"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

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The Use of Dialogue Education in Community College STEM Courses

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As a meteorology professor at a community college in southern California, I have students struggling with abstract, but important, concepts of the physical processes and impacts of weather and climate. Students at community colleges often lack skills and motivation to learn fundamental STEM-related principles. Because of global warming, it has never been more imperative to understand the mechanisms behind weather and climate, even in southern California where the weather is generally mild and not so exciting. I wanted to find a better way for students to learn the basic concepts of the atmosphere and become engaged with the implications of global climate change. Therefore, as part of my dissertation research, I investigated the impact of dialogue-based group instruction on student learning and engagement in community college meteorology courses. I compared one part of a course that used Dialogue Education (dialogue-based group learning) to another course that only used lecture methods. The main student learning objectives were extreme weather (e.g., California’s multi-year drought) and the effects of climate change. For both courses and groups of students, I used pre/post tests and surveys to collect quantitative and qualitative data. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My main findings are summarized below:

  • Higher test scores for the dialogue students. Each question that assessed learning had a higher score for the dialogue group that was statistically significant (95% confidence interval) compared to the lecture group. 
  • Enhanced perceived learning and application of knowledge for the dialogue students. The survey questions about perceived learning and application of content also exhibited higher scores that were statistically significant for the dialogue group.
  • Comments from dialogue students supported the quantitative results. The qualitative portion of the survey questions supported the quantitative results and showed that the dialogue students could remember more concepts and apply these concepts to their lives.
  • Dialogue students were more engaged. Three out of the five engagement-related survey questions revealed statistically significantly higher scores for the dialogue students. The qualitative data also supported increased engagement for these students. 
  • Dialogue students were more interested in learning about the weather. Interest in specific meteorological topics did not change significantly for either group of students; however, dialogue students exhibited a higher interest in learning about meteorology.
  • Dialogue students found more meaning in applying meteorology to their lives. Neither group found the learning events markedly meaningful, although more students from the dialogue group found pronounced meaning centered on applying meteorological knowledge to their lives. 

Overall, active engagement in the dialogue approach allowed students to become absorbed and interested in learning about the weather. This enhanced engagement most likely contributed to the resulting higher learning. These results indicate that dialogue education has a great potential for helping students learn meteorology and other STEM disciplines. Dialogue education can help students become better-informed citizens in a world with a changing climate.

For more details, check out my dissertation titled: “Exploring Meteorology Education in Community College: Lecture-Based Instruction and Dialogue-Based Group Learning.”

What research have you done or read that other readers may be interested in reading and knowing about?

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Jason P. Finley (FinleyJP@piercecollege.edu) is an Associate Professor of Geography and Meteorology at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA. He received his Ph.D. in Adult Learning and Development from Lesley University in 2016. 

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Disability Etiquette!

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A while ago I had the joy of reading a fascinating theological book called Copious Hosting: A Theology of Access for People with Disabilities. In that gentle and prophetic text, Catholic disability-advocate Jennie Weiss Block sets out to define disability and accessibility theologically, explore the history and the concerns of the American disability-rights movement, and offer an inclusive theological account of disability based solidly in friendship and compassion. I highly recommend it! For now, I want to share ten tips for “disability etiquette,” as stated by Block (pp. 142-148).

  1. Do not make decisions that affect people with disabilities without their participation.
  2. Use common sense. People with disabilities are just ordinary people and want to be treated in the same way you would like to be treated. Act in the same way that you would normally act, appropriate to the situation at hand.
  3. Always speak directly to the person with the disability, not to the person accompanying him or her.
  4. Be aware that a person with a disability sometimes needs extra time. Make this accommodation willingly, in a way that does not make the person feel uncomfortable.
  5. If you are planning a meeting or event, try to anticipate what specific accommodations people with disabilities might need.
  6. It is fine to use common expressions like, “See you later,” or “I’ve got to run now.” What is not appropriate is to use disability slurs or descriptions that have negative meanings
  7. Never pretend to understand what a person is saying. Listen attentively and be patient.
  8. If a person uses a wheelchair, respect the wheelchair and the space around it. Do not touch the wheelchair, or lean on it, or push it without being asked.
  9. If an individual has a developmental disability, keep the communication direction and simple. Stay focused on the person, and give them time to understand and answer.
  10. Become knowledgeable about the different types of disabilities among the members of your own community, and offer the spiritual, moral, and physical things that are needed to offer these individuals access.

The first tip is most important: because we have agency like that of others even with our limitations, people with disabilities (or our caregivers) need to be involved in the choices that make up our lives. All ten tips for disability etiquette really fall under the second point, because people are people. Use good sense and compassion when you encounter us! We don’t bite; I promise.

Recall a time when one of these tips would have been helpful.

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Mike Walker (ma.walker@mail.utoronto.ca) is a theologian of disability and poet with spastic cerebral palsy from Prince Edward Island, currently based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He aims to be a practical theologian, and an advocate for both people with disabilities and others who are vulnerable; when not working, he loves to read, write, exercise, and hang out with friends. Feel free to contact Mike if you are interested in conducting an accessibility audit.

