Dialogue Education at Work: Case Studies / Edition 1

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In her landmark book Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach,celebrated adult educator Jane Vella outlined twelve principles ofDialogue Education, an approach to learning as a holistic,integrated, spiritual, and energetic process. Since the book wasfirst published, her learning principles have been used in a widevariety of adult learning settings, in different countries and withdifferent educational purposes, clearly demonstrating that theseprinciples can be used successfully with any type of adult learner,anywhere.

Dialogue Education at Work is the companion book to Learning toListen, Learning to Teach. This is the first book to show howeducators worldwide have used Vella’s methods to transformtheir classrooms and organizations into vital places of learning.Written for adult educators, staff developers, leaders of communityservice organizations, volunteer coordinators, and vocationaltrainers, Dialogue Education at Work is filled with illustrativecase studies from a broad range of organizations that show how toput Vella’s principles into action. Some of the book’sdiverse institutions, agencies, and organizations include:

  • School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts atAmherst
  • Canadian Council of Churches
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
  • New Orleans Job Initiative
  • Mountain Micro Enterprise Fund
  • Literacy Volunteers of America
  • Freedom from Hunger
  • Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Center for Learning and Transformation, Haiti
  • California Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

These case studies clearly demonstrate the effectiveness ofVella’s approach to adult learning and offer educators theinspiration and information they need to create their own dynamiclearning experiences.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Vella's new book is a marvelous kaleidoscope of diverse evidenceand rich testimony of realities that have been modified by thepower of dialogic education. We recently incorporated this approachat the Educational Centre for Clinical Tutors. Right now it is amust for our clinical faculties at the Medical School."
— Joaquin Montero, chairman, Internal Medicine Department,P. Universidad Catolica de Chile

"Dialogue education is at the heart of Freedom from Hunger'sCredit with Education strategy. We have been fortunate to see thepower of dialogue to transform mere information sharing into actionfor change in the groups of women with whom we work. As anorganization we have also experienced profound change in ourapproach to designing technical assistance, internal meetings, andconsultations as a result of our use of the approaches described inthis book. Dialogue education is transformative."
— Christopher Dunford, president, Freedom from Hunger

"This book provides truly remarkable insight on high-performance,student-centered learning. Readers of this book will certainly findnot only practical applications of these principles, but alsocompelling reasons to adopt them in their own approach toteaching."
— Paul H. Jacques, professor, School of Management, SUNYBinghamton

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787964733
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/21/2003
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education S
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Vella is adjunct professor at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1981, she founded the Jubilee Popular Education Center in Raleigh, which is now Global Learning Partners. Vella has designed and led community education and staff development programs in more than forty countries around the world. She is the author or coauthor of Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach; Training Through Dialogue; How Do They Know They Know?; and Taking Learning to Task, all from Jossey-Bass.

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Read an Excerpt

Dialogue Education at Work

A Case Book
By Jane Vella

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6473-5


Dialogue Education Today

Jane Vella

The structured system that we call dialogue education was designed to implement the ideas of Paulo Freire, Kurt Lewin, and many other teachers whose passion was for learning. I see dialogue education today as a viable and effective alternative to prevailing structures of formal and informal adult education.

Origins of Dialogue Education

Why does adult education need an alternative? Paulo Freire compared monologue-what he called the banking system-to problem-posing education, or dialogue. Freire's phrase referred to how the teacher deposited information into the minds of learners, who returned the information, with interest, on tests and examinations. In contrast, problem-posing education or dialogue meant that concepts, skills, or attitudes were presented as open questions for reflection and integration into a particular context (Freire, 1972). Monologue today is often seen in the lecture hall or conference center, where a teacher makes a presentation of information and data, with little or no engagement of learners, and little design for learning. It is also seen in lengthy presentations at training sessions and orientation programs in the public and not-for-profit sectors. It is experienced in international settings where hierarchical, colonial education processespersist.

The structured approach to dialogue presented in this volume focuses on learning, not teaching. This casebook offers twenty-three examples of significant learning. The purpose of this research is to turn our practice into praxis-reflection on action-so that readers can explore the possibility of using dialogue in their own educational context.

My History with Dialogue Education

In the late 1960s, I was a professor at the Institute of Education of the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Julius Nyerere, the nation's first president, was an advocate and articulate voice for authentic education. He urged the new nation to redesign the colonial system to fit the Tanzanian context. However, the educational practices at the university were far from what Nyerere intended. I was seriously considering a change of career: I could not continue in this domination system. Then, a friend told me about an exciting book she was reading: The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire (1972). I found in Freire's work a conceptual alternative to domination: problem-posing dialogue.

