What is Dialogue Education?
Dialogue education is a theory developed by Jane Vella that states that learning happens best through dialogue.
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In her book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults, author and educator Jane Vella outlines the 12 core properties of this element:
- Needs assessment. Who needs what according to whom?
- Safety. How can we make sure all learners experience an environment in which their contribution is valued?
- Sound relationships. Everyone in the learning experience is in some sort of relationship with one another, and there should be genuine curiosity that runs both ways in each of these relationships—instructor to learner, learner to learners, designer to learners.
- Sequence and reinforcement. The flow of a learning experience matters and needs to be intentional, and key concepts shouldn’t be touched upon only once with the assumption they’ve left a meaningful impact on the learners.
- Praxis. From the Greek word for practice with reflection, it’s not just enough to have learners go through an activity—the debriefing of that activity is at least as important as the activity itself.
- Learners as decision makers. Do we respect our learners enough to allow them to make some decisions about their learning experience?
- Ideas, feelings, and actions. It’s not enough to be exposed to a concept, but learners need to have an emotional connection and decide when, if, and how to act upon the concepts and emotions.
- Immediacy. Will the content help learners do their job better (tomorrow)? Will it help solve a problem = (today)?
- Clear roles. Another name for this principle could be humility; does the presenter feel the need to be “the professor” in front of the room, holding a monopoly on all knowledge, or do learners play a role in the dialogue that takes place in the learning experience?
- Teamwork. In accordance with the idea that two (or three or four) heads are better than one, providing opportunities for learners to work together not only aids in in-the-moment learning, but also mirrors real life, in which people generally need to work with other team members, colleagues, or co-workers across an organization to get things done.
- Engagement of the learners. When learners are deeply engaged in a learning experience, especially one that revolves around dialogue, it can be difficult to get them to stop learning.
- Accountability. Yes, learners need to ultimately be accountable for their learning and what they do after a learning experience, but facilitators and course designers must also be accountable to the learners, putting the effort in to ensure an engaging, purposeful experience.
Key Passages about Dialogue Education from What's your Formula?
Potentially Dangerous Interactions
Careful when using Subject Matter Experts (Ex), Powerpoint (Pp), or Lecture (Le) when designing for Dialogue Education. Without thoughtful design, your ability to harness Vella’s concepts of Teamwork, Clear Roles, or Sound Relationships (among others) could be significantly weakened.
Other Sources of Information on Dialogue Education
- Founded by Dr. Jane Vella, Global Learning Partners has numerous open source resources, from Learning Design, to Assessment, Facilitation, and more.
- Liberating Structures are practices that harness the power of the people in the room, complementing Vella’s work.
- The 5 Moments of Need considers Vella’s concept of immediacy as it contributes to adult learners’ ability to do their jobs better.