the teacher is still regarded the very embodiment of an authoritative leader supervising the most intoxicating central engines of communication in so-called puritanical ivory towers, wherein debates are only established sporadically, obliquely, and as often as not non-systematically (Wolfe & Alexander, 2009). Besides, the wide range of authentic resources exploring on dialogism is much more theoretical than practical (Reznitskaya, 2012). Thereupon, somehow between the Scylla of practical hangover and the Charybdis of scarcity where the meaning of this research shapes. It sets basically as a borderland between L2 applied linguistic theories and literary studies, recommending some dialogic interactive techniques that recycle Bakhtin’s stance on dialogism with Socratic clay of mind. In essence, this paper will suggest some core teaching practices like discursive talks, literary circles and Socratic argumentations as a medium to slake the learners’ thirst not just to read literature, but also to read into the depth of literary texts. They can construct knowledge, by reflecting, responding, and interacting with the artworks in such a revivified and a rancour-free atmosphere, which can bring the literature classroom into life, and fill the pieces of the puzzle missing from the mainstream literature education.

1. Dialogism and Education in the Looking Glass ‎

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon─ (Fosters, 1993, np)

In de facto reality, dialogism is a breakthrough advent in language research of which attribution to the Russian philologist Bakhtin has never been suspected (Koschmann, 2015). As a term, dialogicality is connoted by the formalist literary theorist Bakhtin to resume his lifelong condensed perceptions of the socio-cognitive function of the language, and its chief paramountcy over shaping everyday interactions and thoughts (Kozulin, 1996). Stricto sensu, a brief synoptic glimpse on the theory of dialogism in the eyes of Bakhtin is that dialogue is an actual representation of reality and the living prism of consciousness, it is only “ born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction” (p. 110). It is a whole subjectified world, a colossal thesaurus made of a polyphonous collision of voices resonating between and among writers, speakers and listeners for the purpose of troubleshooting immediate solutions and answers to personal, ethnic, and spiritual sensitivities and perennial issues re-featuring in the context of the present. In his proper terms, “Dialogism continues towards an answer. The word in living conversation is directly, blatantly, oriented toward a future answer-word: it provokes an answer, anticipates it and structures itself in the answers direction” (Bakhtin, 1981 as cited in Nesari, 2015, p. 643).

Incontestably, Bakhtin’s system-builder keystone of dialogism has had an impact that continues to produce over other investigators in the realm of language and teaching to date. Admittedly, his sui generis tendencies towards provoking ad infinitum, multi-voiced dialogues against monologic (single) voice have committed so much as shifting from theory into practice. Stepping in his shoes, the Brazilian Marxist educator Paulo Freire is credited to be the authentic precursor behind the overarching modelling of a ground-breaking theory of dialogic pedagogy against typical dictatorial protocols of teaching practised at schools. In his illustrious seminal work of reference Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), published first in 1968 in Portuguese, Freire released the imperialistic ideology of ‘Banking’ applied as a metonymy for treating the students as investment ‘banks;’ a repository for knowledge-store in which learners were compelled to pile their heads with loads of facts that the teachers thrust down their throats. It is a new philosophy to learning that “implies learners’ receiving knowledge passively as empty vessels from the teacher, who is supposed to be store-house of knowledge, in the traditional teacher-centered classroom” (Alam, 2013, p. 27). Ergo, this passive strategy will leave the students lagging miles away behind. As Freire (2017) demonstrates, “the more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world” (p. 73).

As a revolutionary crusade against those flagrantly coercive educational habits, Friere in collaboration with Ira Shor expounded in further research entitled Pedagogy for Liberation (1987), in which both claimed emancipation and the right to enforce the freedom of expression and thinking in teaching. Here is a bird’s eye view of how they conceptualise the term ‘dialogue’ vis-à-vis education:

Dialogue is a moment where humans meet to reflect on their reality as they make and remake it [...] Dialogue seals the relationship between the cognitive subjects, those who know, and who try to know .... Dialogue is the sealing together of the teacher and the students in the joint act of knowing and re-knowing the object of study. (Freire & Shor, 1987, pp. 98–100)

Drawing on the above-stated strand, dialogues denote a contemplative remapping of reality, based mostly on a vital personal anecdote. However, by re-inviting Freire’s dense ‘critical pedagogy’ into the world stage of teaching with a sigh of relief dictatorial classroom today has gone loosely out of power, losing much of its dignity and awe, and therefore, flinging itself robustly into classroom democratic freedom and pedagogical change. Nonetheless, the highly-recommended impassionate idea of resurrecting dialogic pedagogy is not to establish teacher-student friendships, but rather to construct a robust academic bedrock for promoting hyperactivity and hypercritical learning abilities apt to help the learners become critical cultural thinkers and good actors within their own societal milieus (Renshaw, 2004, p. 4).