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10 Ways to Minimize Resistance

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Resistance is normal:  resistance to what is being taught or how it is being taught. What we want to do is minimize it so that it does not negatively interfere with learning. Here are 10 ways to do this:

  1. Early agenda. Tell learners in advance what they will be learning or meeting about. Getting rid of the element of surprise will minimize resistance.
  2. Choice. Offering learners choices on how to learn or how to do something, can minimize resistance. They will appreciate the feeling of having input in their learning.
  3. Transparency. Explain to learners why you are doing something if it is different from what they are used to. Once they understand there is a reason, they will resist less.
  4. Relevance. When learners do not understand how something is important in their life they will resist the learning experience. Help learners know why this content is important for their lives or work, and why it matters.  Relevance is key for adult learners.
  5. Check in. You can check in with learners privately during a break or with the entire group at the end of a session. If you invite them to honestly tell you how a session is going and they see you respond to what they share, resistance will be reduced.
  6. Stick to the program. Don’t change the learning agenda unless you have a good reason and explain it to the group. Flexibility is important. However, unless the change will benefit the learners and their learning, you should stick to the plan.
  7. Show respect. Showing respect to all learners can minimize resistance. People will react negatively to feeling left out or undervalued, and when seeing others experience this.
  8. Affirmation. Everyone likes to be appreciated and affirmed. The more you do this, the less resistance you will have from your learners.
  9. Safety. Learners need to feel emotionally, physically and psychologically safe enough to authentically engage with new content and with each other. If they don’t, they may start to resist the process or not fully engage. Learning new content takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable—learners need to feel safe for this to be possible.
  10. Welcome it! Minimizing resistance is helpful. However, never avoid it when it shows up because it will most likely build and come back stronger. Sometimes the best learning happens from tough debate, uncomfortable challenge and surprising questions.

Why do most people fear resistance?

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Jeanette Romkema (jeanette@globallearningpartners.com) is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP. She loves talking about the topic of resistance, so don’t hesitate to email her with your questions or thoughts.

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Intentionality in Communications

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Sometimes writing flows like a river findings its natural path. We are clear about who we’re communicating with and the effect we hope it will have on the reader. This feels good to us as communicators, and feels right to the reader.

Unfortunately, the river doesn’t always flow so easily. We draft and delete, write and rewrite, sketch and erase. Why? Because we haven’t thought through our intentions well enough. If we take time to outline our intentions, we can create more fluidly and more effectively.

Recently, I’ve been working with a team of national experts to craft resources for managers and frontline workers. The team will divvy up responsibility to create the different written resources and then compile them into a package to be tested and adapted by staff. Before we started the work, we outlined our intentions for each resource.

Here are the questions we considered:

  • What’s our working title? A short synthesized statement is a great way of clarifying for ourselves what this piece is (and is not).
  • Who will use this and how? A look at the intended audience helps us to keep their interests in mind.
  • What actions we are encouraged through this resource? What would be a sign that we were successful in our communication?
  • What format will this communication take and what’s the key content?
  • What style/ tone will we use?
  • How will people access this communication and what’s the best timing for them to access it? What preparation will they need, if any, to use this resource well?

You might be tempted to jump over these kinds of questions, or to think them through on the fly. If you are collaborating, others may have very different assumptions about any one of these questions and the creative process will stagnate.

Writing down your intentions need not take a lot of time. Create a template for yourself using some version of the questions above and fill in the blanks before you start to create. If you are working with others to create a set of materials, consider using a matrix, like the one below. Once it is complete, use it as a guide and the creative process will flow smoothly!

Which of the questions above have you found to be especially important to clarify?

Which is often overlooked or not clarified enough?

​*****

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of its consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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Cognitive, Affective, Psychomotor:  The True, the Good and the Beautiful

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Not in that order: but do you see the connection?

I was stunned, reading William Isaacs’ 1999 book Dialogue: And the Art of Thinking Together to discover the correlation between our well-tested axiom “learning is always cognitive, affective and psychomotor” and the classic theme of the true, the good and the beautiful. I had never seen that before!

To the ancient Greeks, human society was characterized by three value activities:  the pursuit of objective understanding, the subjective experience of beauty, and the shared activity of coordinated and just action. They called these three the True, the Beautiful, and the Good. p13

But of course! 

James E. Zull in The Art of Changing the Brain showed us how effective epistemology is rooted in biology. We learn as embodied men and women, boys and girls, as neuroscience literally unfolds the magnificence of the structure and processes of the brain.

I breathe a sigh of thanks and praise to the Creator; then laugh out loud in joy as more and more corroborates of the basic principles and practices of using dialogue in education are manifested. Yes!

It’s true and good and beautiful!   

What have you read lately about teaching, learning or the brain that had you pause?

​*****

Dr. Jane Vella is a celebrated author, educator and founder of Global Learning Partners.

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