Science Solutions for Change Management

Category: Psychology

Everyday Dialogue as a Learning Tool

Some initial, contextualized thoughts to solve on ESL learning – Our Experience in Argentina:

In our perspective, languages are human products that follow the dynamics of living systems, rather than academic contents.

Most people who are willing to learn a second language (ESL = English as a Second Language), in our Argentinean experience, are pushed by the market or the academia requirements to do so. Many of them believe (with all due right) that a second language adds better opportunities in a difficult job-seeking scenario, or in the tough arena of academic competence.

But there are also those who literally enjoy the experience of learning for fun, travelling, starting new friendships and increasing their social competences. They have been the minority, but fortunately, tide is changing…and the best thing we have noticed, is that even the first “under-stress” group usually starts changing their minds regards English, and instead of considering the ESL as a stressing, boring educational requirement, once they see the new world opening in front of them, relax and take joy in the path of communication skills learning.

What creates that initial, distorted vision of ESL? We’ve identified some factors, among those…

  • The way in which licensed English teachers are trained
  • High school English competitions are taught in a very old fashioned, mechanistic system
  • Social factors including misconceptions about English (i.e, English speakers are snob, English is difficult to learn, even English is “yankee” thing!)
  • An impoverished situation of general Education in the country, that not only leads the outcome to lower levels in the polls, but, deeper inside, promotes a culture in which learning is not so necessary, and discourages the attitudes towards learning in its whole.

How Dialogue became a source for overcoming those obstacles:

From structured academia to living language…Dialogue is the perfect interface for making the qualitative breakthrough

As we stated above, we’ve observed in most cases a shift in these misconceptions while our students approach our courses. They usually occur during the attendance of LevelUp©, and it means a strong positive difference afterwards.

In simple words, our dear students start a new comprehension of English…as a communication tool. An instrument that would allow them to express their ideas and thoughts, and access other’s worlds. They no longer focus on grammar skills (which are very important, of course) but they move their focus into communicating “as effectively as they might”, that’s our favorite line to encourage them. Everything changes from that point on.

Learners engage better, become more active, the workshops turn into great learning situations for everybody (including the trainer!), and learning curves increase.

We ascribe that success to the similarity between the natural progression of the learning of the mother language: nobody learns to speak inside a classroom, with a notebook on their hands!

#EverydayDialogue – The Theories Behind: We understand people’s engagement through psychological variables that mainly include the opportunity to (literally) “function” – in a second language – in everyday life. Regardless the topic, we all enjoy sharing meaning and content with our friends, family, and neighbors. In our courses, we have covered from football preferences until cooking recipes, and many other interesting things in between, and always noticed the same outcome: increased attention, involvement and focus, and a gritting wish to express what learners have to say.

In our point of view, it is impossible to achieve such engagement without “modelling” it (Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977). That means we also “jump into the waters” of dialogue, we express our ideas and opinions, and we create a communicational synergy together with learners. It is our strong belief that there are no NLP tips or manipulation strategies that work better than just being honestly ourselves. If we are truly expressing what we want to say, then the others (in this case, ESL learners) will also do so, or tend to do so.

Ragnar Rommetveit (a 92 years-old, talented Norwegian Psychologist, specialized on Language, Learning and Communication) states a proposal for approaching everyday dialogue that criticizes the traditional, experimentalist, and individualist research. He understands (as we do) dialogue as an experience sharing. What do we share in a dialogue? Interactively- established meaning and understanding. And all of this is mediated by language. (Rommetveit, 1970)

Towards a Psychology (and Pedagogy) of the Second Person: Getting involved is mandatory!

He argues that, instead of the experimental, 3rd-person standpoint; we should approach the study of dialogues “from within”, from a Psychology of the Second Person…meaning involving ourselves and the interaction with others. He proposes to focus on:

  • Intersubjectivity
  • Perspectivity, and perspective relativity
  • The meaning potential of utterances, and
  • The epistemic responsibility of interlocutors

Intuitively, we have done so during our courses. We now are committed to in-detail document the whole experience to serve as evidence over this theoretical background, for we believe in a continuous dialogue between doing and thinking, giving and receiving, and since this development is about dialogue…ultimately, speaking and listening.

For more information regarding Rommetveit’s work, consult the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research:

Stay in touch for next article, covering practical tips for better conversations (…in a small peak advance, it includes tips on a good Swedish Fika and Argentinean Mate!)


Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora at

How do we humans develop language? An approach from the Relational Frame Theory

What is Relational Frame Theory (RFT)?

Relational Frame Theory

RFT is a behavior-analytic account of human language and cognition. It is fundamentally similar to Skinner’s account, and is distinct from most cognitive and linguistic approaches to language, in that ‘‘it approaches verbal events as activities not products’’ (Hayes, Fox, et al., 2001, p. 22). It is fundamentally different from Skinner’s account in how it defines and accounts for those verbal events and activities.

The wide range of topics being addressed and methods being used in RFT may make the field of behavior analysis somewhat more appealing to those who long ago deemed behaviorism ‘‘dead’’ and irrelevant. Hopefully, the intense debate and controversy inspired by RFT will serve to move the field forward and contribute to an increased behavioral understanding of the complexities and importance of human language. Relational Frame Theory: An Overview of the Controversy, Amy C. Gross and Eric J. Fox, Western Michigan University

Relational Responding

We have chosen to bring up RFT in this article since even if it has been known for more than 20 years it is a field within language development that needs more research. The reason why it has not been researched more seem to be it is close to a philosophical part of science rooted in functional contextualism.

It is rooted in functional contextualism, a philosophy of science with a focus on the study of an act or event within a particular context (See Hayes, 1993). Functional contextualists believe that there are no unshakable, universal truths; instead, they value what is useful and practical. The basic unit of RFT is the relational frame, which is the “action of framing events relationally” (Hayes, Fox, et al., 2001, p. 43). The idea of a “frame” is like a picture frame in that relational responding can involve any sort of events, just as a frame can hold any picture. Brian Thompson, psychologist resident in Portland, Oregon

Human language and cognition are the dependent parts of relational frames. Our thoughts, reasoning, speaking with meaning, or listening with understanding, we are deriving relations among events — among words and events, words and words, events and events.

Relational Learning

There are three main properties of this kind of relational learning:

  • First, such relations show mutual entailment or “bidirectionality.” If a person learns that A relates in a particular way to B in a context, then this must entail some kind of relation between B and A in that context. For example, if a person is taught that hot is the same as boiling, that person will derive that boiling is the same as hot.
  • Second, such relations show combinatorial entailment: if a person learns in a particular context that A relates in a particular way to B, and B relates in a particular way to C, then this must entail some kind of mutual relation between A and C in that context. For example, if by attribution a nickel is smaller than a dime and a dime is smaller than a quarter, then it will be derived that a quarter is bigger than a nickel and a nickel is smaller than a quarter.
  • Finally, such relations enable a transformation of stimulus functions among related stimuli. If you need to buy candy and a dime is known to be valuable, it will be derived that a nickel will be less valuable and a quarter will be more valuable, without necessarily directly purchasing candy with nickels and quarters.

Source: Hayes, S.C.; Barnes-Holmes, D. & Roche, B. (Eds.). (2001). Relational Frame Theory: A Post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Plenum Press.

Relational Learning In Action

From eMindSet workshops

Looking forward to hear from you,

Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora

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