The Glue That Holds Our Learning Methods Together

This is an excerpt from a draft internal content standards handbook for our organization that describes our theology of change, poverty alleviation framework, and approach to learning. We are so grateful for your work in the world!


Section C: Learning Best Practices

Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence…to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.

― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Like Chalmers’ story of change, our approach to learning is a foundational element of the organization’s approach to equipping churches to address the broken relationships at the root of material poverty. Whether giving talks from a stage in Dallas or coaching savings group facilitators in rural Togo, Dialogue Education™ is the glue that holds Chalmers’ learning methods together. We draw on the best practices of how adults learn through the work of Global Learning Partners, a leading adult learning organization founded by Jane Vella. GLP has coined the term Dialogue Education™, an approach that blends the ideas of Paulo Freire, Kurt Lewin, Malcolm Knowles and Benjamin Bloom into an approachable, replicable framework for content development and curriculum design.

Though not explicitly faith-based, principles and practices of Dialogue Education honor the way in which God has created human beings as whole people: mind, affections, will, and body. Because Chalmers’ learning content seeks to foster a safe, collaborative environment that honors a diversity of learning styles and cultures, we leverage these best practices to build authentic learning communities. Through Dialogue Education, facilitators engage learners in an active process of both reflection and application to their own life contexts. This process draws on the assets God has put into people and communities—necessarily demanding a fundamental respect for the knowledge, experience, and skills that learners already bring to any learning event.

Dialogue Education gives learners the opportunity to reflect upon the reasons for their behaviors and practices, and take action in their own lives and contexts through very practical means–whether through problem-solving or application of a new skill. Proverbs, stories, drama and other engaging methods by which marginally literate people learn are used liberally.

Since learning is a relational task, cultivating a sense of community among learners helps to foster true dialogue. Peers are one of the most powerful influences in the Dialogue Education process. Small groups enable learners to draw on a bank of shared experiences, challenging one another in ways a facilitator cannot. They can also create safety when struggling through a complex concept.

Learners need time to process content—not only individually, but also in a relational context with space given for critical reflection. Dialogue Education provides an opportunity to practice new ideas, skills and attitudes in a real-life context. Clearly defined achievement-based objectives reflect the accountability of both facilitator and learner in the design of the learning content.


Mark Bowers

Director of Curriculum & Training

The Chalmers Center


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