Therefore, it is fair to say that a big body of the articulate and ground-breaking ideologies as such -consisting roughly in the enormously cogent Freire’s frame of reference- has not just put flesh on the should-be inward structure of the modern classroom, but also brought bravely the term ‘dialogue’ blazoned across the strip of ESL. In the same year, renowned figure Freire underpinned a fertile ground of study on which further researches by Giroux (1985) and McLaren (1986) fell. Thereafter, dialogic approaches to classroom practice mushroomed remarkedly as a stringent rebel against the manifest dominance of ‘banking,’ and sufficiently against traditional whole-class teaching (Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, & Gamoran, 2016; Linden & Renshaw, 2004; Murphy et al., 2009; Parker, 2010).

With this piqued curiosity in the Pedagogy of liberation (1987) and Pedagogy of hope (2013), the very term of dialogic teaching itself could be forged ahead as a new methodology of instruction that has now a soil, fervent proponents and a lucid definition. For instance, according to Reznitskaya and Gregory (2013), “dialogic teaching is a pedagogical approach that involves students in the collaborative construction of meaning and is characterized by shared control over the key aspects of classroom discourse” (p. 114). In this sense, dialogues signify a teaching approach that calls the learners across-the-board to engage in rigorous and lively debates and interactions, which help them discover the materials and themes of learning by themselves in a jointly active fashion (Alexander, 2008, 2015, 2020; Skidmore & Murakami, 2016). While in the best of Fenner’s (2001) belief, dialogues take place between a listener and a speaker indulged in an encoding and decoding process of communication, and they both achieve identical meanings, till meaning itself becomes something they are very attuned to in a naturally occurring setting in the present (p. 23). In the same favourable note, dialogic pedagogy is also deemed as a very efficacious strategy to prompt the learners to participate in academically productive interactions, harmonious and dynamic, which drive them to speak fluently and think out of the box (Dawes, Mercer, & Wegerif, 2000; Littleton & Howe, 2010), as it harnesses their problem-solving skills and provokes a sense of leadership and management (Littleton & Mercer, 2013; Lyle, 2008).

2. The Literature Classroom: Spaces for Dialogism

“We have just seen that teaching (literature) always ‘starts from where the students are’, acknowledging the value of their experience, their ideas, beliefs and aspirations, and promoting their active participation” (Chambers & Gregory, 2006, p. 134).

One of the crucial rationales behind restoring the lost glory of literature in FLT is one that literary texts are all on their own dialectic and semiotic artistic products, and therefore, the room they leave for personal responses and involvements are so open and boundless. As illumined by Bakhtin, the language embellished by the writers is not that “represented as a unitary, completely finished-off and indisputable language- it is represented as a living mix of varied and opposing voices...” (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 400). Referring to the multi-voiced fiction technique characterising specifically Dickens and Dostoevsky works (as exemplified by Bakhtin), the text is no longer seen as a stand-alone artistic entity, but as a mosaic spectrum of cross-cultural patterns, literary voices and undertones, a meeting-ground of maverick resourceful interdisciplinary minds talking together from else space and spell. In this flash of illumination, the dissolving of the intricate threads of meaning across literatures, across time and space, does not imply only socio-cultural imperialistic scrutiny of literariness but also invites the readers to discuss the deeply-entrenched voices of the mind, so as to listen with tact and thoughtfulness to their mimetic words, as to their moments of sighs and silences (Schultz, 2001). Succinctly dialogues are regarded as a food-for-thought mechanism, an open variegated venue for stimulating discussions and in-class debates, in which the readers interact with a multiplicity of rhetorical discourses by dint of fusing their self-reflexive experiences with the socio-cultural and aesthetic responses to the texts (Delanoy, 2005).

