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

Posts tagged with "8 Steps Of Design"

The Importance of Asking WHY

We ask the why question before determining the appropriate content and learning objectives.

– Jane Vella

In the online training world, there are interesting obstacles to designing for a learning-centered event. Some of these include, how to incorporate interactive dialogue, affirmations, feedback, and group work. These challenges seem to work themselves out to some extent, and can be managed, handled and even supported by building a good design. However, some training content is easier to navigate and deliver than others in an online format.

While designing for an online Early Childhood professional development course in positive interactions between caregiver and child, I was a little stumped in how to deliver content on interactions in an asynchronistic format - or self-paced learning setting. The challenge has always been how to incorporate Dialogue Education into this seemingly impersonal environment, but this posed further challenges for me. Though the instructional designer on my team assured me that we could make it work, I lacked complete confidence.

Historically, this course has been offered as a face-to-face learning event in which participants are interactive and use dialogue and group work to meet achievement-based objectives. I had facilitated this training before, but it was designed years ago by another team. Would it be possible to simply recreate the face-to-face training into a virtual setting? I started looking at the design and considered how it could be converted. In doing so I had simply skipped ahead in designing, only to find that the face-to-face design was not working and would not work in an online format. So, what was the point of this training? What was the underlying cause for this information? What was the content that I needed to use, and what could be left behind?

Having just returned from the Advanced Design and Evaluation retreat with GLP, I remembered a learning task around the need for evidenced-based rationale or reasoning in our designs to support accountability and transfer of “information.” One of the accountability principles that Kurt Levin speaks of is, "It takes more than just firsthand experience to generate valid knowledge." I could name the skills or knowledge needed to improve interactions between caregivers and children but was that valid enough? I couldn't really answer beyond my own firsthand understanding of this training. I began to wonder, where had the previous team taken their content from?

So, I went back to the beginning, and began by really slowing down my design process. Initial questions were:  Who was going to participate in this online learning course; who was going to establish or verify that the learning event had occurred, and who was recommending or requiring this learning event for the participants? In my discovery, I could name that this course is recommended for all early childhood educators and required for educators in certain early childhood programs participating in a Tiered Quality Rating System. Naturally, I asked why.

The Why? What is the rationale or reasoning for this recommendation or requirement? This question was a good place to really pause and consider the skill, knowledge or attitude shift that a learner would be making in this course. Was my assumption correct? Our state system sees positive interactions and experiences between caregivers/ educators and children as an indicator of quality early childcare. Our state views quality early childhood education as an important foundation for all children. Our state is constantly striving for quality improvements that support the families and children in our communities. Again, in this discovery, I could name a general reason, but still could not define “quality” or how this would be measured, observed or recognized; but because I could not name the evidence that defined quality, I was not done establishing a solid rationale.

I began to research the definition of "positive interactions.” I started by referring to a book the face-to-face course is built on and reviewed the research the authors started with themselves. This was the first time I had spent so much time with the content. It was fascinating. I ended up with 5 evidence-based sources for this training that began to highlight what the rationale and reason was in having “positive interactions" in early childhood settings - and the path became clearer: two articles, two assessment tools and a statistical data that looked at educator/ child interactions over the course of a day. This step took time, but it was well worth the stop.

Jane Vella speaks to this “Getting an honest answer to the Why Question controls your response to all the design questions that follow." (On Teaching and Learning, ​pp 33-34) This statement makes so much sense now. I feel like I was able to hone in on specific information that builds skills and knowledge, simply based on the research I uncovered by asking Why. This rationale was where I started my accountability to the learner through this design. What I was presenting was built on solid evidence; there is honesty in the design.

The research named the skills and provided the knowledge base for quality interactions with children, and the data supported the need for all educators to adapt this skill set into their practice. The intended change came into view, based on the research and the data. I was able to move quickly through the rest of the steps for this design, naming content that was applicable to a self-paced learner but that still would achieve the same outcomes as the face-to-face learner.

What has this left me with? When including this evidence-based research and data to establish Why, I had a sturdier foundation to build upon; a stronger footing to establish achievement-based outcomes and could show how verifiable tasks could meet the intended change. Both in the learning event, and in the transfer learning events to follow; each helping to support and sustain quality practices in early childcare. 

What has your journey been like when moving a face-to-face course to the virtual space, or from an online course to an in-person setting?


