rules for critical conversation

Notes from book becoming a critically reflective teacher, S. D. Brookfield

we tend to be trapped in the framework that determine what we have experienced and how we view them. we tend to be trapped in a self-confirming cycle. we tend to use our uncritically-accepted assumptions to shape our actions, and then serve to confirm the truth of those assumptions. we find it difficult to stand outside ourselves and see how some of our most deeply held values and beliefs lead us into distorted and constrained ways of being.

group peer conversation can be a new possibility for analyzing and responding to problems. but conversation is not necessarily critical. it is truly critical and self-aware only when participants have tolerance, patience, respect for differences, a willingness to listen, the inclination to admit that one may be mistaken, the ability to reinterpret or translate one’s own concerns in a way that makes them comprehensible to others, the disposition to express oneself honestly and sincerely.

the first step in setting up this critical conversation group is to create group rules for our participation.

  1. thinking of the best group conversation you have ever been involved in. what things happened that made it satisfying?
  2. thinking of the worst group conversation you have ever been involved. what things happened that made it unsatisfying?
  3. take turns in talking about what made conversation groups work so well for you. listen for common themes, shared experiences, and features of conversation that a majority of you would like to see present in this group.
  4. take turns in talking about what made conversation groups work so badly for you. listen for common themes, shared experiences, and features of conversation that a majority of you would like to see avoided in this group.
  5. for each the characteristics of good conversation you agree on, try to suggest three things the group could do to ensure, as far as possible, that these characteristics are present.
  6. for each the characteristics of bad conversation you agree on, try to suggest three things the group could do to ensure, as far as possible, that these characteristics are avoided.
  7. try to draft a charter for critical conversation incorporating the specific ground rules that you agree on
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