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

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Jane Vella 80th YEAR

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A cherished group of beautiful people gathered at Karen Ridout's home in Raleigh on June 30th  to celebrate with me as I entered my 80th year. What fun! Good food, good friends, good wine, good conversation. And lots of laughter! I am a deeply grateful woman whose daily prayer is THANK YOU.  I know this prayer is always answered. As Dr. Paula Berardinelli begins her special work with Global Learning Partners, I celebrate the fact that my THANK YOU prayer is fruitful in ways I could never dream. I shall be sending Paula notes called Dialogue Education Innovations - ideas for development. When you have such ideas to share with me, I welcome them!  jane@globalearning.com  The big question is always: WHAT'S NEXT?

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Reflection: Learning about learning

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A key practice of both Dialogue Education and Deep Structure Living (www.DeepStructureLiving.com) is reflection. This week, I’m asking: Just how important is reflection to learning, development and performance?

Why do I ask this? THE PRAGMATIC: I am interested in continuing to deepen learning so that is meaningfully retained, and transferred, in other words people DO something different because he/she sees the value in this, after the course, workshop, etc. Or if he/she decides not to do something differently, he/she is cognizant of the implications and reasons for their decision. In the article, “Learning about Learning enhances performance” in the Spring 2001, No. 13 “NSIN [National School Improvement Network] Research Matters” published by Institute of Education, University of London. The authors examined about 100 research studies about young persons and the importance of meta-cognition: reflecting on how and why one learns. Again and again, the data showed that effective inclusion of learning about learning increased: o    Performance o    Learners’ perceptions of themselves as active agents (as opposed to learned-helplessness), and, o    The ability to effectively learn in a range of situations. The studies also indicated that dialogue among learners, including creating their own reflective questions, was important. The meta-learning cycle diagram found in the above referenced document does an excellent job of depicting the integration of learning about learning in addition to the topic at hand. In fact, regardless of our progress in learning the topic, the more astute we are about how we learn best, what we have learned so far, and why, the more effective our future learning about the topic at hand and other topics. “Again, asking oneself a sequence of meaningful and thought-provoking questions improves engagement and understanding: when this practice is incorporated into peer tutoring, one asks and the other explains. The ability to construct knowledge in science improved, both during the tutorial and on written measures.” (p5). Despite the emphasis on meta-cognition in this article, and the positive indications of the research, “...an explicit focus on learning is an infrequent experience at any stage of education, and many learners show signs that they have little understanding of their own learning processes.” This statement implies that many adults may be unaware of their approach to learning and therefore may have not developed all of the reflective capacities needed for more effective learning and living.  What are your thoughts or findings?

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from jane vella’s back porch Monday Morning

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I had the great joy recently of a dialogue with three young fellows in Sweden who were writing their Master's Thesis on Education for Sustainability. They have been working with Dwayne Hodgson of Ottowa who is Training Director for THE NATURAL STEP - a sustainability research and education program.  I read their excellent thesis  which they wrote as a team, and was reminded of two words I had once learned, and too soon forgotten: endogenous and exogenous. When energy is endogenous, it comes from within. When energy is exogenous, it comes from outside. I thought a great deal about this and realized that St. Augustine was right when he said, in the fourth century,  "No man teaches another man anything. All we can do is prepare the way for the work of the Spirit of God." Yassuh! The only learning that really takes, that moves us to transform ourselves into ourSelves, that brings peace and joy -  is that which is endogenous. Which of the four elements of Dialogue Education calls for the use of endogenous energy? The four elements are: The Eight Design Steps, The Principles and Practices, Learning Tasks, Evaluation Indicators. I suggest all of them invite endogenous energy - the learners do, think, analyze, critique, build, synthesize, read, mark, paraphrase - all of Bloom's wonderful, active verbs.  This action, on content that can be cognitive, affective or psychomotor, is the HOW of learning.  Thank you to my friends in Sweden.

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What to Do with the What For

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Okay, so that title won’t excite the search engines, but how many of you who use Dialogue Education go crazy with frustration every time you get to the What For step in your design process?

(For those of you who haven’t used the 8 Steps of Design, the What For is the 6th step in the curriculum design process in which you describe what it is the learners will have done with the content of each learning task, also known as Achievement-Based Objectives.)

I’ve been using Dialogue Education for a couple of years and am no expert by any means (I’ve taken Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach and SUREFire Meetings), but I’ve done enough designing to feel I should be used to the What For. Still, every time I get to that point I stumble. “What, what?” I always think, or, on my less patient days, “What the . . . ?”  Then I dig out the binder from my Learning to Listen course, and root around inside to remind myself what the What For is all about. Here’s a tip that’s worked for me:  use Will Have instead. It’s a great trigger, because every time it makes me think this:  By the end of the learning task the learner will have __________. Ahhhhh. No more stumbling.  And just when I thought I was being so original, I find that Jane Vella herself adopted the "will have" years ago (I should know this, working for Global Learning Partners . . . but, you see, we're always learning!). Must be a good idea!

How have you modified Dialogue Education lingo to suit yourself? 

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Part Two: Teasing-Out How Our Theory of Learning/Teaching Matters

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The proper aim of education is to promote significant learning. Significant learning entails development. Development means successively asking broader and deeper questions of the relationship between oneself and the world. –Laurent A. Daloz (1999) Just for fun, let’s look at potential alternatives for each of the sentences in this quote. The proper aim of education is to promote significant learning. How about, the proper aim of education is to promote:

  • The skills, attitude and knowledge to make (a lot of) money
  • Know how to live in ways that promote community and peace
  • Have a range of skills that lead to flexible adaptability in order to prepare for an unknown future
  • Know how to manage emotions and urges in service of themselves and others
  • Give American corporations a competitive advantage so that stockholders can earn dividends and people have jobs
  • Follow the rules of the current society

Significant learning entails development. How about, significant learning entails:

  • Mastering a craft
  • Producing what is valued in society
  • Promotes the recognition of the ways in which we oppress and the ways we are oppressed

Development means successively asking broader and deeper questions of the relationship between oneself and the world. How about, development means:

  • Fully prepared for jobs (that may or may not exist any longer)
  • Respectfully exploring and openly responding to others’ ideas
  • Passionately upholding the values and ideas that your family, your community and/or your country has established

As I consider these alternatives and the quote above, I can imagine widely different approaches to the way I prepare for and teach, as well as what I imagine I need or want to learn. What strikes you?

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