The secondary title of this book by Jane Vella is “The Power Of Dialogue In Educating Adults”. I was already a believer in teaching adults through discussion. But Vella gave me more details, direction, advice, and models in how to do it better.
For some reason we assume that teaching is something done through lecture. Granted, there are powerful speakers who can make great points and engage their audience, but the reason for teaching goes beyond entertaining. Vella wrote, “Lectured-to-adults learn. They learn that they hold no influence and make no impact on decisions. They learn that they are expected to be passive.” But many adults want to do something with what they learn. They want to carry this new attitude, knowledge, or skill into their future for a change in their life.
I join Vella in being a big fan of learning in small groups, or teams. Vella says, “Teammates provide coaching, encouragement, accountability, and more. They often do this better than the teacher.” I’ll be more faithful to put into practice what I learned if I know someone I respect is going to ask me about my progress. Not only that, they are going to expect me to ask them how they are doing. The power of a team is greater than the power of all the individuals added together.
One of the items that Vella revealed to me was teaching that I need to teach people what they want to learn. “People are naturally excited to learn what they want to know. (Whereas teachers are excited to teach what they know.)” She explains the importance of listening to people before beginning to teach, that often the teacher must learn from the students before teaching them.
I could go on, but let me close with a challenge from Vella, “Our task as dialogue-educators is to make the learning so accountable, engagement so meaningful, and the material so relevant that lecture-style instruction will appear frail in comparison.”
My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.