Jane Vella

Dialogue Education by Jane Vella

Wikipedia Source ~ Dialogue Education is a popular education approach to adult education first described by educator Jane Vella in the 1980s. This approach to education draws on various adult learning theories, including those of Paulo Freire, Kurt Lewin, Malcolm Knowles and Benjamin Bloom (Global Learning Partners, 2006b; Vella, 2004). It is a synthesis of these abstract theories into principles and practices that can be applied in a concrete way to learning design and facilitation. Dialogue Education is a form of Constructivism and can be a means for Transformative learning, (Vella, 2004).

Dialogue Education shifts the focus of education from what the teacher says to what the learner does, from learner passivity to learners as active participants in the dialogue that leads to learning (Global Learning Partners, 2006c). A dialogue approach to education views learners as subjects in their own learning and honours central principles such as mutual respect and open communication (Vella, 2002). Learners are invited to actively engage with the content being learned rather than being dependent on the educator for learning. Ideas are presented to learners as open questions to be reflected on and integrated into the learner's own context (Vella, 2004). The intent is that this will result in more meaningful learning that affects behaviour.


Who is Jane Vella [Global Learning Partners]

Her Books


Jane Vella’s 8 Steps of Learning Design

It was my introduction to Jane Vella in my undergrad that gave me a new approach to developing the content and overall design of a course.  By answering the 8 steps and then weighing against the ROI we will be able to develop an effective and efficient learning plan to address the needs of the student.  Again, each step should be carefully evaluated and weighed against the ROI and add financial value to fit the 6Ds approach.  If anything falls outside of the approved range, it should be discarded or greatly altered to fall into compliance.  Below is a full excerpt from Global Learning Partners (Jane Vella) on how each step is applied.  I have added red notes to indicate changes I have applied in my learning design principles.

Full Excerpt by Jane Vella and Global Learning Partners

“For decades, our team has used an eight-part framework to design meetings, workshops & learning experiences of all sorts. The framework was first codified by Dr. Jane Vella and we have enhanced it over the years through our international work.

Below is a snapshot of our eight-part design framework. Defining parts of the framework is, of course, a truly iterative process. As we define each of them fully, the learning event begins to take shape and emerges as a coherent whole.


  1.   Who?    The People
    A deep understanding of who will participate in the learning program, and who will lead it.

From my experience we found the audience to be extremely important.  In the past, training consisted of mixed learners and material only applied to certain persons.  It is critical the training is geared specifically for the type of learner and performance function.  If any material is irrelevant to the learner, it needs to be discarded or learners divided into specific groups with more refined objectives.  In my experience the ROI helped to isolate the true objectives and audience.

  1.   Why?    The Current Situation
    An insightful look at the day-to-day work of the participants and how it connects to the topics of the training or meeting.

I found this to be incredibly accurate and effective to make sure we answer why the training is important and how it will affect the learner.  This also helps to explain “What’s in it for me”.  If the learner doesn’t connect with the importance of the material and learning, they will not be engaged.

  1.   So That?  The Anticipated Change
    A realistic vision of what will be different as a result of this joint learning experience.

Explaining the changes and expectations to the learners is important.  This is one major aspect that has been missing from most, if not all the training conducted in my organization.  This typically leads to failure in level 3 application after the training event.  It also destroys the ROI if not tracked to hold the learners accountable.  If the change is not agreed upon by the learner, then why are we training the learner?

  1. When?    The Time and Timing 
    A detailed description of the time available for the learning, noting how this influences the possible amount and depth of content.

This also is a valuable lesson in keeping the learner engaged.  If this is not taken into consideration, the learner will disengage from the training and learning event.  It is critical instructors keep to the allotted time for each step of the learning design and facilitator guides.


  1.   Where?  The Place and Space 
    A decision on the best location --  to accommodate travelers, schedules, and the needs of the learning event.

This is critical to the industry I work in.  Much of the tactile/kinesthetic training application is conducted outside.  Depending on the season, it can either be too warm or too cold for learners to stay engaged when working outdoors.  Other weather elements also will impact these learning events.

  1.   What?  The Content  
    A carefully-constructed set of skills, information, and perspectives to focus on in the learning.

This is where the Philosophy gets a little complicated.  My employer is driving to push more and more content online or through virtual training sessions.  Unfortunately, much of the training is dictated by government regulation and has to be conducted with Instructor Led Training.  Failure to do so is in violation of the standards and laws and can carry civil and criminal penalties.  Content has to be carefully evaluated in relationship to these laws, standards and expectations.  Unfortunately, this can drive the cost of the program in relation to the ROI up significantly.  While I am a big proponent of multimedia training, my philosophy believes it should be used as a pre-cursor to the training event and used in a flipped classroom scenario.  I do not believe multimedia training alone is an effective tool for long term memory and learning.  The combination of multimedia learning and then classroom led instruction using kinesthetic approach is the ideal solution.

  1.   What For?  Achievement-Based Objectives
    A specific description of what learners will do with each and every piece of priority content.

Again, this is another aspect of the flipped classroom approach I like.  This is also a philosophy of contention with my employer.  We currently provide content with the stated objective and Performance Evaluation.  Some of my peers believe we are then teaching to the test and learners will only search for the material relevant to each objective in the performance evaluation.  While this might be true on the surface, I believe it is limited in scope due only to how the performance objective is stated.  A more robust learning objective would allow the student to understand the objective and not simply skim the material.  For example, a performance evaluation might consist of  the following objective ~ Perform Pump-Motor Inspection.  A better objective would state, “When given the need to perform a pump-motor inspection, the technician will properly diagnose all aspects of pump-motor operation and identify troubleshooting methods to determine corrective action.  The technician will be provided with various pump-motor scenarios during the performance evaluation.”.  This now locks the technician into fully understanding the expectations without giving them a central focus on specific content.

Additionally, if my peers are concerned about learners studying for the test, then the tests and performance evaluations should be revised.  Additionally, practice exercises should be provided to help address the important areas of focus.


  1.   How?    The Learning Tasks
    A guide for the facilitation of learning exercises in which all learners build their skills and share their learning.

This is my final approach to my learning philosophy.  The student must teach the instructor to verify knowledge retention.  When the student has mastered the ability to teach the material to the instructor, learning is successful.  They can then share their knowledge with their peers and become a champion for training and knowledge sharing.

Global Learning Partners ~ Jane Vella:  Over years of teaching this framework to designers and facilitators, we’ve found it very helpful to use a visual. The pyramid above is one helpful way to illustrate how the eights steps of design build on each other—and work together. We design adult learning experiences by answering the eight key questions from the ground up, beginning with the two critical questions:  Who? and Why?

We’ve discovered over the years that such a starting point is the key to a learning-centered approach. If we have a faulty or incomplete sense of the learners – or the situations they face – it’s hard to have a solid meeting or workshop design. But, when we get insights into the learners and their situation, we are ready to roll! We have a foundation that bodes well for the rest of the program, all of which is built to respond to those learners and those situations. From that foundation, we build upward, naming the specific objectives and priority content for the event or program. Finally, we design learning tasks that outline what the participants will actually do throughout their time together. Although participants often only see the How? part of a design, they inevitably appreciate the thought and care that went into the foundational steps.” ~ Global Learning Partners, Jane Vella.