Healthy Dissent

I received a number of emails and comments from last week’s post on successful collaborations. I guess the concept of providing space for other contributors to share their ideas resonated with readers. I got some great feedback from Vicky Morgan, who is the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. Vicky and I have worked together a bunch of times over the last decade, and she emailed to say:

I wanted to comment on the issue of being able to disagree in order to move ahead. A colleague of mine at Illinois State and I started to use the phrase ‘healthy dissent’ to describe that. It worked pretty well, especially in more difficult groups.

Vicky captures the most salient point of last week’s post. We need to provide space for our colleagues and their ideas, but we also have to do it in a way to that’s healthy for the group. In my post, I drew on the old adage about being able to disagree without being disagreeable, but I like Vicky’s term better. Healthy dissent.

One of the collaborative projects I didn’t include in last week’s post is my ongoing podcasting project with Scott McDonald from Penn State University. It’s not that I didn’t view this as a successful collaboration or anything. Scott and I have been recording Science in Between for almost three years now, so it’s not really a new collaboration or anything. I also think the longevity of the project also provides strong evidence that the collaboration is successful. I also know that our collaboration is a place where “healthy dissent” can occur, which was on display in an episode we recently recorded.

Scott and I were discussing dispositions in teacher preparation programs. I won’t bore you with the details of the discussion, but Scott and I didn’t agree on much in that conversation. And while we both passionately believed in our own perspectives and communicated our points of view with vigor, I don’t believe we ever entered a point where I would qualify our discussion as “unhealthy dissent.” Sure, we disagreed, but in the end, we’re still colleagues and friends.

At the end of our discussion, we joked about whether we’d ever record episode 138. While we titled episode 137 as “Dispositional Throwdown,” I’m certain there are many more Science in Between episodes to come.

If you’re curious, you’ll be able to download episode 137 on April 20th wherever you listen to podcasts.


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