2011 ENGAGE conference in Margate
‘I thought the session provided a space to really explore
a thought… the idea that the thought need not be one
that the participant believed in or was committed to was
very enlightening. Creating a space where you could just
say what popped into your head and explore it and see how
far it could go.
The ‘agreeing’ or ‘disagreeing’ was useful to keep the
discussion on track and focussed, forcing one to make a
point of view or be an observer. So often we question to
no aim for just the sake of conversation, or skirt around
an issue so not to be in disagreement. The act of
‘officially’ agreeing or disagreeing allowed me to enter a
non-emotional state where the statement or thought could
be truly explored.
The act of putting up hands and taking turns created time
to explore ones statement internally and to appreciate and
listen to each of the given points. Very useful for me as
I talk quickly and without always thinking…
In my mind the conversation/statements created a visual of
basket of layered sticks, which expanded quickly around
some statements and then collapsed in on themselves as
participants got caught up in semantics.
In total it created a safe space to explore any notion on
the topic without judgement or offense. A space where new
ideas would arrive much quicker than in a debate setting
where participants may have already made their internal
standpoints and would defend that no matter what, which is
probably why debates get heated very quickly. I can’t
imagine that the Philosophical Inquiry would become heated
often… though I may be wrong.
I am very excited by the process and would love to try it
again, I’d love to try it focused around a work of art.’
Debbie Cooper, Participation Curator, QUAD Gallery

Turner Contemporary, Margate
Gallery ‘Navigator’ said:
‘The whole thing has informed me as a practitioner and as a person. I suppose using and trusting the silence and the art-works to evoke feelings and ideas is something I found useful to be told to trust myself. Also mixing with other thinkers and artists, being in a creative environment, an open environment and a trusting environment. You were able to make this happen’.

RESEARCH 2011 MRS Annual conference, St Paul’s, London
Best Workshop finalist – what the judges said:
‘With participants sat in a big circle, and no props of any kind, Ayisha stayed outside and moderated a “group dialogue”, with consummate skill. The process elicited wide-ranging, divergent and often very surprising views. She set strict rules to prevent chaos; everyone listened and contributed, and most went away with a lot to think about.’

THE VIRTUAL COLLEGE, Birmingham, 2009
Virtual college tutors said:
‘We have used the discussion format for a Smoking discussion, several communications discussions and discussions at the arts award sessions – some students also suggested we have that style of discussion even when we had not planned it that way. They all seemed to like it as a way of running discussions. The students seemed much more willing to listen to one another and the level of discussions has been much higher. It has also definitely helped staff, changed the language we and the students use and has been good to talk about thoughts rather than feelings…the structure makes sure everyone is included, given an opportunity to join in and it seemed as though they felt more able to contribute’.

‘I enjoyed the training very much. It was good to work with the team about working with the students to value thinking as well as doing. This is something I think is so important to young people in developing their investigative skills, learning about and how to tolerate different opinions and arguments and in making good decisions about their future and their aspirations’.

A specialist Sports and Humanities College

The commissioning teacher said:
‘I found the dialogue session to be a very stimulating experience. I enjoyed being able to explore my own thoughts and feelings, to be able to feel comfortable expressing or giving voice to ideas within the context of a group discussion which did not have that competitive/josling for position edge which can often silence people or inhibit group discussion. It provided space for concepts, ideas and thoughts to develop, in a way which felt limitless, many of which I have returned to and spent time contemplating since. I particularly valued it as an exercise which levelled participants – making discussion non hierarchical. The rules were fair and effective in creating a safe environment for people to speak and be listened to without fear of ideas being rubbished, or belittled. A very creative, thought provoking experience, I would definitely like to attend again’.

‘I was really pleased with the way this session went. Nearly all participants entered into the discussion voluntarily at least once during the session, which was great. The session succeeded in allowing students the freedom to share ideas, to stimulate reflection and enquiry, to listen and learn from others, to engage with art works on a very sophisticated level, to explore and refine their own ideas and understanding of the creative processes. Many of the students have acknowledged that they have taken ideas and new perspectives on the creative process and have been able to apply them to their own work and practice’.

Ben: It was interesting and different. Although I did not feel touched by the stimulus material, it was good in that it provided a new perspective on thinking so narrowly.

Georgina: It was interesting to see how ideas can be developed and enabled me to see different stages of understanding. It might change my view of what other people might think about my work. It will make me more aware of audience.

Catherine: It has made me consider experimenting more with video and motion.

Charlotte: I liked the poster board idea, it provided lots of inspirational ideas. I didn’t like the piece we were shown. I enjoyed being able to voice my own views and thinking in depth.

Natalie: I thought it was quite a good experience. I never really look at anything in depth, and I enjoyed being able to listen to other peoples ideas. I thought that the pin board was a good idea.


Tutor supporting dyslexic students at degree level, London
“It was a real experience of being in a dialogue. I found the specific rules about how to conduct the inquiry really new and interesting – surprisingly simple but effective in keeping people in an emotionally neutral thinking mode”.

“I Have attended ‘circle times’ with children and teacher training discussion groups/workshops – but they were more limited in their effectiveness, I think.
I also went away thinking of ways the practice could be used in the education setting”.

“I do think that academic departments would find it a really powerful tool -especially at the start of courses when introducing modules/topics that are new to students. I can imagine dialogues could help to break down false notions and make important concepts/words accessible to students in a very comfortable unthreatening way.”

Co-Director of a Training Company, London.
“I can see an application for this type of activity in any company for brainstorming sessions and also generating and developing a single concept.”

“I think a sense of bonding/cohesion came out of the session I went to (maybe because of the subject matter) because it feels like a collaborative effort and a very positive thing.”

Policy and strategy maker for a government agency, London
“good for team building or brainstorming an approach to new policy”.