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

Tuesdays with Jane: Week #4


(Tuesdays with Jane is a virtual learning series for those wishing to read or re-read Jane's books and immediately apply their new learning to their workplace. In preparation for this task, read Chapter 3 in the book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)

How the Principles Inform Course Design: Two Examples

Chapter Three moves quickly from theory to practice. The two examples offered here are different in many ways, and yet show a consistent use of the principles and practices. 

I like the way the chapter moves through the process of design in each instance, slowly, somewhat clumsily and with careful inclusion of each step, and all the principles.

When Chapter Three is re-written, it will include the new Eighth Step, So That: behavioral evaluation indicators to support the section on outcomes.

Reading the Seven Design Steps on page 44 and on page 48 showed me how natural it is to have this new design step (the So That) after the Why: the situation. It also corroborates my recognition that Dialogue Education is a research agenda:  always changing.

Some great lines from Chapter Three:

  • “Who needs what as defined by whom is the question at the heart of the learning needs and resources assessment.” p38
  • “The timing of a community education event is always a political decision.” p39
  • “Adult learners know when they are being respected.” p41
  • “We know we are modeling a new way of teaching.” p49
  • “When learning tasks involve all three aspects [cognitive, affective, and psychomotor] they work.” p52



As you read this chapter, what new realization came to you about the relationship of the principles and practices to the design of a course?



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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #3


(Tuesdays with Jane is a virtual learning series for those wishing to read or re-read Jane's books and immediately apply their new learning to their workplace. In preparation for this task, read Chapter 2 in the book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)

Quantum Thinking and Dialogue Education

I love this chapter! I like the way I made a quietly conservative selection of six quantum thinking concepts, and promised to use these concepts in analyzing and interpreting the upcoming stories.

I just realized that by making such a selection, I was actually manifesting quantum thinking:  the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and the whole is in every part.

Why these six? Again, I really do not know:  perhaps they seemed to me fundamental and somewhat accessible. Their inter-relatedness corroborates one of the concepts:  everything is connected.

Chapter Two is too heavy on theory and even the promise of application in the stories does not help. Whenever I get a chance to write a new edition of this book, I will offer more examples of each of these familiar but elusive concepts: 

Relatedness:  everything is connected. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Duality:  consider either/or thinking

Energy:  it takes energy to learn

Uncertainty:  pray for doubt

Participation:  we evoke the world we perceive.

This chapter is short:  six pages! I may indeed have muddied the waters by introducing quantum thinking. I hope not. Every day I see evidence of these and other quantum concepts in my quiet, retired life:  I am more than the sum of my old, aching parts! The whole picture of my health is seen in a few drops of blood! My energy is renewed by engagement and exercise! My whole life is in this moment! Quantum thinking!

Some great lines from Chapter Two:

  • “…a constructionist perspective invites learners to develop the theory and practices they are learning in the light of their context.” p31
  • “…prepare men and women for the work of the world, not merely for work in the world.” p33
  • “notice how energy rises when learners are aware of their responsibility to decide.” p35



Which of these six quantum thinking concepts has been most useful to you in your design and/or teaching?


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Facilitation for Real Ownership


The key to optimizing learning and building long-term memory is to create ‘ownership’ of learning content. (Jensen, 2005; Poldrack et al., 2001)

Below are facilitation skills I have been especially aware of lately in my work. These go beyond technique. They are more about “being” than “doing.” See which ones you practice and which ones you want to pay more attention to.

Authenticity. Being genuine with the learners is critical for building a relationship of trust in the learning event. Listen deeply, ask questions with real curiousity, and acknowledge when something they say gives you a new insight. Be honest about your own questions, concerns and enthusiasm for the topic.

Autonomy. Adults’ lives are their own and as such they need to have full ownership of their decisions. Although as facilitator you may create the structure for participants to set goals, frame plans and discuss accountability, the learners are the owners of those goals, plans and accountability. Autonomy reinforces ownership. Create space for people to decide. Celebrate when they ask for autonomy instead of clearer instructions.  It is a sign of ownership

Brevity. Only share the right information for the exact moment with your specific audience. Learning events can fail due to too much content – “less is more!” A few ways to check what you may need to adapt in your workshop design are:

  • How many people are coming? Who are they?
  • Why are they coming? What do they need?
  • What is your vision for change as a result of this 1-hour workshop? What is realistic?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What kind of space will you be in? How are people accustomed to using this space?

