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

Posts tagged with "8 Steps Of Design"

Creating the System: We Make the Road by Walking

I have the honor of working with Matthew Norman from Barcelona, Spain – a colleague and Certified Dialogue Education Practitioner (CDEP). He is teaching pastors in his church community how to use Dialogue Education in designing and delivering sermons. This is important work! Part of the content for the course is about the system we call Dialogue Education:

I suggested as part of the LNRA, that Matthew invite the pastors in his course to name and describe the best sermon they ever gave and to identify the things they did to make that sermon work so well. These factors from their experience could then be added to the content of Matthew’s course.

I have often said context is content: What these pastors bring to learning the elements of Dialogue Education from their wide experience of preaching is vital! I see that each time we teach a course using Dialogue Education we create the system by using it in a new context. Learning tasks are then custom-designed for each particular group of people, in their unique situation. That’s why we need to do a solid learning needs and resources assessment: to discover WHO needs WHAT and WHY. That is the context: the content we must learn thoroughly before we design and teach!

What an immense responsibility we carry into every classroom or workshop setting – we make the road by walking. Dialogue Education is an emerging system, evolving under our hands as we design and teach in new contexts. Please share your stories and indicators of learning, transfer and impact – we need to celebrate and learn, together.

I take immense delight in receiving learning designs, challenges, questions and celebrations. Thank you to all those who have been emailing me over the years! I continue to be here for all practitioners at janekvella@gmail.com, and offer my time to you with great joy!


What question do you have for Jane?


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

Engaging Graduate Students to Deepen Learning

I was first introduced to Jane Vella’s steps of design and the world of Dialogue Education™ during my graduate studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. To say that my world was flipped upside-down would be an understatement. I found it extremely encouraging to know tools were available for teaching in an academic setting that helped to engage learners and create a strong learning environment.           

Before that moment in time, Dialogue Education was as foreign to me as the countries I had visited. The adage, “We teach the way we were taught,” was a living reality as I lectured to students in a variety of settings and languages. With each lecture, I increased my knowledge of the subject, but something was missing. Apart from an exam at the end of the course, how could I measure the level of learning for each student? I desired greater engagement yet feared open discussion due to my inability to answer the unknown, or worse, the uncomfortable.

As an educator, I realize I have much to learn to develop what I refer to as the Optimal Learning Environment (OLE). Basically, the OLE exists at the intersection of the methods, objectives, and evaluation of the learners’ cultural context. Incorporating formative evaluation throughout the Eight Steps of Design makes the optimal learning environment possible. Because the cultural context is dynamic, formative evaluation is essential as each step of the design process is formed and implemented. The result provides both engagement and learning for every participant.

I recently taught a graduate course in Advanced Homiletics at the Bear Valley Bible Institute International in Denver, Colorado. The academic dean asked if I would focus on expository preaching, but also wanted a larger portion of the course to address teaching. As a rookie in the arena of Dialogue Education, this was my opportunity to implement what I had learned as well as deepen my own learning. Let me share a few take-aways from this first-time experience.

  1. The Learning Needs and Resources Assessment (LNRA) is critical. The LNRA provided essential information to initially structure the course. I learned personal information about each graduate student, gained an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, listened to what each learner desired to achieve, and captured a glimpse of their plans for the future. Based on this invaluable information, I determined achievement-based objectives (ABOs) that guided the lesson plans for the week. My classes will not be taught without this information.
  2. Evaluate every step. At the end of each day, I processed what was experienced in the learning environment. This time of formative evaluation enabled me to adjust the direction needed for the next day. While this might be considered as education “on-the-fly,” I assure you it was not. I became less concerned about covering an amount of content and focused more on adjusting the content to achieve what these graduate students desired to learn. I will admit that I am far from perfecting the formative evaluation process, but I learned that even a small tweak here and there makes a major difference in the result.
  3. Model the method. In other words, “practice what you preach.” Why say it, when you can show it? I knew that Dialogue Education was as foreign to these graduate students, as it was to me years ago. Therefore, if they were going to transfer these concepts into their context, then I needed to model the concepts, design learning tasks that enabled learners to put these concepts into practice, and discuss how the whole process might impact their ministries. By the end of the week, I am positive I learned more than anyone else, but their enthusiasm was clear as they implemented the process and applied the principles and practices of this learning-centered approach.
  4. Feedback is vital for future growth. For the purpose of my own personal development, I followed up the course with an evaluation sent to each graduate student. The design of the evaluation form offered participants an opportunity to share honest feedback and ways to improve the course. The value of the information provided cannot be measured. I have already implemented changes for the future and am confident this iterative approach will continue to strengthen my courses, planning and teaching.

As I continue to process the experience of the week, additional lessons surfaced that highlighted the value of Dialogue Education. Let me sum up my approach to Dialogue Education in this way:

  • Become a learner, not a teacher
  • Draw upon the experience of others
  • Invite dialogue by posture, not position
  • Equip by providing more learning tasks, less lecturing
  • Grow in application, not information
  • Introduce more strategy to learning, less content
  • Bring passion, not power to the learning environment.

I want to thank my friends at Global Learning Partners for the opportunity to share my experience. When these graduate students engaged in learning through Dialogue Education, the whole process made sense and learning was deepened.

How do you deepen learning in your university or college classes?


Bob Turner (bturner@wetrainpreachers.com) earned his Doctorate in Intercultural Studies from the Fuller Theological Seminary, serves as an adjunct instructor for the Bear Valley Bible Institute International and a minister for the Bastrop Church of Christ in Bastrop, Louisiana. He is married to the love of his life, Sheryl. They have three children and ten grandchildren.

Here are a few additional GLP resources connected to the topic of teaching in academia:

  1. Dialogue Education in the University: First and Last Day
  2. Dialogue Education in the University: From Monologue to Dialogue
  3. Dialogue Education in the University: Creating a Learning Environment
  4. Dialogue Education in the University: Using a Learning Needs and Resources Assessment
  5. Dialogue Education in the University: Starting with the Syllabus

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?