Category Archives: Serial Killers

30 Day Question Challenge – Day 10 – Killing the Serial Monologue

Day 10 Question: What do teachers and serial killers have in common?

Literally speaking – NOTHING! Figuratively speaking, it depends on the target. Today’s post builds off of Britt Watwood’s post on the topic. I suggest reading his post before continuing because it provides an important backdrop as does the article that first articulated the monologue as a serial problem. So, figuratively speaking, what do teachers’ and serial killers have in common? Well…

  • both target a particular thing or things

  • both study their target(s)

  • both take systematic approaches to confronting their target

  • both evolve their interactions in increasingly stimulating and complex ways

  • both don’t abandon their original purpose(s)

Creeped out yet? Of course I’m generalizing here. This is an intellectual exercise that in no way intends to paint teachers as bad, mean, malicious or deranged as is the case with actual serial killers. My goal is to create an oblique mental space to see an issue from a completely different and often uncomfortable place. My goal is not offend, but to challenge my own thinking and, hopefully, others in productive directions.

There is a pervasive problem in education: the serial monologue. Not that monologues can’t be valuable, but when that is the dominant form of communication, of discourse, then we are severely limiting the opportunities for deep engagement. A monologue is one person talking…pontificating. A dialogue is a discussion between two or more people….a conversation. Just as there are different types or forms of monologue, so too are there different types and forms of dialogue (e.g. dialectics and dialogics). Promoting classroom dialogue is a dominant pedagogical approach, or so it appears.

In actuality, teachers do most of the talking, but claim it is a whole class discussion. This includes posing the majority of questions, framing the problems, drawing the inferences, making important connections, etc. Don’t be mistaken, there are many genuine attempts to prompt discussion. Unfortunately, the trend tends to be a small group of students do all the responding. Moreover, when we listen closely these students tend to merely project/proclaim their own perspectives rather than seeking to delve deeply into an alternative point of view (another student and/or the instructor’s). Why?

There are many explanations. Instructors know what to emphasize; they know what conclusions and information are essential to understand; they know the questions to ask. But there is a deeper pedagogical issue at play. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Freire focused on the problem of silence arguing that instructors do most the talking in a “discussion” because of gamesmanship. Students know that they merely have to be quiet long enough and the instructor will break…the instructor will provide the answers. he termed this the “culture of silence.” Fay, Garrod and Carletta (1987 cited earlier), focus on the tendency of students to merely advance their perspectives and opinions without substantively engaging their peers in meaningful discourse. Britt Watwood’s post exposes the serial monologue in the online learning environment. Teachers talking at students; students talking at the teacher; no one talking to and with each other in a deep way. So much for the Rogerian dialogue!

So what do we do? I have a lot of ideas, but all reflect my personal teaching experience. However, I think they can be generalized and applied to face-to-face as well as online learning environments. In the spirit of open inquiry, intellectual transparency and humility, and collective genius, I am asking those interested to help construct a resource for killing the serial monologue. You can see it on my blog page. Please comment, add, correct, or redirect if needed.

Thanks…..let’s discuss together.