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

School of the 80s: Learning from Leisure, Experience, and Vulnerability


I’ve been in school, one way or the other, on both sides of the desk for the past eighty years. I have never been in a school where my learning was so delightful, my appetite for it so voracious, my joy in it so deep – as this “School of the 80s.”  

As I tried to understand why this is happening, I thought of three factors that go with my being 86 years old.   

  1. I have exquisite LEISURE
  2. I have long experience to use as a base for new learning
  3. I have new VULNERABILITY

Look forward to this decade, all you young’uns. You will be amazed!


I remember when Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania, published the paper “Education for Self-Reliance” (published in 1967). The paper emphasized practicality, relevance and immediacy. “Teach them something they can use NOW,” Nyerere appealed to Tanzanian educators.  

Sister Margaret Rose, the wise and saintly woman who was the Founder of Marian University College where I was teaching at the time, argued with her friend Julius: “Without enough leisure, the girls will not learn!” 

Sixty years later, I see that in my life. Learning and leisure are partners.

A parallel invitation, from Father Robert of St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh, NC is: “Put silence in.” Robert does that himself in the liturgy, before his sermon, and in conversation. “Put silence in.” Hmmm, silence in dialogue? Yes!


I look back on the experience of my life with awe, thanks and praise. Every event – joyful, tragic, comic, sad – has the Grace of God in it. I can see that now and expect the next event to be so touched. That new appreciation of my experience makes it a useful base for new learning.

The learning needs and resources assessment (LNRA) and the first of the 4A model for design learning tasks (Anchoring/inductive work) - moving from the particular context of the learner to the general new skill, knowledge or attitude - both serve the use of past experience.  


I walk slowly. I tell friends: “Don’t walk behind me. I just may just slip into reverse!” I need help with some basic tasks around the house! I forget stuff! I am vulnerable.

So, I have to ask for help and that has evoked a new Jane. I like her! I respect my vulnerability as an exquisite gift which shows a human, needy old lady who trusts friends to respond. They do! Oh, my, they do!

Somehow this relates to my capacity for learning – I am not sure how, but it does. I see perspectives that are different from mine with new empathy, and awareness that I might just need such a new perspective at this point in my life. 

Come and have a leisurely cup of tea on the back porch with the old vulnerable lady who has a store of stories for you from her rich experience and new learning!


How much LEISURE do you invite your learners to in your learning events?

How do you use what you know about your learners’ EXPERIENCE – past and present – to shape engaging, challenging, and relevant learning tasks?

How can you celebrate your own VULNERABILITY at any age, so you gladly ask for help?

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

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


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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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #17


(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 16 of Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)

Reviewing the Twelve Principles and Quantum Thinking

This is a great chapter, offering a multitude of examples featuring all of the principles and the entire quantum thinking concepts. This chapter can be read again and again!

Some great lines from Chapter Sixteen:

  • “Respect for the who informs our designs in dialogue education.” p227
  • “It takes time for roles to change and for safety to work its magic towards honest dialogue.” p230
  • “…the root of [the word] doctor is the Latin verb docere, which means ‘to teach.’” p231
  • “Praxis—action with reflection—is more than practice.” p232
  • “When you invite ‘a chorus of conversations’ in lieu of your own monologue, when you invite learners to find their own voice and not listen only to yours, you invite a quantum leap into learning.” p238
  • “Our job in adult education is not to cover a set of course materials, but to engage adults in effective and significant learning.” p238


You did it! You spent some Tuesdays with Jane and reviewed Learning to Listen Learning to Teach. Tell me, please, what use this has been to you.

Thank y’all!

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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #16


(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 15 of Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)

Accountability:  Knowing How They Know They Know

Chapter Fifteen is the story of a tough situation in Bangladesh at the Diarrheal Disease Hospital. It was an almost impossible situation:  trying to teach busy physicians a new way of teaching in a ridiculously short period of time. Everything seemed to preclude any accountability!

 Some great lines from Chapter Fifteen:

  • “[The doctors] gave their time to this educational program because they knew their present paradigm was not working.” p214
  • “I had come to teach and knew I would stay to learn.” p215
  • “If [the doctors] wanted esoteric language and studied complexity, they had the wrong teacher.” p219
  • “[The doctors] themselves asked for more hours each day. This itself was an indicator of learning.” p222
  • “…there are three things that make accountable learning happen: time, time and time.” p222


Speculate. What do you think happened to those twelve doctors without any system for reinforcing and supporting their learning? 

What is your opinion of my statement on page 222: “Today I am convinced that single events such as this course in Bangladesh are somewhat futile.”

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Tuesdays with Jane: Week #15


(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 14 of Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.)

Engagement:  Learning Actively

Hospice has long been one of my favorite organizations. This chapter shows the remarkable, inclusive engagement of staff at a large hospice as they made a necessary new strategic plan.

I noticed that the question So What on page 210 has become the new eighth step of the Design Steps: naming indicators of learning, transfer and impact: So That!

I like the review of the quantum principles on page 211—inviting readers to relate these to engagement.

Some great lines from Chapter Fourteen:

  • “[The Hospice Director] was determined to make the planning process inclusive by engaging as many staff and board and community members as possible.” p204
  • “The distinction [between a consultative voice (suggestions) and a deliberative voice (decisions)] clarifies each person’s role and invites creative thinking.” p205
  • “The design, and our relentless implementation of it, demanded intense engagement.” p210


Bryson’s text on strategic planning provides a useful framework. What one thing did you see us do in this chapter to make that framework work towards inclusive dialogue?

How have you used dialogue in your designing and teaching your particular content?  What one thing do you do to engage all learners as fully as possible?

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