Debate and Dialogue

From The Embassy of Good Science

Debate and Dialogue

Instructions for:TraineeTrainer
Goal
This exercise supports users in identifying the features of and differences between debate and dialogue and in becoming aware of the strengths and usefulness of dialogue as a tool for reflection processes.
Requirements

You need to have read the instructions before experiencing the exercise.

Moreover, you need to be familiar with :

a)   The concept of moral dilemma;

b)    The concept of dialogue.

In order to experience this exercise you need to have a background in research (i.e. be employed as researchers) or be a trainer/educator/teacher who has had experience in research in the past.
Duration (hours)
1
Participants
20
Part of Icon-virt2ue 2.svgVIRT2UE

What is this about?

In this exercise you will experience the value of and differences between debate and dialogue. The exercise is based on the premise that dialogue and dialogical skills are indispensable in reflection and deliberation processes in general but are particularly important for Research Integrity. The exercise focuses primarily on experiencing the different type of interaction and reflection which debate and dialogue can stimulate. By means of debating or having a dialogue on a research integrity case you will understand and become aware of the strengths and usefulness of both interactions in reflection and deliberation processes.

Why is this important?

If you face a moral question, dilemma or conflict, you should be able to make a well-considered choice. In order to consider choices or make up an opinion you should be able to fully understand the context of the issue, what is at stake and for whom. Within a dialogue an attitude of slowing down, postponing judgments and asking questions is required. By engaging with others in a dialogue about a moral question, dilemma or conflict, you are forced to focus on understanding the other and make the other (and yourself) think critically about his/her way of acting and underlying motives.
1
Prepare

Read the theme page about dialogue versus debate.

2
Experience the exercise

The trainer will facilitate the exercise by following the steps briefly listed here below.

1.   Introduction to the exercise

2.   Presentation of an exemplary case with a clear moral dilemma.

3.   Creation of subgroups (you will be asked to defend one of the two options in the dilemma)

4.   Start a debate

5.   Reflect on the process of debating

6.   Learn about the features of a dialogue

7.   Engage in a dialogue

8.   Reflect on the differences between debate and dialogue

9.   Reflect on the value of dialogue in group reflections.

For a detailed description of the steps see the trainers instructions.

3
Evaluate

Share your lessons learned with the others and your experience with the exercise with the trainer.

Remarks

List of contributors:

Margreet Stolper, Giulia Inguaggiato.

We thank Rea Scepanovic, Marco Consentino, Vasalis Markakis, Armin Schmolmeuller, Ruzica Tokalic, Erika Löfström and Solveig Cornér for their constructive feedback during the process of developing!

This training has been developed by the VIRT2UE project, which has received funding form the European Union’s H2020 research programme under grant agreement N 741782.

What is this about?

This exercise helps trainers to foster the development of dialogical skills in others and to explain what is needed to foster reflection in others by means of dialogue. It is based on the premise that dialogue and dialogical skills are indispensable in reflection and deliberation processes in general but also for Ethics and Research Integrity (ERI) topics.

By using this exercise you will be able to:

-        To foster reflection in others by means of experiential learning;

-         Apply and know how to use/support/encourage the dialogue as a tool for reflection processes.

The exercise can also be used as a start-up before using more in-depth reflection tools or exercises.

Why is this important?

In situation of facing a moral question, dilemma or conflict, one should be able to make a well-considered choice. In order to consider choices or make up an opinion one should be able to fully understand the context of the issue, what is at stake and for whom. Within a dialogue an attitude of slowing down, postponing judgments and asking questions is required and therefore participants are forced to focus on understanding the other and make the other (and oneself) think critically about their way of acting and underlying motives.

Practical Tips


Case example which you may use:

You are applying for a grant to fund your research on a very specific, scientific subject. One of your colleagues is known for being very good at writing convincing applications. You ask him for help, as you really need the grant. He is very willing to give you a hand and rewrites your application. When reading his changes you get the feeling that it is very ambitious and it promises a lot which you might not be able to deliver.

However, you have to admit that the application is really impressive and convincing. The deadline for handing in the application is tomorrow. What do you do?


A)   Tell the colleague you are very happy and submit it as it is.

B)   Take the original version and submit it.

