Mirja Hämäläinen, Lic.Phil.
I have been a practising English teacher for some 30 years and it is only during the last decade of it that I have become aware of the possible power of teaching English for young adults in academia. I read David Bohm’s (1996) book On Dialogue in 2010 after Steve Llano, an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at St. John’s University and a debate coach, happened to recommend it to me in passing. Immediately, I knew I needed to do something about developing dialogue as part of my teaching practice. Debating and developing critical thinking is in the core of academia, but it turns out that debating is not possible without dialogue and sharing at least some basic understanding of the world.
Designing the course and teaching it for the first time in 2013 was a life-changing experience. I sat in the dialogue circle my heart pounding and thinking: “Will the students get up and say this is not an English class?” They were surprised at the approach, but at the same time they were happy that they came. During these years of teaching or, in fact, facilitating the dialogue course I have come to see the students in a new light. They are the future, they have all the potential in them to change the world and not only through their native language but through English as a lingua franca (and other languages as well). They are creative as they speak. In dialogue the floor is theirs and they are capable of self-reflection. Through becoming aware of the role of language and ethical communication in their own contribution and the dynamics of the group, they seem to be able to develop their skills in thinking together through dialogue in this foreign language. I am sure I have been witnessing wisdom developing in their collective intelligence. This is what I am now starting to research in my doctoral dissertation.
My background in workplace communication:
Licentiate thesis, 2017: Nursing students’ professional oral English communication skills in simulated data, The Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Further education in work place communication: Participated in the organisation expert training (35 cr) at Metanoia Institute, Finland in 2015-2017
Member of the Academy of Professional Dialogue since 2018
The first international gathering of Dialogue Practitioners from all over the globe, The World Needs Dialogue conference, convened by the Academy of Professional Dialogue took place in the UK in October 2018. Eeva Kallio‘s and my paper Dialogue and Teaching English in Higher Education was considered in a dialogue circle of 20 people as an Acorn paper during the first day of the conference. Hopefully, an oak tree with more acorns will grow from this …