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Dialogue, agency and experiential learning in international camps

Experiential learning may be conceived as a social communicative process that displays agency, which indicates autonomous construction of meanings during social process. This paper explores social conditions and cultural presuppositions of experiential learning, showing that it can be successfully enhanced through a form of dialogue which empowers participants' personal expression of ideas and emotions. The specific meanings of empowering dialogue are the promotion and fair distribution of active participation in interaction (equity), the display of sensitivity towards the interlocutors' interests and/or needs (empathy), and the treatment of disagreements and alternative perspectives as enrichments in communication. These meanings are explored through the analysis of transcriptions of videotaped interactions which were collected in four international residential camps for adolescents, coordinated by expert adults. First, the analysis of the data shows those adults' dialogic actions which work effectively in promoting experiential learning: appreciations, acknowledgement tokens, affective non-verbal behaviour, continuers, formulations, promotional questions, direct invitations and suggestions. Second, the analysis identifies the main obstacles for empowering dialogue, which are adults' negative assessments and assertions of hierarchical stances with adolescents. Some final considerations are drawn regarding the features of empowering dialogue that can empower experiential learning as agency in interactions.

Agency; Dialogue; Experiential Learning; Interaction


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