Making a Dialogue-Centered Program


Instead of holding a lecture with a Q & A session, we have designed a dialogue-centered program for our pop-up exhibition on the visual culture of the African-American liberation struggle. We value visitors as active participants. A dialogue format encourages each person to make personal associations to black protest art and the underlying structural issues that the works address.


To achieve our objective we implemented the Sites of Conscience dialogue-based facilitation model. The Sites of Conscience, a global organization of over 200 museums and historic sites highlights memory and human rights issues. In addition to advocating dialogue-based programming to engage participants in making connections with history, the organization offers training sessions for cultural workers.
After attending one of these sessions at the National Council on Public History in March, we realized that the Sites of Conscience Arc of Dialogue paradigm would help us create the environment of deep reflecting and sharing of experiences about both the formal and social content of the artworks and the pressing social and political issues of today .
The free online guide Front Page Dialogues: Race and Policing was instrumental to us as we developed our questions and organized the flow of our program. The process of building questions according to the 4 phases of the Sites of Conscience model was rigorous. The format helped us see the artworks and museum visitors as social changemakers.

Additionally, Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill and Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins provided important insights for generating questions grounded in higher order thinking.

Our engagement with these inquiry-based pedagogies has been enriching. It has strengthened our belief in the social and political role of art and museums. We are pleased to find that program has sparked thoughtful, moving responses from participants. Hopefully this energy will provoke ongoing critical analysis of structural racism and the central role of visual culture in articulating, challenging, and dismantling racial bias.


Image (top) March of Resilience, Yale University, November 9, 2015
Photo by La Tanya S. Autry



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