Jesica Radaelli-Nida (jes.nida@yahoo.com) is Program Specialist UNM Early Childhood Service Center.​


Ten Dialogue Education Tips for Camping

Camped at High House Tarn Bottom

I am so passionate about Dialogue Education and camping that I just couldn’t stop myself from bringing these two together while on a camping trip in northern Canada last week…

  1. Arrange your chairs, or whatever you sitting around the fire pit on, in a circle to ensure inclusion and safety. Yes, the circle is a shape and space that holds power and mystery in any situation, even camping. Many indigenous people use a ‘sacred circle’ where something is passed from person to person in a circle, giving each individual an opportunity to share whatever is on their heart/mind. It is not a time for dialogue, but is a time for deep and open sharing.
  2. Go for a ‘walk and talk’ in the forest. Although the ‘talk’ part is optional, the walking through woods and on beaten trails to discover hilltops, beaver dams, and open meadows is not. The outdoors can heal even the most wounded soul or stressed body. 
  3. Get a change of scenery from time to time during the day to keep you alert and appreciating your surroundings. Just as changing the environment can energize any group of learners, moving from a walk in the forest to a cool dip in the lake to a warm seat beside the campfire, can be refreshing and invigorating.
  4. Use the 4As:  ANCHOR your boat when you reach a good fishing spot, ADD marshmallows to your shopping list, APPLY bug repellant during bug season, and do AWAY with any unnecessary items on your trip. 
  5. Keep your campsite clean and well-organized. Just as your learning event space will lead to more learning if everything is intentionally arranged and present, so too your camping experience will be more enjoyable and relaxing if your site is well-organized and clean. Nobody likes to climb out of their tent in the morning to find their hiking boots soaking wet from a night rain; and, everyone likes to be able to find the toilet paper easily when they most need it. 
  6. Show respect to your neighbouring campers. As any good DE practitioner knows, respect leads to safety, which leads to engagement, which leads to inclusion, which leads to … well, a shared meal of freshly caught fish of course!
  7. Do your 8 steps of planning:
    • The people (WHO) – Think carefully about who you are going camping with (their expectations, needs, interests, past camping experiences), for they will impact the success of the experience.
    • The reason (WHY) – Remember why one goes camping: to relax. So, don’t take too many people, too many things or have too many expectations.
    • The desired change (SO THAT) – Your desired change should be obvious: to come back more relaxed. That’s enough.
    • The place (WHERE) – Well, it has to be in nature or it doesn’t qualify: forest, trees, water, and away from the daily grind.
    • The time (WHEN) – Go as often as possible really, but at least once a year. Summertime is obvious, but the other seasons are also wonderful. I only have 1 tip for those of you living in Canada: avoid black fly season!
    • The content (WHAT) – For me I guess there are a few things: forest hikes, long kayaking trips, food on the open fire, sleeping in the fresh air and warm sleeping bag, reading a good book, playing games, and sharing stories around the campfire.
    • The objectives (WHAT FOR) – Well, you will know you did it when you did it! Yes, it feels that good.
    • The plan (HOW) – Don’t sweat this step, because over-planning will not make for a better camping experience. Just go with the flow and see where the wind blows – and pray it doesn’t blow the smoke in your eyes!
  8. Be flexible. Since your #1 goal should be to relax and enjoy yourself, you don’t want to feel stress because something is not working out the way you planned or the weather is not what you had hoped or the ‘right’ food is not around for the dinner plan you had. Just go with the flow and you will feel … well, more relaxed.
  9. Always take an appropriately warm sleeping bag and clothes. Although in a learning event you want to always start with a ‘warm-up’, when you are camping you want to end the day feeling ‘warm enough’. There is nothing worse than feeling cold (or wet) when you are in the middle of nowhere and you have 7 more days of camping in front of you.
  10. Less is more. You decide what you need less of…

Red WinePOST NOTE: Our first evening on our camp site this year my husband Peter was bemoaning the fact that he had forgotten to take a bottle red wine to go along to go with a wonderful foil-covered meal he had simmering over the fire. Just then he noticed our neighbour camper was enjoying just that, a bottle of red wine … to which I replied, “I have a Tip for that!”. Just have a look at Tip 6 in the above list – that would do it!

Here it is again, with more feeling:

6. Show respect to your neighbouring campers. As any good DE practitioner knows, respect leads to safety, which leads to engagement, which leads to inclusion, which leads to … well, a shared bottle of red wine of course!

How are you using DE on your summer vacation?