Conversation Theory

Conversation theory, a scientific theory explaining human-machine interactions through a cybernetic and dialectic framework, heralds as the examination of how the brain constructs knowledge through conversation. In fact, the learning process stems from conversation, whether external or internal, organic or artificial. Conversation theory was proposed by Gordon Pask, an English cybernetician and psychologist, during the 1970s. Pask devised three different learning styles, including serialist, holist, and versatile. All three of these individual learning styles stem from his model in instructional design, most notably for the implementation of analogy relations.

Conversation theory originated from a cybernetics framework in an attempt to explain learning in both organic beings and machines. The core notion behind conversation theory is to prove that learning occurs through conversations about a particular subject matter, which more clearly expresses an acquired knowledge. Cybernetics, an interdisciplinary study aimed at studying a wide array of systems, was defined by Norbert Wiener as the examination of communication between animal and machine. Gordon Pask distinctly identified three levels of conversation, including natural, object, and metalanguages. Natural language consists of general, everyday discussion whereas object language narrows down to a specific subject matter. Metalanguage discussions are about learning and language itself. Gordon Pask clearly sought various learning strategies to facilitate communication between animal and machine.

Gordon Pask believed that educators should present subject matter in the structural form easily recognized by the human brain. In other words, cybernetics served to observe and conduct studies of various learning styles. Each learning style requires a different type of presenting information for improved retention. Pask introduced a learning method known as ?teachback,? or the presentation of a particular subject matter in the form of displaying what they have learned. Gordon Pask identified two different types of learning strategies, including serialists and holists. Serialists progress through information presented in sequential order, whereas holists seek for a higher order among relations. However, the versatile learner does not rely on one particular method for retention in the context of his work.

Conversation theory and cybernetics prove that human and machine interaction occurs through internal and external processes identified through semantics. Language allows for the pathway to higher learning. This technology can allow for the improvement of modern educational methods. Therefore, humans can benefit from the evolution of our understanding of how the brain functions in relation to artificial intelligence. Understanding learning systems can greatly contribute to more productive and higher quality work if implemented correctly.

Follow these links for an improved understanding about Conversation Theory:

  • Conversation Theory (Gordon Pask): The concept known as ?Conversation Theory? was developed by Gordon Pask in an effort to explain the learning capacity of living organism and artificial intelligence.
  • Background of Gordon Pask: An educational overview of Gordon Pask, the cybernetics developer who examined human-machine interaction.
  • Conversation Theory Summary: An academic essay explaining the process behind conversation theory, including the root concept that only through conversation does real learning take place, whether external or internal.
  • Conversation Theory by Gary McIntyre Boyd (PDF): An extensive document explaining the science behind conversation theory, including its historical and evolutionary roots, the psychological and cybernetic prerequisites, basic assumptions and hypotheses, building blocks, and practical applications used to improve human-machine interactions.
  • Applications of Conversation Theory for Learning: A Case Study (PDF): A presentation by a college student attempting to understand practical applications involved in conversation theory for learning. The document details a case study conducted by the student to measure a hypotheses against conclusive results.
  • Second Language Theories: A brief summary of second language theories, including bulleted points behind conversation theory. Each point empirically proves that learning stems from conversation, either through internal or external processes.
  • Paul Pangaro, Ph.D.: Cybernetics and Conversation: Paul Pangaro clarifies the connection between cybernetics and conversation theory, and how it shapes intelligence, regardless if organic or artificial.
  • The Cybernetics Society: Gordon Pask: An official background on Gordon Pask, the originator of cybernetics and conversation theory, including his notion that every process produces a product; therefore, every product is produced by a process.
  • Cybernetics and the Integration of Knowledge (PDF): Bernard Scott introduces a conversational model based on cybernetics that better explains the integration of knowledge through ordinary speech.
  • Cybernetician: Gordon Pask: A closer examination of the studies and theories formulated by Gordon Pask, a pioneer in cybernetics. This profile explores Pask's knowledge regarding symbolic generalizations, beliefs, models, and analogies, values, exemplars, techniques, and guiding questions.
  • The 1960s: Instructional Systems Development: Gordon Pask: In 1959, Gordon Pask expounded upon Crowder's notions of non-linear sequencing by developing the idea of cooperative control over human-machine interaction.
  • An Introduction to Cybernetics (PDF): A 295-page booklet introducing the scientific principles and practical applications of cybernetics, a science with intention of achieving a goal with machinery.
  • Systems and Conversations: Pask and Laurillard: An article dissecting the difference between a ?serialist? and ?holist? approach to conversation theory and various systems.
  • Use of Conversation Theory to Underpin Blended Learning (PDF): An abstract paper presenting the educational use of conversation theory across broad learning environments in an attempt to introduce various learning methods and technologies.
  • Conversation Theory: Blended Course Design and Discussion (PDF): A case study examining a hypothetical structure aiming to create blended courses based on conversation theory.

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