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n e x t s t e p s i n t h e j o u r n e y Jeffrey D.

| Creating Wilhelm, editor
Spaces: Promoting Learning through Dialogue
Next Steps in the journey 55

Creating Third Spaces: Promoting

Learning through Dialogue

m currently engaged in work with the process of respectful dialogic conversation,
several teachers and my philosopher the very theme of this issue.

friend Bruce Novak on the project Creating Conversation through

of teaching wisdom within the context Third Spaces
of the language arts (Wilhelm & Novak,
My ultimate goals as a teacher include wanting
in press). Of course, this begs the ques- my students to be caring people and democratic
tion of what constitutes wisdom. Heres a citizens who can actively and intelligently navi-
tentative stab based on our work: gate their own lives while contributing to the
shaping of their communities in ways that are
Wisdom is: deeply informed and caring. For example, I want
them to go to the polls thinking scientifically
becoming increasingly more conscious of
about various issues like climate change. I want
interconnectedness (between people, be-
them to view and discuss movies like a literary
tween groups, and between people and the
theorist, considering genre and the deeper mean-
ing of the film.
developing reflexivity (i.e., a profound re- My wife Peggy has worked for many years
spect for others and other perspectives); on promoting wisdom curriculum. She has found
cultivating compassion; it natural to integrate real-life practical problem-
being guided by a greater good than materi- solving tools and ways of interacting productively
alism, status, and image; into preexisting curriculasuch as learning how
to actively listen, how to make conversation
valuing stillness and reflection, especially in
and invite participation from all parties, how to
seeking guidance from an inner versus outer
bracket out anger and emotional chargesas one
locus of control;
learns how to think more like an expert. She ar-
developing inner awareness of ones own gues that if we are not teaching real and humane
perceptions, motivations, and possibilities; and practical tools for living in the context of our
and committing to service and social action teaching, then what is learned is very unlikely to
for a communitarian good. be applied to the real world.
To work toward and achieve the goals of
It strikes me that all of these aspects of wis-
true understanding and of application (and if we
dom involve the interpenetration of I and
are not teaching for understanding and use, what
you into the us of a new and new kind of
can we possibly be teaching for?), I must create a
community. And of course, one of our most pow-
third space in my classroom, where the needs,
erful toolsfor understanding each other, build-
problems, questions, interests, discourses, and
ing and deepening conceptual and procedural
funds of knowledge of my students home lives
understanding, and becoming a communityis

Voices from the Middle, Volume 18 Number 2, December 2010

Copyright 2010 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.