Bakhtin, the Russian philosopher and linguist, says of dialogue: "Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium" (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 293).

Dialogue education as described and analyzed in these stories is rooted in that position so clearly expressed by Bakhtin. It is based on the work of Paulo Freire, and the research of Kurt Lewin, who recognized the need for greater equity in the relationship of adult learners and teachers. This approach falls under the umbrella of social constructivism, and it can be a means toward transformational learning. We present here one format that uses the work of all these thinkers. That format is composed of a set of principles (Vella, 1995, 2002) and practices.

Anne Hope and Sally Timmell, authors of Training for Transformation (Hope, Timmell, and Hodzi, 1984), offered two-week courses in community education for dialogue in Nairobi, Kenya. I moved from the university into a community education setting, designing Community Education for Development, a leadership development program, with invaluable input from Hope and Timmell. That experience led to my doctoral dissertation (Vella, 1978), in which a structure of principles and specific practices began to emerge. As a professor at North Carolina State University, I organized these principles and practices into a system that I called popular education, after the model offered by Freire. The Jubilee Popular Education Center, which opened in 1981, was a source of action research as we taught this approach to teachers and trainers, health workers, and managers. From Freire's noble abstractions, an eclectic system of adult education based on dialogue developed.

One spring day in 1992 Malcolm Knowles, my colleague at North Carolina State University, and his wife, Hulda, sat at my dinner table. I confessed that I had a manuscript in the bottom drawer of my desk.... Malcolm smiled and kindly offered me a referral to the president of Jossey-Bass Publishers, Lyn Luckow, who had been a graduate student under Professor Knowles at the Fielding Graduate Institute. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey into this present research. The book that emerged from that garbled manuscript, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach, originally published in 1994, is influencing adult educators around the world. Jossey-Bass published three later books: Training Through Dialogue (1995), How Do They Know They Know? (1998), and Taking Learning to Task (2000). Dialogue education now has a firm foothold as one form expressing adult learning theories of participation, constructivism, and transformational learning.

We teach the way we have been taught. All of the authors writing cases for this book have studied with Global Learning Partners, Inc. (formerly the Jubilee Popular Education Center). This is a set of first-generation evidence. Each person I invited to join this research said this: "Thank you for the invitation! Even if my work does not get published, I am excited about doing it. I am grateful for this chance to examine my educational work this way." These men and women show themselves to be not only good educators but also very good social scientists.

Principles and Practices

The model of dialogue education presented in this casebook is highly structured, but that structure looks different in different situations. Our hope is that the action research in this casebook can influence and develop that structure, those principles and practices, and the growing theory and practice of dialogue education. In the appendix you will find an updated summary of current principles and practices.

Dialogue education is holistic in that none of these principles and practices can be omitted with impunity. We have not yet named all the principles and practices that are at work in effective adult learning.

The evaluation concept of learning, transfer, and impact (Vella, Berardinelli, and Burrow, 1998) is central to dialogue education: learning occurs within the program, not in a study hall later on. What occurs after the learning event is transfer. This is what adult learners do with the learning in their context. Impact is the change that occurs in individuals or organizations as a function of the learning. Explicit indicators of learning, transfer, and impact are useful for evaluation.

The Seven Design Steps

The Seven Design Steps-based on the classic questions who, why, when, where, what, what for, and how-form a distinctive planning instrument in this model of dialogue education. Who-the participants-and why-the situation of this learning event-together provide an essential set of information for the designer. The learning needs and resource assessment is designed and used to respond to those two opening questions. When-the time frame of the session-and where-the site-provide the parameters within which to design. What-the content of concepts, knowledge, skills, and behaviors manifesting attitudes-and what for-the distinctive achievement-based objectives of the learning session-set up the learning tasks. The how-the learning tasks and materials-presents the work of learners and teacher throughout. You will read about the Seven Design Steps in many of these chapters. They provide a vital instrument for creating a design that ensures accountability.


This model of dialogue education assumes that human beings come to learning with some appetite, and that they can and will make intelligent choices. The stories in this casebook bear out this assumption. We assume that folks come prepared to work hard, and to work together. We assume that adults come to a learning event with abundant life experience. We assume that levels of honesty can and will deepen as safety is established and meaning becomes clear. We assume that learners have and will take the time to reflect both during the course and during transfer. We assume that the resources provided for follow-up will be accessible and utilized. We assume that a process and protocols for leading dialogue can be learned and repeated with quality assurance. We assume that learning, transfer, and impact can be demonstrated through specific quantitative and qualitative indicators. These assumptions may seem naïve. The events described in this case book demonstrate how realistic they are.