By leaning upon this assumption in Foreign Language Literature, the very idea of dialogism has inadvertently offered enormous build-up elements of language and literature learning in ‎some years since.‎ It has essentially provoked pleasant pangs of inspiration to Rosenblatt (1938, 1978), the founder of the reader-response theory that soared off the charts in the twentieth century (Woodruff & Griffin, 2017). Rosenblatt focalises his absorption in the meta-textual power of the narratives. He, therefore, personifies the reader as an effervescent producer of meaning, a blood donor with whom the aptitude of replenishing the effete life-force of artworks is bequeathed. The text in itself is a hollow and valueless organic frame, and it is the reader who enlivens its body with a buoyant soul interceding on its behalf to air its desires, undercurrents, emotions, and wretchedness. Thereupon, during conversations and debates undertaken in a pedagogical context, the receiver as a nostalgic wonderer harks back to his past gleanings of knowledge and veritable experiences to form pertinaciously instantaneous elaborations of meanings (Larson, 2009).

In the light of this account, a panel of researchers avers currently that the fact of endorsing dialogues that are quintessentially discursive and fairly-shared among participants is very likely to imbue the chasm between the learners and the pieces of literary writings. It is the umbilical cord attaching the narrative’s dexterous intertwining of artistic plots with the analyst’s visualisations of the poly-dimensional layers of the rhetorical discourses (Cummins, 1991; Medeiros, Flores, Medeiros, & Flores, 2016; Snowden, 2019). In this sense, discursive debates are conceived of as a rich vein brimmed over with multiple interpretive possibilities, throughout which the students could dissolve the intricate blind spots of the texts. They can discover what is behind the scenes of passages; interpreting, illustrating, and building aesthetic judgements on multifarious aspects and issues related to themes, characterisation, tone, and so on (Chambers & Gregory, 2006; Murphy et al., 2009).

On the other end of the spectrum, some theoriticians hold the view that the integration of students-students’ interactions during the analysis of literary works is a robust booster to English language development, both written and oral. They have prolific fruitful impacts on how adults install their intrinsic communicative language faculties in ingeniously occurring conversations, and how they arrange words in written compositions using a polishly sumptuous style (Wells, 2009). In the same vein, Ferguson and Young (1996) howcase the importance of patterned dialogues and improvisation inside literature classes in buttressing the narrative genre of collaboration, and in reinforcing the internalisation of English language infrastructure; incorporating both language use and usage. As they opine: “Literature provides language-rich illustrations of the uses of dialogues[...] thus providing a natural link to the give and take of conversation... and appropriate syntactical structure” (Ferguson & Young, 1996, p. 598). Analogously, Seymour et al. have sketched a prescriptive method of teaching based on the pedestal of Dialogic Literary Argumentation. To their mind, argumentative conversations ‎is a “bounce off” –“arguing-to-learn”- strategy of learning in literacy classes. It attempts to bring learners from the entire corners of the class talking and debating collaboratively in a way that helps them come to terms with each other’s deviant viewpoints, in order to penetrate the membrane covering the literary cortex profoundly, and to better reconcile with themselves and the world surrounding (Seymour et al., 2020). Noteworthy still, further studies have drawn upon the clout of the negotiation of textual meanings in forging a futile seedbed for intensive and illuminative literary readings (Morgan & Cain, 2000), synthetic thinking, and augmented critical thinking potentialities (Hayes, 1990; Strickland, Dillon, Funkhouser, Glick, & Rogers, 1989). For instance, as construed by Langer (1995), the very idea of goading on the students to map their own envisionment out of the texts will permeate them “to explore new horizons, and consequently, enter the realm of “literary thinking” (p. 57). owever, according to some other activists in the stream of dialogism, implementing opinion-exchange inside literature classes is a distillation process of human’s thoughts and energies from unequivocally expressed perspectives and feelings into a personal cult of creativity, which informs and emboldens the intellectual learning habits that enable them to get in touch and be open to the literary world (Ali, 1993).

