Dialogue and Difference: Facilitating Difficult Dialogues in the Adult Learning Environment
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The topic of dialogue, especially as it pertains to interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, is an important issue as we continue to see increasing human conflicts occurring at all levels of society. As globalization continues to create greater complexity and increased global tensions, educators are increasingly being called upon to consider what role education might play in preparing students with the knowledge and skills necessary to more successfully work with others, across difference, in an increasingly diverse and ever changing social environment. Accordingly, the purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to discover how educators who work in the fields of conflict resolution, diplomacy, and/or peacebuilding constructively engage adults in difficult dialogues across difference as well as identify the factors that contribute to effective engagement in the dialogue process. It was hoped that through this research, patterns would be identified that can have broader applicability, particularly when working with adults in situations where conflicting perspectives exist and will contribute further to the thought, practice, and facilitation of dialogue within the field of adult education. Findings from the study indicated that dialogue facilitators establish important conditions in order to facilitate effective and constructive dialogues in the learning environment. As a result, a framework began to emerge illustrating three key conditions necessary for effective dialogue facilitation as derived from the research data: increasing participant understanding of dialogue process, establishing a conducive environment for dialogue to occur, and utilizing fundamental facilitator skills.