Using Quotations to Stimulate Dialogue

If used well, quotations can trigger rich and generative discussions in large and small groups. Use one of these three activities to explore the thought-provoking quotations presented here.

One of the simplest and most effective ways of stimulating dialogue is to employ the use of brief quotations by noted writers, thinkers, artists, and philosophers.  Of course, the Internet is a rich source of quotations, but we’d like to spare you the search because it can take you down a rabbit hole, consuming a lot of time and energy. (We’ve been there, so we know!)



Below is a list of prompts and quotations that we’ve found to be particularly helpful in setting up the conditions for productive dialogue. These have been collected from a wide variety of sources and over a long period of time. They are organized around topics that often arise (or should arise) in conversations about school change, system redesign, and student-centered learning.

Action and Change
Youth Engagement
Dialogue and Listening
Learning and Change

How to Use the Quotations

Choose a focus for your dialogue based on your goals and select quotes that align with this goal. Copy and cut up the quotations into individual slips of paper. Then choose one of the following activities to help participants engage in dialogue.

1. Quote of Your ChoiceToolkit_sriweb

Pose a question for participants to consider. For example, which quotation best captures why you think schools needs to change? Which quotation best captures a belief about education that you strongly agree with?  Let participants pick their quotations from a wide variety of offerings.  Then ask the group to form a circle and have each participant read the quotation and share why they chose it.

2. Quote That Chooses You

Put all the separate quotations into a container so that each participant can choose one from it. Then ask the group to form a circle and have each participant pull one quotation at random. Ask participants to take one or two minutes to reflect on the quotation they picked and its personal meaning.  Finally, ask participants to read the quotation out loud and share why that quotation “chose them.” In other words, how do they make meaning of it?

3. Gallery Walk Activity

This “Gallery Walk” activity is designed to stimulate discussion around education as a collective endeavor that strengthens communities. Place quotes around the room at stations. Give participants an opportunity to read all of the quotations and select one that is most relevant and resonant. Typically, a small group will form around each of the quotations. Ask participants to engage in conversation, ensuring each member has a turn. Lastly, have a representative from each of the groups share with the large group. Note this activity can be conducted with the collective education quotes and images provided in the full instructions or could be adapted for use with any of the quotes we have listed.


To conclude your chosen activity, the facilitator may want to offer some Reflection Questions, such as:

What was it like to participate in this activity?
What did you learn from listening to the quotations and reflections?
What have you learned from this activity?

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