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n e x t s t e p s i n t h e j o u r n e y | Creating Third Spaces: Promoting Learning through Dialogue
56 come into conversation with these same aspects anchors of community life, facilitating and fos-
from disciplinary funds of knowledge (Moje, et tering broad and creative interactions and social
al., 2004; Moll & Greenburg, 1990). Every article projects that go beyond and/or integrate the mu-
in this issue moves us to create the motivation, tual concerns of home and work/school. Olden-
cultivate the methods, use the materials, and pro- burg argues that all societies have informal social
mote the metacognition of experts in some way spaces; what is new in modern times is the need
by bringing expert stances and knowledge into to create them to address vital, current societal
conversation with motivations, methods, mate- needs.
rials, and/or metacognitive reflection on issues The concept of third space was first devel-
that already imbue and inform student lives. In oped in depth by Bhabha (1994) as a metaphor
other words, this issue implicitly explores the is- for the space in which cultures meet. It is a space
sues of creating third spacesa new liminal place in which colonial authority is challenged by those
of possibilities created by integrating the already being colonized and where hybrid identities are
known and the new. created. Elisabeth Moje (see especially Moje, et
al., 2004) has subsequently done a tremendous
History of Defining Third Spaces amount of interesting work on third spaces as the
Many researchers have explored the salience integration of home and school funds of knowl-
of the traditional in school (see Zeichner and edge.
Tabachnick, 1981) and how schools tend to work Moje et al. (2004) emphasize the importance
in prescribed ways. These traditional modes are of the third space as a site for introducing chil-
particularly strong in the case of classroom dis- dren to the discourses of power and of disciplin-
cussion. As Nystrand (1997) and his colleagues ary power. They suggest that the third space
have found, teachers dominate classroom talk, of classrooms should be perceived as a place in
run discussions that are thinly veiled lectures which academic discourses are challenged and
where students cannot make substantive contri- re-shaped, but also give rise to the reconstitu-
butions (the researchers call this monologic tion and extension of the everyday, out-of-school
instruction), and unintentionally limit opportu- knowledge of learners. This process is described
nities for students who most need to explore and as a transformative pedagogy of literacy fusion
rehearse their thinking. So, unless our classroom by Millard (2003, p. 6), who suggests that chil-
becomes a different kind of space that transcends drens out-of-school interests and knowledge
the traditions of schooling, that blends and in- can be fused with schooled literacy in classroom
tegrates home and disciplinary literacies to cre- practices that attend to what happens when the
ate a space of new conversation and possibility, two worlds meet to solve problems.
dialogic instruction and ensuing engagement and In my opinion, third spaces can be seen as
understanding cannot and will not occur. more democratic and dialogic spaces than a tradi-
The first time I became familiar with the no- tional classroom, as well as a metaphor for a space
tion of third spaces was in Ray Oldenburgs in which new, hybrid, and challenging discourses
The Great Good Place (1991) that I read in Wayne and real-world knowledge and applications are
Ottos graduate seminar as a doctoral student. created. Because of the importance of application
The third place is a term used in this book to to understanding, third spaces are places for col-
describe social settings separate from the two laboratively creating an agreed-upon plan of ac-
usual social environments of home and the work- tion that follows from what is learned.
place/school. Oldenburg argues that third places The notion of a third space reminds me of
are essential to civil society, civic engagement, a Illichs (2000) idea of de-schoolingof creating
sense of place, and localized empowerment, not or using neutral non-schoolish spaces like work-
to mention democracy itself. Third places are shops, libraries, and laboratories. In this sense,

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n e x t s t e p s i n t h e j o u r n e y | Creating Third Spaces: Promoting Learning through Dialogue

third spaces become more like the contexts in In our research in national demonstration sites 57
which real practitioners engage with problems for adolescent literacy, we found that the follow-
and create knowledge to overcome the weakest ing factors are important to the success of inqui-
features of traditional schooling, like recitation ry-oriented learning and projects:
and rote learning. When you make your class- Start with interests of kids.
room a space where things are done differently,
Frame curriculum as a problem to be solved
you can overcome the salience of the traditional.
that engages student interests.
In my own family, for instance, weve often found
that going away for a few days together creates a Fuse the personal aspects of the inquiry with
third space where we can talk about issues and disciplinary concerns and knowledge.
make plans in ways that we find difficult when we Involve multiple partiesdisciplinary ex-
are immersed in the world of home or of work/ perts, parents, critical friends, faculty
school. as speakers, co-inquirers, and audiences for
authentic products and presentations.
Third Spaces and Learning
Sustain the learning over time.
Promote learning that leads to sharing and
Research on models of learning used in school
social action.
shows that American teaching is dominated
by teacher-centered information-transmission Use various modes and mediapopular
models (see Wilhelm, Baker, & Dube, 2001, for a culture and primary disciplinary materi-
full discussion). In this type of model, teaching is als, student-generated databrought into
telling, and learning is being able to repeat what conversation with each other.
you are told. At the other end of the learning the-
Creating Mini-Third Spaces in the
ory continuum is the student-centered personal
knowledge construction model. Here, teaching is
creating a nurturing environment, and learning is Using inquiry-oriented curriculum reframes the
constructing ones own understandings. In Stra- classroom as a third space. It is also possible to
tegic Reading (Wilhelm, Baker, & Dube, 2001), create mini-third spaces through activities that
I propose that sociocultural theories provide for privilege student thinking in conversation with
a kind of third space that is neither traditional disciplinary knowledge or problems. In my re-
recitation nor open-ended personal knowledge search on teachers trying inquiry approaches for
construction, but rather a learning-centered the first time, Ive found that those teachers who
community where teachers and students work find inquiry difficult to implement are those who
together to co-construct knowledge according to are unable to manage small-group work and dis-
disciplinary standards as they learn and use disci- cussion at the lesson level. But there are many
plinary concepts and procedures. Inquiry is the techniques that can help teachers to do this man-
model of apprenticeship that most fully enacts aging. Simply using a technique such as think-
this third space theory. pair-share creates a third space (see Wilhelm,
2007), as students are asked what they think about
Success Factors for Inquiry the disciplinary issue or textual passage they have
Curriculum/Dialogic Projects just experienced. In other words, the purpose of
When students engage in inquiry, they are im- using such structures as reciprocal reading, lit-
mersed in a learning model that subsumes proj- erature circles, patterned paired reading, and the
ect-based learning (Wilhelm & Wilhelm, 2010) like is to provide environmental assistance for
and offers legitimate peripheral participation in promoting inquiry and understanding at the unit
the real tasks of experts (Lave & Wenger, 1991). and lesson levels (Wilhelm, 2007).

