featured articles: informal education, lifelong learning and social action


trusting in conversation

Conversation lies at the centre of informal education. But what is it? How does it affect what we do? Support page for chapter 2 of Informal Education
support pages
what is conversation?
being with
being open
follow up
josephine macaliser brew and informal education
happiness and education
paulo freire


Having argued that conversation lies at the heart of informal education, we need to explore what it is and what is involved in a 'good' conversation. Part of the problem is that it is conversation is so much a part of everyday life that we can take it for granted. We can fail to see its importance and potential.

Here you might want to explore:

What is conversation? On this page we examine the characteristics of conversation.

Being with. To fully engage in conversation, we have to be in a certain frame of mind. We have to be with that person, rather than seeking to act upon them.

Being open. Conversation for the informal educator is not about trying to win an argument. Rather, conversation is about understanding and learning.

Check out the Informal Education forum and discussion page

Follow up

At the end of Chapter 2 we suggest that you look at Sophie Haroutain-Gordon's piece on conversation in the classroom, Mark Smith's discussion of conversation in Local Education, and Paulo Freire on dialogue.

Paulo Freire, informal education and lifelong learning: provides an introduction to the man and his work, and highlights some of his significance for informal educators.

Dialogue and conversation: looks at a more philosophical understanding of conversation and dialogue.



Keep a rough note over a week of the amount of time that you spend in conversation with the people you are working with ('clients'). Also look at how long each of the conversations lasts. Are they brief, are they long? How deep do they go?

Once you have an idea of what is happening - review your working sessions. If you don't spend much time in conversation try to make time to be around with people.

Some questions to consider

At the end of the chapter we give you some questions to think about. Those at the end of this chapter (and repeated below) are a bit different. They are more there to help you think about yourself as a conversationalist. In that sense there are no wrong or right answers.

Reflect on your abilities as a conversationalist. Here are some possible questions:

Further reading

Mary Wolfe (2001) ‘Conversation’ in Linda Deer Richardson and Mary Wolfe (eds.) (2001) The Principles and Practice of Informal Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer, pages 124-137.

Mark K. Smith (1994) ‘Engaging in conversation’ in Local Education, Buckingham: Open University Press, pages 40-61. This chapter looks at how informal educators approach conversation.