More to those worthy attributes delineated a little above, the value of discussion is weighed up not solely trough its potential to maximise the meaningful perceptions of the texts. It is also eulogised for its ability to raise the learners’ intercultural awareness and self-cousciousness, by nurturing knowledge that partakes of diverse cultural ethos, human expressions and behaviours. Indeed, community reflection and thinking could emphasise ethical and ethnical forms of speculation upon the texts that be very beneficial for stimulating open-mindedness and tolerant breadth of vision to the other nations and traditions (Morgan & Cain, 2000; Al-Mahrooqi & Roscoe, 2012). Similarly, according to Holquist (2002), fostering dialogues as a self-conscious model of literature teaching becomes a mandatory injunction to slacken off the frictions prevalent in between the centripetal and the centrifugal features of heterogenious world literary discourses and, ultimately, to help the recipients appreciate the ontological distinction between the social norms and beliefs of the so-called ‘others’ and the ‘self.’ In brief, dialogism in literature classrooms is often deemed a barametor for educational growth, and a backlash over tyrranising and suffocating the learners’ voices in the classroom, and instead, settles them firmly on the threshold of bona fide social change (Skidmore & Murakami, 2016a, p. 4).

3. Promoting Talk: A Suggested Dialogic Model ‎

After shedding light on the main conceptualisations and truisms defining the term Dialogism, the rudiments of this part of the study is to draw a dialogic model to teaching literary texts, capitalising mostly upon two highly recommended teaching practices in ELT, namely Bakhtin’s dialogic circles and Socratic inquiry-based argumentations‎. Contrastively, the first assignments are extrapolated from a socio-cultural model of instruction, which aims to revitalise and cultivate a sense of harmony, collaboration and communication between the students inside the classroom, while the latter invests in the potential of collisions and debates (Hermeneutics) in enriching the visualisation of literature and culture, and also in sharpening the students’ critical and cognitive thinking skills. However, before yoking between these two techniques as complementary methods in education, it is very significant to disambiguate between dialogues sparked by Bakhtin and Socrate, respectively.

Very often, Bakhtin’s dialogues are conceived of as an antithetical strategy to Socratic dialogues (Renshaw, 20). Though both eschew conterminously the transmissive models of instruction by embracing interaction, responsiveness, contingent of thoughts and flexibility as key practices inside classrooms, yet, critical elements are to be distinguished (see table 1). As table1 reveals, there are many considerable divergences between how Bakhtin and Socrate envision their dialogic theoretical framework. Impressionately, Bakhtin’s discursive dialogues encourage interactional practices that are more explanatory than exploratory, where the learners construct feedback from varied language resources, a stored knowledge, or from the wisdom of other participants in the class. In opposition, Socrate’s theory of learning advocates the power of questioning and the incongruence of opinions to generate an individualistic critical perception of the text. In this case, the teacher plays the role of a ‘gadfly’ for his students. He teases them with brainteasing —very often philosophical—questions to help them construct meaning by themselves that collides mostly with others’ perspectives.

Table . Differences between Bakhtin and Socratic’s Dialogism

Bakhtin’s Conversations (Proficient Pedagogy)

Socrate’s Debates (Productive Pedagogy)

Language has a community-building role in the process of learning
Learners ventriloquise other
teacher, texts, or learners’ accents, values and beliefs to build their own interventions and entailment of concepts.
The passive reception of knowledge and authoritative reception of discourse.
Students learn by addressing others in the community and engaging in conversations; the ways to convince others and win their allegiance.

1- Thinking is prioritised over conversing and new inquiries over deep-dyed perspectives.‎
2- Students are provoked to
enquire and to reason by themselves, rather than depend on ‎grounded authority or accepted opinions for their knowledge.‎
3- Active construction of knowledge and the application of reasoned argumentation to explore ‎centrifugal cultural and parodic rhetorical ends.
4- Learners work away from that original intentions, struggling against boundaries and ‎conventions.

Source : Renshaw, 2004, pp. 2-5

However, this dialogic model proposed in this paper refutes to implement either/or and wishes to join forces by opting for both conversations and debates, in order to construct a complementary and animating teaching model efficient in itself. To fulfill this target, it is recommended to use two teaching activities inside literature classroom, to wit 1/dialogic discursive talks, and 2/ conflict-talks, which are both monitored in literary cells or circles.