Overview differences between Debate and Dialogue

Debate Dialogue
Aim Looking for the ‘best’ answer from a one-dimensional understanding of the reality, trying to convince others, make other understand you Starts from the idea that doing morally good is multi-interpretable; we all contribute in understanding the issue; we all have something to say about it.
Characteristics Speeding, criticising others and defending yourself, judgments and conclusions, repetition of views/standpoint, raising voices, focus on effective and objective knowledge Trying to understand the other (claim of knowledge), slowing down, listening to each other, focus on making pre-suppositions explicit, space for ‘not-knowing’
Attitude Try to convince the other, making yourself understandable/visible, speaking up often (and loudly), repeating arguments, interrupting Asking (in-depth) questions, active listening, postponing judgments, try to think with ‘one head’

Instructions step 8:

Questions that might help to deepen the reflection on a dialogical attitude are:

o   How did you experience the differences between a debate and dialogue?

o   How did you feel during the debate and dialogue? Was there a difference? What made the difference?

o   Who or which group was the most talkative and what was the reason for it? (Why did it happen?)

o   Where there participants who didn’t participate in the debate or dialogue, or during both? If so, ask those participants what made them staying out of the debate and/or dialogue. Or first ask the group in general why they think those participants didn’t participate in the debate and/or dialogue.

o   Did you get a better understanding of the arguments, motives, interest of the other group/side of dilemma during the debate or during the dialogue? What contributed the most in (not) understanding the other group/participants? (Ask for concrete examples).

o   Are there other things you experienced as remarkable/specific for a debate or dialogue?

1
Introduction

Introduce the exercise by explaining its goals (recognizing a moral dilemma, experiencing the difference between debate and dialogue and understanding the value of dialogical attitude for fostering reflection in others) and explain the relationship with the practice of RI. Make clear that for this exercise it is important to focus primarily on the process of the interaction. That means that the content of the case is of secondary importance and will mainly be used to foster a process of debate and/or dialogue.

2
Case presentation

Present an exemplary (hypothetical) ERI case with a clear formulated moral dilemma (please see practical tips for an example). While choosing a case, be aware of the target group. Pick a case that is recognisable for the target group; it should be part of their practice. Important is to present a case which has a short description and has a clear formulated dilemma (simple formulated in 2 choices). Display the case description clearly visible on a monitor during the debate/dialogue. Participants should be able to re-read the case description at any time. Make sure you give enough information about the case, otherwise participants will start to ask questions about the case itself.  

3
Creation of subgroups

Divide the group in two sub-groups and instruct each group which side of the dilemma they have to defend. There are two ways to divide: A) participants choose a side by themselves, or B) the trainer divides the group in two subgroups. Both approaches have pros and cons to take in consideration: in case of option A the participants are likely more involved to defend their position. In option B the participants have to learn to defend a position which might not be their initial choice; they are forced to search for arguments which pleas for the position they have to defend.

If you are aware of hierarchy in a group e.g. supervisors and (PhD) students, consider carefully which way you choose as moderator; it might be advisable to divide the group by the moderator. Participants are assigned to a group and might feel less troublesome when discussing with higher ranking.

If there is enough space available in the room, position the two subgroups facing each other; they literarily face each other (opposite to each other). 

Before starting the debate, give both groups few minutes to think together about arguments and their strategy to convince the other group.

4
Experiencing a debate

Start a debate: invite both subgroups to convince each other that the side of the dilemma which they have to defend, is the best choice all things considered. As a moderator you can challenge the participants in case only few persons talk. In general, try not to intervene too much during the debate, even when participants start raising their voices. Stop the debate when you have the impression that it becomes too emotional and ask what is triggering them to become emotional in terms of aggressive, upset, sad etcetera.

In case the participants debating too politely or civilised, you have to intervene actively as a moderator and challenge both groups to convince each other. You might even make stimulating comments such as:

-         Come on, do you really think that …….? (repeat what has been said by one of the participants)

-         What makes you thinking that this argument counts?

