Quaker Dialogue as an Engagement Tactic?

Quick backgrounder: Quaker Dialogue is an instructional technique that can be used to help students learn listening skills and how to be in silence with a group and their thoughts. A typical session would be for everyone to go around and say something about a certain topic. Individuals can pass their turn. Here’s the kicker – no one is allowed to speak until EVERYONE has spoken. Argh. That’s the clincher.

A group of my student colleagues said that Quaker Dialogue in the classroom can be much like an Instagram post. Interesting, right? To me, this technique seems less of a dialogue session and more of a listening…listening…and then stop! session. Instagram has no stop that I’m aware of, which led me to wonder what the point of Quaker Dialogue is. I did a bit of research and realized that the point is to learn to listen and experience silence. I wondered how productive that would be besides the fact that the dialogue is usually closed with a question about what everyone learned from all the listening.

(I can see how the use of a notebook would be essential in these types of dialogues, because I would forget what each person said and then forget what I wanted to say about what each person said.)

I went on a little journey to see if there is anything about this in our textbook (Barkley, 2010) and found the SET“Triad Listening” closely relates (p. 357). Something interesting there is when the different, “flight behaviours” are described (p.360).  I find it interesting because it’s likely that most of us use these behaviours to escape from topics and discussions we don’t want to have, feel we don’t have time for, etc. I definitely noticed that I sometimes use, Boredom and Humour to escape (p. 360). Apparently this is an excerpt from twelve different flight behaviours! Perhaps Quaker Dialogue can be seen as a way to wrestle with the typical ways we run away from things?


Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Kelsey, Dee and Plumb, P. (2016). Sense of Group. Retrieved July 2, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/meetingidea/meetingideas036.shtml


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