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  • Anita Juni

Transformational Dialogue

The Orchestral Dialogues project has this interesting extra component - a designated time to explore what being in Dialogue can actually mean as well as how transformation can truly be a significant aspect of such Dialogue. During the last 2017/2018 workshop term I sought to lead participants of the workshop into a deeper understanding of the consequences and entailments of the fact that all of us have a perspective of what we think is true as well as valuable about the world. Such understanding will of course affect how adept we are at listening, learning, communicating, adapting or problem-solving, whether it be in the orchestral setting or in the larger setting of our lives. As I've come to understand transformational healing these are core components to the process, aided very much by social and embodied experiences in artistic creation.

I considered it an experiment to find out to what degree children of this age group (10 to 14) could grasp abstract concepts along these themes, presented of course as much as possible in experiential learning contexts. I wondered how much they could come to see that we are all subject to the influences of culture(s) that 'cultivate' in us familiar viewpoints or world-views, sometimes seeding an array of biases, pre-judgments (prejudices), and distortions in 'seeing' or 'hearing' others. I wanted to see if we could convey the idea that cognitive frameworks become established without awareness; for example, ones that divided us into 'us' and them' camps. We develop 'mindsets', hewing to a fixed or growth mindset regarding our own capacities and at times, fall into critical, competitive or oppositional mindsets towards others. Can those ideas be successfully conveyed to children in this age group? I wondered further; could the participants in Orchestral Dialogues come to fully realize that social space is fundamentally multi-perspectival, come to appreciate its diversity, choose cooperation over competition and more pro-socially manage its challenges?

The workshops have been a setting to learn what they can absorb if such ideas are explicitly taught and what artistic vehicles aid in the development of understanding. One observation is that we won't know how well they have taken such conceptual ideas into personal practice unless we give some type of pre- and post-assessments - and that is a challenge as there are scanty measures of these types of cognitive and social/emotional understandings and skills established. I'm putting attention to finding what improved measures current researchers are developing in this area. In my exploring how to construct successful student learning experiences I've been propelled through my own learning processes. What are suitable and memorable encapsulations that capture the important understandings, as in songs, phrases, aphorisms, memes, symbols or icons? Also I know I'll continue to examine what kinds of artistic experiences can channel such learning and hopefully aid in positive transformation. I've seen the value of exploring widely the arena of artistic vehicles to carry and/or support such learning. Certainly I see that the workshop setting, interactional as it is between the participating Teaching Artists and the students, represents an important activity of 'transformational dialogue' for all of us involved. For my part in the dialogue, I'll continue:

  • To seek ways for all participants to gain appreciation of other perspectives, realizing they have a fuller view of the world as they accept, even appreciate that it is multi-perspectival

  • To help students recognize that transformational dialogue is built upon appreciation and real empathy and that they can 'tune' their aware listening, much like they tune their instruments

  • To work to convey the understanding that character or mindset traits such as curiosity, resilience, conscientiousness, optimism, persistence are cultivated and they aid us in our transformational dialogue skills and help us in our challenges

  • To help students recognize that each of us might be biased, only ‘seeing’ a part of the whole, and to illustrate how types of negative, close-minded or critical mindsets add to our challenges. While we all inevitably have biases we also all have a unique and important perspective to add to the larger picture

  • To promote awareness that common judgments/evaluations/biases as positive or negative may be ambiguous and certainly are not ‘set in stone’, but are malleable and possible to change/develop

  • To help children to see they are building the skills of transformative dialogue from these foundational insights and become motivated to develop their mastery in these skills.

It is with positivity and open-mindedness in outlook or mindset and appreciation of points of view we can all get better at transformational dialogue. We can view this path, of continuing to improve in transformational dialogue, as an interactional 'dance', where speakers and listeners aim their ever-developing perceptive abilities to positively affect each other in a feed-back loop. In our aware engagement of this dance we not only can reduce our conflicts and arguments with others and thereby enhance our interpersonal relationships, but also grow, heal from our personal hurts and traumas and achieve more of our human potential.

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