Prospects for Dialogue Education

My friend's son is a Park Scholar at North Carolina State University. As a freshman, he took a history course on the Middle East taught by a visiting professor from that region. On the first day of the seminar, the professor came in with an armload of books. He said to the twelve students: "We have fourteen weeks. Your task is to read all of these. I will help you understand them. Then, design a peace plan for the Middle East. I am going back to Jerusalem in June. If you have anything to offer, I will bring it to people who have power there."

Immediacy, engagement, respect, learning task, clear roles, safety, sequence, reinforcement-all were there! Look at his assumptions about those young students. This scholar was using dialogue education. He did so without even a glance at this model. It was simply good teaching and good learning!

It should be noted that good learning means there is a minimum of traditional "telling." Good teaching is the other side of the coin. Good teaching in this model is good design: doing a learning needs and resource assessment, using the Seven Design Steps, setting learning tasks with reinforcement, safety, accountability, respect for learners. It involves using all of the principles and practices. It is an implementation based on all of the assumptions named earlier.

This is our vision: readers of this book will experiment with forms of dialogue education in universities and colleges and in public and not-for-profit organizations all around the world.


Excerpted from Dialogue Education at Work by Jane Vella Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Margaret Wheatley).


The Authors.

Introduction: Dialogue Education Today (Jane Vella).

Part I: University Education.

1. Dialogue Education Goes to College (Jane Marantz Connor).

2. Nutrition Education in an Undergraduate Setting (ElenaCarbone).

3. Creating a Culture for Dialogue in a Nutrition EducationProgram (Meredith Pearson).

4. Dialogue Education at a Weekend College: An AcceleratedMaster’s Degree in Education (Marianne Reiff).

5. Dialogue Education in a Videoconferencing Classroom: AnUndergraduate-Level Early Childhood Certificate Program (Steven I.Stahl).

6. Dialogue Education at a Student Union: College Students asAdult Partners (Jay Ekleberry, Mary Hoddy, Tara Cordes).

7. Transformative Learning in Faculty Development: A Case Studyfrom South Africa (Sarah Gravett).

Part II: The Public Sector and Not-for-ProfitOrganizations.

8. Dialogue Education Goes to Court: The NationalCourt-Appointed Special Advocate Association Prepares VolunteersThrough Dialogue Education (Cynthia Bizzell).

9. Changing the Self, Changing the System: A Workplace SuccessProgram Succeeds with a Dialogue Approach (Valerie Uccellani,Jyaphia Christos-Rodgers, Mack Slan).

10. From Telling to Teaching in Appalachia: The MountainMicroenterprise Fund of North Carolina (Joye Norris, GregWalker-Wilson).

11. Welfare to Work via Dialogue Education: The Voices of Breadand Roses (Barbara Gassner).

12. Appreciative Inquiry and Dialogue Education Meet inStrategic Planning (Darlene Goetzman).

13. Teaching Communities to Lobby for Social Justice (MichaelCulliton).

14. Choices: Steps Toward Health: A Dialogue EducationCurriculum of the National Extended Food and Nutrition Program(Jean Anliker).

15. Vermont Math and Science Teachers Move from Monologue toDialogue (Kathy Johnson, Peter Perkins, Nicole Saginor).

16. Using Dialogue for Strategic Planning Sessions (Karen G.Ridout).

17. Dialogue Education in California’s Women, Infants, andChildren Program (Valerie Uccellani).

Part III: International Education.

18. The Double Bottom Line: Dialogue Education in MicrofinanceServices for the Poor (Robb Davis, Jeanette Treiber, Ellen Vor derBruegge).

19. Dialogue Education Goes to Primary School in Haiti (LindaGershuny).

20. Taking Time for Praxis in Cambodia (Gail von Hahmann).

21. Educational Revolution on the Volga River: Learning as aPersonal Victory in the New Russia (Peter Perkins, Michaela B.Stickney).

22. Using Dialogue Education to Transform Primary Health Care inChile (Klaus Püschel).

23. Organizing to Undo Racism in Canada: Designing for Safety inan Antiracism Program (Peter Noteboom).

Conclusion: The Future of Dialogue Education (Jane Vella).

Appendix: Selected Principles and Practices of DialogueEducation.


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