Photo: Students in Dialogue

The Dialogic Classroom

From public universities to private colleges, Essential Partners has worked to adapt and innovate its successful approach to dialogue for higher education instruction.

We call our model the dialogic classroom.

We have trained hundreds of faculty across humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields, helping educators develop the skills to lead more open, productive discussions about difficult or divisive topics, such as stem cell research, the role of race in American society, and gender identity.

In first-year lecture classes and Ph.D. seminars alike, instructors have made the shift to a dialogic classroom. The benefits have been broad and deep. Our research has found that the dialogic classroom:

  • Improves student learning outcomes
  • Fosters curiosity about the course content
  • Opens students up to different or conflicting ideas
  • Helps students refine their own views and values
  • Encourages more students to participate in class

The dialogic classroom leads students toward that crucial balance between intellectual humility and personal conviction, a key to academic rigor and the health of a free democratic society.

Photo: Students at a dialogue event

“One thing I’ve noticed in using dialogue is that students often know that they have a position about something, but they don’t always know why. Dialogue helps them articulate their own convictions as they develop listening skills and consider positions that may differ from their own.”

Jill DeTemple, Religious Studies Faculty

Southern Methodist University (Texas)

The building blocks of a dialogic classroom can be adapted to your course and teaching style, whether you’re teaching in a big lecture hall or a small seminar. These elements are:

Depending on the course, you might add an online component to your dialogic classroom, or have your students lead their own dialogue on campus or in the larger community. On this website, you'll find more detailed descriptions of each key building block as well as supporting resources such as videos, exercises, lesson plans, sample syllabi, and handouts.

The first step is to attend an Essential Partners training.

Photo: EP Training

Attend a Training

Want to use dialogue in your classroom? The first step is to bring an Essential Partners training to your campus or attend an EP training.

Faculty who have participated in a dialogic classroom training receive:

  • Hands-on training, customized to meet their unique needs
  • Ongoing support from our expert practitioners and staff
  • Membership in our online community of practice
  • Opportunities for continued skill-building, online and in person

Faculty who haven’t participated in an EP training yet can still browse selected exercises, sample syllabi, videos, and other resources from our library. The resources in this section will help you understand the how, when, and why of dialogue in your classroom.

The development of Essential Partners' dialogic classroom framework was made possible by the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation and the University of Connecticut's Humility and Conviction in Public Life project. The opinions expressed in this project are those of Essential Partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Image: UCONN and Templeton Foundation Logos