3.1. Phase one: Dialogic Circles

Before tapping into the power of learning in dialogic circles inside literature classes, it is noteworthy to figure out what the word circle signifies in the academic parlance. By way of conceptualisation, Circle practice denotes a “simple structured process of communication that helps participants reconnect with a joyous appreciation of themselves and others. It is designed to create a space for all voices and to encourage each participant to step in the direction of their best self” (Veloria & Boyes-Watson, 2014, p. 75). It is a community language teaching strategy which permeates the learners to work in two or more group discussions within which communication circulates throughout an interactive “peacemaking” system. This method, therefore, can be a potent stimulus for the learners’ analytic thinking skills, intrinsic motivation and a capstone for vociferous, eloquent and exciting scrutiny of the literary textual issue(s), theme(s), or material(s). More appropriate to literature teaching context, dialogic circles or cells are much recommended as a way to tighten students’ intellectual immersion in the texts, by means of exploring some literary passages through a sequence of queries and answers. This activity is accomplished by engaging the learners in two circles; inner and outer circle. To put it in a practical ground, this strategy typically includes the following procedures:

  • The students are supposed to read a poem or a passage from a narrative in colouring voices.

  • Students can initiate their analysis by practising some close reading activities which focalise fundamentally on the language that is applied by the author in a specific literary text (Language-based Reading). In this process, the learners are urged to mark texts (numerating paragraphs, circling key terms (e.g., name(s) of characters, repeated words, non-literal conceptions, unusual or symbolic collocations, or lexical contrast), underlying the writers’ arguments, tones, and impressions, or any other element relevant to this context.

  • The whole classroom would be divided into two concentric circles of learners, namely an outer circle and an inner circle.

  • After warming-up the learners to the lecture by familiarising them to the issue under discussion, the inner circle initiates the talk by stressing on the analysis of the text(s) through the exchange of questions and answers. Here, the outer circle must stay silent and can only observe the discussion and take notes.

  • In another session or within the same session if time serves, the students will swap the circles (students in the outer circle will move into the inner circle and vice versa). The discussion would go on with alternative students.

3.2. Phase Two: Socratic Inquiry-Conflicts

Extrapolating its name from the icon Greek philosopher Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Socratic Questioning or inquiry-based conflicts is a kind of digging-deeper activity, which embodies “Socrates’ belief in the power of asking questions, prize inquiry over information and discussion over debate” (Delic & Becirovic, 2016, p. 514). In this flash of illumination, thinking is like in philosophy, it is fuelled by the uncanny power of questioning and not by the rightness of answering that the learners would strive to find or create. As delineated by Elder and Paul (1998), “questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues”, whereas answers “signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life as such” (p. 297). This idea is thus a strong allusion of the likelihood of lifelong promising effect of ‘Socratic Questioning’ on the students’ learning development and critical thinking.

Delving into practice, Delic and Becirovic (2016) demonstrate three tenets of ‘Socratic Questioning’, which are depicted as: 1/ the target learning pursuit is ‘inquiry’, 2/ its fundamental technique is ‘dialogue’ between the learners and the teacher, generally within circles, 3/ the teacher’s role is to ‘monitor’ and ‘to guide’ in-class conversations, by means of posing a lot of inquisitive and reiterated questions, to which the learners answer deliberately to discover precious pieces of insights through inductive reasoning.  Interestingly, there are, in fact, five definite stages to accomplish this activity. 1/ Wonder; the teacher asks a question which leads to the formulation of a belief or an idea 2/ Hypothesis; which is mostly the first answer provided by one of the students which would be weighed against others’ assumptions through ongoing debates, 3/ Elenchus, a cross-examination; probing counter-intuitive and contradictory attitudes provided by the learners who engage in critical argumentation, 4/ Acceptance or refutation of the hypothesis; (participants either approve or rebut the counter-claims), 5/ Action; performing on the last results of the debate (Boghossian, 2012).

3.3. Practical Activities

Based on a very animating teaching session carried out with the second year EFL learners at Oran University, this section of study will sketch a guideline on how to incorporate both of talks and conflicts efficiently in an EFL literature classroom. To realize this target, the following sample of activities will opt for Kate Chopin’s The Awakening as a teaching course material. The choice of this novel is justified by the willingness to urge the students to explore male and female authors’ treatment of gender inequality, and not least as a seminal study on feminism. Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to say that even the story of The Awakening itself is inherently discursive in its very kernel. Therefore, the teachers can use the following template of activities shifting from harmonious dialogues (agreements) to discursive debates (disagreements) (see figure1). However, before ushering into dialogic interactions, the class has to be devided first into two circles, one participating and the other one just listening, and then, the circles will swap their roles.