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n e x t s t e p s i n t h e j o u r n e y | Creating Third Spaces: Promoting Learning through Dialogue
58 The Power and Pleasures of Dialogue Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning:
Legitimate peripheral participation. New York:
Finally, I just have to add that real learning is fun. Cambridge University Press.
In contrast, being told what to think is not em- Millard, E. (2003). Transformative pedagogy: Towards
powering or interesting or fun. Nobody I know, a literacy of fusion. Reading: Literacy and Lan-
student or adult, likes being told what to think guage, 37(1), 39.
or do. Ive just read two recent books: The Art Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L.,
of Conversation (Blyth, 2009) and How to Have a Carillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working towards
Beautiful Mind (de Bono, 2004); both emphasize third space in content area literacy: An examination
of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. In
not only the fun of true dialogue, but how to en-
Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 3870.
gage in it. The many suggestions in these books
Moll, L. C., & Greenburg, J. (1990). Creating zones of
show how conversational and dialogic moves possibilities: Combining social contexts for instruc-
can be taught to people if they are interested in tion. In L. C. Moll (Ed.), Vygotsky and education
the aspects of wisdom with which I started this (pp. 319348). New York: Cambridge University
commentary. Both books make the point that Press.
dialogue is in service of understanding and of Nystrand, M. (1997). Opening dialogue: Understanding
growing wisdom; monologue cannot be. Third the dynamics of language and learning in the Eng-
lish classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
spaces create opportunities for learning, opera-
Oldenburg, R. (1991). The great good place. New York:
tionalizing that learning, and actualizing new
possibilities that the home environment, or tra-
Wilhelm, J. (2007). Engaging readers and writers with
ditional school environment, cannot do on their inquiry. New York: Scholastic.
own. When brought into conversation in a new Wilhelm, J., Baker, T., & Dube, J. (2001). Strategic
space, however, the learning becomes separate reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
from both home and work/school, while drawing Wilhelm, J., & Novak, B. (in press). Literacy for love
on the resources of both. It becomes new, inter- and wisdom: Being the book and being the
esting, and real. change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Wilhelm, J., & Wilhelm, P. (2010). Inquiring minds
References learn to read, write, and think: Reaching all learn-
ers through inquiry. Middle School Journal, 41(5),
Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The location of culture. London: 3946.
Zeichner, K., & Tabachnick, B. (1981). Are the effects
Blyth, C. (2009). The art of conversation: A guided tour of university teacher education washed out by
of a neglected pleasure. New York: Penguin. school experience? Journal of Teacher Education,
de Bono, E. (2004). How to have a beautiful mind. 32(3), 711.
London: Random House.
Illich, I. (2000). Deschooling society. London: Marion

Voices from the Middle, Volume 18 Number 2, December 2010

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