I just finished reading several chapters from Borje Holmberg on conversation theory and his empathy approach. I was excited to read these to find out Holmberg’s theory of conversation. Ever since reading Andy Gibbons’ chapter from his still unpublished work, Instruction and Learning, Technology and Design, I have been drawn to Gibbons’ “definition of instruction: Instruction is the intentional engagement of two or more agents capable of decision-making in purposeful conversation.” (6) I have wanted to read other theories of conversation in instruction, and felt that perhaps I could address this topic in further research.
I find Holmberg’s theories and suggestions interesting. But at least in these three chapters, I do not see a clear definition of “conversation.” With Gibbons’ definition of instruction through conversation, concepts of intentionality, agency, and purpose arise. I don’t get that sense from Holmberg’s use of “conversation.” Holmberg is more interested in the adjective (“conversational” or “conversation-like”) than in the noun, I think. For example, he encourages “conversation-like presentations of learning matter” (2003, p. 82) and “the conversational approach” (1999, p. 59). He quotes Harri-Augstein to argue that “learning conversation is not idle chatter” (50), and then explains a theory of using reflection and metacognition to increase learning. These are important concepts, but they aren’t what I expected (after Gibbons’ definition) in terms of a theory of conversation.
I am having a gut reaction without knowing enough, but I want something that more deeply explores how to structure learning as conversation, not just conversation-like.
- Holmberg, B. (1995). Course development—fundamental considerations. In B. Holberg, Theory and practice of distance education. London and New York: Routledge. pp, 45-67.
- Holmberg, B. (2005). A theory of distance education based on Empathy. In M.G. Moore & W.G. Anderson (Eds.). The handbook of distance education (1st ed.), pp. 79-86. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ
- Holmberg, G. (1999). The conversational approach to distance education. Open Learning, 14(3), pp 58-60.