Dialogue is one of four arts for developing interdependent leadership. Vered Asif, a CCL faculty member based in Brussels, sent us this powerful method for facilitating dialogue in support of learning and development.

quoteWe all know PowerPoint is limited as a teaching method. Collaborative learning can be much more effective, even when learning from experts. Here is a collaborative learning method that uses expert texts–documents, articles, books—as the source of knowledge.


reading circleSteps:

  1. Select a few key texts on the topic of interest for reading by the group. These can be read beforehand, or critical paragraphs can be highlighted and read (individually) at the beginning of the session. The latter option insures that everyone has read the material. Each person must have copies of the texts in hand during the meeting.
  2. Gather the group and sit in a circle if possible. The facilitator introduces the purpose and process of the meeting. Mention, if necessary, that everyone will get a chance to speak.
  3. Members of the group discuss what they have read. Comments, questions, disagreements, even arguments, are welcome. Members read key passages to each other. The facilitator comments, asks questions, summarizes, insures respectful participation by everyone, and adds coherence to the conversation.
  4. The facilitator acts less as a teacher, and more as a coach, being careful not to dominate the conversation.
  5. Close the conversation with a final thought from everyone. Some groups decide to begin and end the meeting with a moment of silence.

In this method, each person can try speaking as an expert, as well as a student. This method is geared to all modes of learning: visual, audial, and tactile, and engages extraverts and introverts.

This method is based on traditional ways of creating locally useful knowledge from the wisdom of experts and sages.

In the Jewish Tradition, in every synagogue you find a place devoted to the study of sacred writings. This area is called the Beit Midrash, the house of study and learning. Midrash literally means investigation. Here people would gather to explore and investigate  scriptures and texts, learn collaboratively, provide individual insights and interpretations to the scripture. People would often argue the meanings and proper applications of the texts. This unique learning setting, provides opportunities for learning and collaborative meaning making to the participants that can never be attained alone, or by simply being on the recipient/receiver side, listening to a lecturer by someone who give his or her own opinions.

I used this collaborative learning method recently with my colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership. With the beit midrash in mind, I left my planned PowerPoint presentation behind. Instead of presenting on the topic of organizational leadership, I went to the copy machine with texts from the CCL canon on the topic. I copied the glossary sections and some key pages and went to the meeting.

I offered the beit midrash approach as a mean to create a dialogue. I asked my colleagues if they were open to have an investigation around these texts. I said that I would like to move away from the expert-lecture role and instead to create meaning for the texts in a collaborative, inclusive way.

We were sitting in a room with a round table and chairs. We gathered around the texts and started to comment and ask questions. We shared our individual thoughts and reactions on the various texts. Then, we pushed back, argued with each other and constructed our own meaning and definitions for organizational leadership. As the rabbi in the beit midrash, I was facilitating the process by asking clarifying questions and gathering the information into coherent observations.

By the end of the meeting we felt more like a community. We felt more united than we felt  at the beginning of the meeting. It was a truly collaborative effort toward collective learning. I have no regrets for leaving PowerPoint behind!

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Vered Asif is an Organizational Leadership Practitioner at the Center for Creative Leadership EMEA. Her fields of interest are Societal Leadership, Leadership Strategy and Professional Identity. Research is part of her professional identity, and she is constantly exploring and investigating the connection between research and practice in the Organizational Leadership realm. Vered is currently co-authoring a white paper on Societal Leadership Strategies. Vered Holds a BA in Sociology and Anthropology and MA in Organizational Sociology and Critical Thinking, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

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