Is it Dialogue Education as Vella Would Describe It?

This blog post is written as more of a question than a statement….a question of whether or not a session I have been facilitating on team building is perhaps structured in a format that is more conducive to what Jane Vella has described in her text, On Teaching and Learning, as ‘dialogue education’ without perhaps having the label to place upon it at the time I began to try it out.

Vella points out in her preface (page xv) that we tend to “teach the way we have been taught until we stop long enough to examine how we are teaching and decide to do otherwise.” I went back to this quote in reflection later on in my reading. So often I had structured and conducted my sessions or classes following the guideline of creation or design that I had been shown when I first took the position. It was not a bad way to design, and in fact appeared to often very effective. But over time I noticed, especially in the topics that I facilitate, that discussion could be very powerful when time was allowed for it in the design. I found people would become passionate about the subject, would seemingly connect or question the concepts more as they felt validated perhaps, and would often cite on their evaluations that the dialogue was the most helpful portion of the class.

So perhaps it is with these findings in mind that I decided to try something different with my Team Building bi-weekly session. Or perhaps it was also more about not wanting to do the same old thing? Regardless I thought about the power of the discussion in other classes and my own VCU based learning centered on the learner and what they already bring to the table. And I decided, why not see what they know? Why not ask them the questions about how each concept may relate to their world, why not attempt to lead them to the link between the ideas that we’d like to present to them while helping them make that connection to what they already know?

So as I cleaned up the game I now use one day after the session, I reveled in what connections they had made that others had not brought up, what new things I had learned from them and the concepts that they nodded in agreement to as I shared with them my piece of the puzzle. “Thank you for letting us share what we know and what we think for once instead of just telling us” someone said as I closed the box. I smiled understanding that while the message at the end of the day was the same, I did still cover all of the important things in my ‘lesson plan’, perhaps the learning was so much more than it used to be simply because I asked them instead of telling. Is this what Vella means? I’d like to think so. Because if it is, I can absolutely see why she emphasizes its power and importance in our field.


About hdjackson

Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying the theoretical world of Adult Learning along with its relation to Human Resources Developement. View all posts by hdjackson

2 responses to “Is it Dialogue Education as Vella Would Describe It?

  • shelley knowlson

    Holly – what you said is true on many levels. This clas has made me question why I am doing a number of things that were asked of me when I started my job. I agreed to do a couple of educational sessions when I was asked because I was told that “we have always had this class”. I at least feel like I am armed with enough knowledge to ask “why”.

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