Figure N° 1. Sample model based on Bakhtin and Socrate’s dialogism

Image 10000201000002800000016AE0FF428D4AFF24F3.png

Source: created by the researcher

Table 2. Sample dialogic questions inside literature classroom

Circle (A)

Sample Questions

Discursive Talks

1- Do you think that the tragic ending of Edna is a cosmic justice for the gaucheness of youth and the guilty comportment of femininity, or it is villainous societal persecution? (students all agree that Edna is a victim of society)
2- Let us discuss the psychological aspects of the novel
(e.g., Chopin is inspired by Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalytic theory of personality, by shaping her heroine’s ‎cults through the struggle with her superego, supervised by the social laws and ‎the moral etiquettes, and the id of her natural erotic desire and unconscious ‎reveries; the only critical path to stumble upon the realm of her ‎consciousness (ego).‎


1- I think that Edna suffers a mental trauma? (Responses: Edna is a sound character who struggles with her sub-consciousness/ she has double-sided personality, the empirical self and the self-reflexive self/ Edna has only a mono-self personality misinterpreted as a double. She is only overcome like all of us by her human whims and desires, etc.) 
2- Eda’s death is harsh, but fair? Is not (Responses: she deserves death because she flouts the conventional norms/ no, she is just guilty and can
repent/ her death was great oppression from the author/ Edna deserves a second chance/ she is just naive and young/ no, she has to get persecuted since her own whims and desires control her)

Source : created by the researcher

The dialogic model of teaching attempts first to foster the students’ group responses and active learning, by shifting them through an apple-pie order from collaborative and euphonous ways of analysis of the text to a much critical, contemplative and controversal learning techniques. As depicted in table 1.2, Socratic argumentations are much more intimidating than simple discursive talks, for dabatable questions start already by a fixed opinion (expressed sometimes by the teacher or a learner), which looks at odd with how the rest of the group think or believe. Hopefully though, these two methods bulid a binary educative system. They both aspire to encourage the learners to develop a consequential method of thinking, which also requires a wide breadth of vision to the sensitivities of the text, cultural, religious, social, political, and psychological.


As a reminiscence, this modest paper draws important notes and fresh ideas on how to implement a state-of-the-art teaching model to help instil curiosity and confidence in the aspiring EFL literature teachers and students alike towards the sparking area of dialogism. Building on both of Bakhtin’s and Socratic power of talk as an ideal complement for learning has inspired this study some analytical strategies, and tools, like discursive dialogues and inquiry-based argumentation, which can be applied in an EFL literature classroom as a springboard to the faster dynamic circulation of thoughts, and as a capstone for revisualising the deep and meaningful engagement with the literary texts. It is also a way to inculcate commitment and open-mindedness to other’s culture and traditions in the classroom, and to supply the learners with knowledge that propels them to cross the hyphen to the kaleidoscopic patterns and properties of the literary world, language and identity metamorphosis engulfed by the wisdom of others and their own mercury of geniuses. All in all, one may say that dialogue foregrounds alternative ways of approaching the rhetorical text(s) without and beyond borders. Nevertheless, despite that this paper is effusively suffused with an aura of faith in the ethical and intellectual merits of learning collaboratively, it stays only a signpost towards this attempt. Backlight picture of this subject also shows a lot of thorny perils related to the complexity of getting all students to talk, and questions like whether dialogues are always supportive clues inside literature classrooms, and to what extent mobile learning communities can transform into active learning habits for the learners, among other issues, stay dialectical and unsolved debates to the present time. For this reason and others, the last lines of this research is an eloquently aspirational appeal to the future researchers, coming with that eagerness in the field, to surpass the side-effects and the constraints of this study, and to keep looking for other dialogic, and engaging tools, which may draw a bright vista in the teaching of literature in the future.

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Figure N° 1. Sample model based on Bakhtin and Socrate’s dialogism

Figure N° 1. Sample model based on Bakhtin and Socrate’s dialogism

Amina Bouali

Université Ahmed ben Ahmed-Oran 2

Ilhem Serir-Mortad

Université Abou bakr Belkaid - Tlemcen

© 2017 Aleph, langues, médias et sociétés