5
Reflecting on the features of a debate

After 10-minutes (depending on the size of the group), stop the debate and let the group reflect on what happened and how they debated/discussed with each other. Help them to reflect mainly on the process and not only on the content of the debate/dialogue. Ask the participants to list features of a debate and note them down on a flip-chart. Stop the debate and start the reflection in the group by means of posing questions on what you have seen as characteristics of a debate or dialogue (be role-model in the attitude of questioning/art of questioning). Some examples of questions you might use:

a. What was remarkable in the way you talked to each other? What did you observe/experience?

b. Were there specifics regarding the postures or tone of voice?

c. How would you characterize the interactions between the two groups? What did you observe/experience?

d. Do you feel you have a certain understanding of each other?

e. Which group was in the lead and why did this happen? (It might happen that one group is always confronting the other group, while the other group is always defending their position instead of ‘attacking’ the other group. Try to construct with the participants what contributed to this process).

While listing and reflecting on the characteristics of a debate, try to ask for examples (What did you see or experience? What was lacking?). Explain also that a debate/discussion might be fruitful in certain situations, for example: it helps to make quickly clear the initial judgments/statements/opinions regarding the moral dilemma.

6
Introducing features of a dialogue

Explain the features and attitude of a dialogue (slowing down, listening instead of telling, postponing judgment, asking questions; see practical tips ). Turn the focus on a dialogue and present the characteristics of a dialogue, or distribute an overview of the differences between a debate and a dialogue among the participants (see practical tips).

7
Experiencing a dialogue

Let both subgroups talk again with each other for more or less 10 minutes but now with a dialogical attitude. Stay preferably with the same case – each subgroup with the same side of the dilemma as attributed in step 3. Although it might be difficult, the participants are actively challenged to make a change in their attitude (from debate to dialogue). You can also choose to present a new case and attribute again the sides of the dilemma between both subgroups. Presenting a new case might be easier for participants to change their focus on a dialogical attitude.

In general people tend to debate again with each other. Therefore, be alert on the attitude of a debate and intervene immediately when participants tend to start debating during the dialogue (like participants who don’t listen and interrupt others, who attack others by judgemental sentences/posture/gesture, who defend themselves instead of asking questions for clarification etc.). In case it happens, stop the conversation and help the participants to reflect by asking one of the following questions:

o  What is happening right now?

o  What do you experience?

o  Can somebody explain or describe what happened?

o  After describing what happened: what can/should you do instead? (Referring to characteristics of a dialogue).

Refer in this moment of reflection as much as possible to concrete attitude for example: you/he/she starts convincing the other one; he/she is intervening in the middle of my speech; etcetera. Once the debate-attitude has been articulated, provide the participants concrete tools to start again a dialogue by asking for example:

o  What would help you to better understand the other one?

o  What question could you ask?

o  What can you do to invite the other one to ask you questions?

What should we change to promote the dialogue?

8
Reflecting on the features of a dialogue

Stop the dialogue after 10 minutes and reflect with the group on the differences between debate and dialogue by referring/asking questions about:

a. Experiences, feelings during the debate and dialogue,

b. The extent of understanding each other,

c. The group dynamics (who was talking, did everybody had a say etc.),

d. The understanding of the content of the case (motives; interests),

e. Other assumed results of a debate and dialogue (e.g. gaining new insights).

Reflect with the group on the differences between debate and dialogue. You may look at the additional questions in the practical tips section. Take notes of the reflection on a flip-chart.

9
Conclusions and lessons learned

Ask participants to reflect on the value of dialogue and how to use it for fostering group reflection. Focus on the overall lessons learned related to the objectives of the exercise (see part A). You might ask questions like:


  • Taking in account the objectives: what did you learn from this exercise? More specific:

                                           i.     Did you become more aware of the strengths of the concepts of dialogue and debate?

                                          ii.     Do you think the exercise was useful to learn how to use and to encourage the dialogue as a tool for reflection processes? 

                                           iii.     Are there other lessons learned?


  • How will the lessons learned influence your future actions?
  • What do you need to foster a dialogue?
The order of the exercise might give the participants the impression that debate is ‘wrong’ and dialogue is ‘right’. Try to emphasize in this last step that dialogue is useful and helpful in reflection processes but a debate can be good and useful in other situations with other purposes.

Remarks

List of contributors:

Margreet Stolper, Giulia Inguaggiato.

We thank the WP3 members and Rea Scepanovic, Marco Consentino, Vasalis Markakis, Armin Schmolmeuller, Ruzica Tokalic, Erika Löfström and Solveig Cornér for their constructive feedback during the process of developing!

This training has been developed by the VIRT2UE project, which has received funding form the European Union’s H2020 research programme under grant agreement N 741782.

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