We Need to Talk About Learning: Dialogue and Learning Amongst South African Youth

  • Adam CooperEmail author
Reference work entry


In this chapter a pedagogical approach called dialogic learning is unpacked, and its relevance is discussed for contexts like South Africa, where young people have no living memory of apartheid but their lives are emphatically segregated along lines of class, race, gender, and age. Dialogic learning helps to transgress these social divisions, as it involves multiple perspectives existing simultaneously, as people are forced to consider and reflect on these different positions, including their own and those of others. This form of learning and reflection may subsequently catalyze personal transformation. Despite these benefits, qualitative research indicates that interpersonal interactions between South African youth and adults, such as teachers and parents, do not contain a great dialogue through which different parties interact verbally. At the institutional level, authoritative school-based norms and discourses, often dominated by forms of “whiteness,” militate against dialogical learning. Some examples of dialogic learning have occurred through participatory research, studies which are explored in the chapter. These pieces of research engage young people with regard to issues such as xenophobic violence, masculinities and gang involvement, and participatory HIV/AIDS curriculum development. The value of this kind of research lies in the safe spaces that are created through the research process, as young people’s linguistic resources and perspectives are valued. There is also immense benefit for both parties in the reciprocal nature of the exchanges, whereby researchers are educated in terms of the lives of youth, and young people are able to reflect on their own perspectives, emotions, and worldviews, as well as those of others.


Young People Participatory Research Corporal Punishment Dialogic Interaction Exploratory Talk 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education Policy StudiesStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

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