Get out of the way of learning. After setting a learning task or activity we often want to hear how the discussion is going or see how the work is unfolding. Don’t. We need to get out of the way so learning can happen – it is through the struggle, decision-making, and debate that learners engage and personalize the content being learned.  

Personalize. As much as possible, refer to examples and stories shared as well as topics and themes of interest to the group. New learning needs to hook into existing knowledge and experience, so get to know your audience at every opportunity:  phone, email, breaks, conversations, check-ins, and the like.

Silence. So often we say too much. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence or wait 5 seconds before adding something or redirecting a question – people need time to think.

Purpose. Be ready, at any time, to reconnect the learning to the purpose for including it now as you understand it. When you own it, they can own it too.


QUESTION: So, which of these do you want to work on for the next while in your work?  Share in the comments section below.

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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #2


(Tuesdays with Jane is a virtual learning series for those wishing to read or re-read Jane's books and immediately apply their new learning to their workplace. In preparation for this task, read Chapter 1 in the book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)


Twelve Principles for Effective Adult Learning

Mmmmmm, I love this chapter! I like the way it integrates quantum thinking as it describes not only each of the twelve basic principles and practices but also how it anticipates for the reader the upcoming story.

Why these twelve principles? That is a question I have often been asked. I really do not know:  Twelve tribes of Israel? Twelve apostles? Twelve months in the year? Your guess is as good as mine.

They have stood the test of time in being twelve sound pillars on which to build an effective design for learning. They hold hands, one to another, corroborating the perspective of quantum thinking:  everything is connected.

Chapter One is boldly deductive, starting out with the bare content: twelve principles!  The hinted promise of particular instances (inductive work) does not inhibit the commanding stance:  from my experience I have made this selection. Listen to me!

Yet, I read a certain openness as well:  these are not presented as the twelve principles and practices, but as those that emerged from my experience as largely effective. On page 3, I promise fifty more stories as well as principles and practices readers can find in Training Though Dialogue (1995). 

This chapter renews my conviction that we must design with confidence and conviction, boldly stating the content we see essential. Learners will select and construct that content for their context. They will add to it as that context demands such additions. And so, we all learn!

Some great lines in Chapter One:

  • “In adult learning, accountability is mutual.” p13
  • Zohar: “The questions we ask determine the kinds of responses we get.” p15
  • “As subjects, we evoke the world we perceive.” p16
  • “Inviting learners to be subjects of their own learning is the practice of freedom.”  p17
  • Zohar: “You hear a chorus of conversations!” p22



Which of these twelve principles has been most useful to you in your design and/or teaching?


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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #1



(Tuesdays with Jane is a virtual learning series for those wishing to read or re-read Jane's books and immediately apply their new learning to their workplace. In preparation for this task, read the Foreword and Preface to the book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)


The Foreword by Malcolm Knowles; the Preface (2002)

When we read the fax Malcolm sent in 1993 with his draft Foreword, my sister Joan and I wept. It is such a gift! This is a beautiful man with my friends, humble and abundantly generous. 

You will learn more from this book

than from any textbook written by me…

The Preface to the Revised Edition (2002)  

I remember the response of David Brightman, my editor at Jossey Bass, to my suggestion that, in this revised edition, we include the perspective of quantum thinking. “What in the world?” he wrote back. “Never! Your work is accessible and we want this revised edition to maintain that accessibility!”

Of course, he finally agreed, and I linked arms with Danah Zohar and Margaret Wheatley to show how dialogue in educational design and practice corroborated quantum thinking.

The response of many readers reminded me of my dear mother’s response to my using saffron and curry on our Sunday dinner:  “What a waste of a good chicken!” However, I remain convinced that the connection is sound. My recent reading of James E. Zull’s The Art of Changing the Brain (2012) showed me that current research in neuroscience corroborates the conjunction of quantum thinking and dialogue in education. 

When David Brightman invited me to do this revised edition, I also said I would not change the stories or the twelve principles and practices. This preface makes a clear case for the stories’ diversity in cultures and the global usefulness of the principles and practices. 

Here are some delightful lines in the Preface: 

Danah Zohar 

  • “How can we teach multitudes on a human scale?” p.ix
  • "We must change the thinking behind our thinking!" p.xxi


  • “Notice The Thinker is thinking with his toes!" p.xii
  • "Prepare yourself for a quantum leap into a familiar place.” p.xii



What line moved you in the Foreword or the Preface of the 2002 revised edition of Learning to Listen Learning to Teach?      


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