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The value of dialogue

Cognitive coaching is powerful because it uses the dialogue form to stimulate high cognitive demand mental work – the coachee engages in deep thinking, making connections and gaining deeper understanding.

At the same time the coach is using deep forms of listening whereby their conscious mind is quiet and full attention is directed to the coachee in order to avoid distracting the coachee’s thinking and to provide the encouragement for that thinking to run freely and deeply.


In a class of 24 students plus a teacher there are 300 potential paired connections.

Traditionally, the teacher-student connections have been the most favoured and it is increasingly one of the teacher’s key roles to ask the sorts of questions that stimulate this type of deep thinking in her students and to listen in ways that allow the deep thinking to take place.

However, each one of the 276 student-to-student pairings could– over time – use a similar dialogue form to stimulate high cognitive demand mental work, deep thinking, in a more dispersed way.

One of the reasons to move to group work is to allow this sort of dialogue to take place but it can’t (and won’t) take place unless it is set up to happen.

Task design is of key importance, for example, low threshold/high ceiling designs so that all levels of ability can engage, and the design of the dynamics - how students will engage with the task, with the teacher and with each other.

Dialogue is a powerful way to shift from low cognitive to high cognitive demand activity.

John Corrigan