my approach to learning
In my work, I use a Dialogue Education approach to designing and facilitating participatory learning events, (e.g. workshops, classes, online seminars, conference calls, presentations and meetings).
Dialogue Education is based on the work of Dr. Jane Vella as developed by Global Learning Partners, Inc. (with whom I am a member of the Core Consulting Team).
Jane interpreted the work of Paulo Freire, Malcolm Knowles, Kurt Lewin and others in light of her years of working with adult learners in many cultures, and created an elegant synthesis of the key principles and practices of how adults learn.
She called this approach "Dialogue Education" because it seeks to create a dialogue between the learners, the instructors and the content (vs. a monlogue by an expert "delivered" to passive recipients -- what Freire called the "banking approach" to learning). Jane has authored many books and articles on Dialogue Education, and continues to refuse invitations to lecture -- she'll only attend if she can "tell through dialogue".
Upon returning to the United States, Jane founded Jubilee Popular Education Centre, (now Global Learning Partners, Inc. (GLP). GLP continues to popularize Dialogue Education through its courses and consulting services, as well as a number of great online resources that are available on their website: www.globallearningpartners.com.
Some Principles of Dialogue Education
- Respect for the learners’ prior knowledge and experience
- Treating the learners as “Subjects” (Decision Makers) in their own learning
- Relevance to their work and life situation
- Immediacy in terms of opportunities to apply their learning during and soon after the workshop
- Engagement in the learning process through using a variety of activities that engage cater to learning domains (Cognitive, Affective, & Psychomotor) and learning preferences (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic)
- Safety to participate according to their personality, culture, and position within the group
- Inclusion so that no one feels excluded by virtue of their identity, abilities or position;
- Sound Relationships
- Accountability to the learners
- Providing opportunities for Praxis or “learning through action and reflection”.
Some Distinctive Features of Dialogue Education
Jane is the first to say that she draws on the work of my other educators and that elements of Dialogue Education can be found in many other participatory teaching and learning approaches. However, for me the distinctive features of Dialogue Education include:
- It is a principle-based approach, rather than a technique-based approach. As such, each practitioner must interpret the principles according to their learners. To date, there are upwards of 75 principles and practices that have been identified.
- It is learning-centred, in that it aims to create a "space between" where learning can take place and to avoid the extremes of teacher-centred or even learner-centred approaches.
- The use of a Learning Needs and Resources Assessment to inform the design of any learning event. Most assessments focus on the learners' needs, but Dialogue Education also suggests discerning what the learners are bringing by way of experience, skills and knowledge that can serve as a resource for the other learners.
- The 7 Steps of Design, a flexible framework for designing learning events that outlines the key parameters (Who?, Why? Where? and When?) and then frames the choice of Content, ABOs' and Process.
- Achievement-Based Objectives that focus on what the learners will do with each element of content during the actual learning event. ABOs are usually more immediate, observable and rigorous than most Learning Outcomes that I come across. They help ensure congruence between the Content and the Process, and to help design for Transfer.
- Learning Tasks that frame all of the event, not just group activities, thus encouraging you to focus on what the participants will do, even in how they engage with new information.
- the 4A Learning Cycle, which works particularly well for facilitating participatory learning of new content (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes) and provides a great complement to the more common Kolb Cycle of Experiential Learning.
Other Dialogue Education Resources:
Here are a few other resources on Dialogue Education that I can recommend:
- An explanation of Global Learning Partners' approach to learning design and facilitation
- A Comparison Chart juxtaposing Dialogue Education with other learning approaches.
- The Wikipedia entry for Dialogue Education
- Jane Vella's Books
- GLP's Voices in Dialogue e-newsletter
- GLP's DE Toolbox (basic registration form required)
- Speaking of Dialogue, a blog written by GLP staff, partners and associates.
- Learning by Dialogue, the adult learning consulting practice of Dr. Joye Norris