Source: Book Review by: Monica Rector Title: On Teaching and Learning: Putting the Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education into Action Author(s): Jane Vella Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco ISBN: 0787986992, Pages: 272, Year: 2007
Instructors always praised traditional teaching. For this kind of class, the demands are to prepare the lesson, go into the classroom, deliver a message lecturing from beginning to end, ask if there are any questions, and then leave the classroom empowered. In her book, On Teaching and Learning: Putting the Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education into Action, Jane Vella describes some of the things she learned that were important to teaching: “how to organize a lesson, how to structure a lesson plan and build a curriculum” (p. xviii). This approach is reflected in Paulo Freire’s words: “We teach the way we were taught” (p. xxi). But we are in the twenty-first century, and, with modern technology in which students click or zap and get wherever they want at high speed, this kind of teaching is not appealing anymore.
What is dialogue education? Vella states, “The purpose or end of dialogue education is learning; the end of learning is personal and social transformation toward peace” (p. xxii). This is how she introduces the objective of her book. But in the process of making us learn her method she rephrases her initial statement and ends the book with the following conclusion: “In my understanding of this educational method, the means is dialogue, the end is learning, and the purpose is peace” (p. 214). If a student is able to dialogue s/he will learn and become a fulfilled being who only can make this a better and more peaceful world.
Dialogue education has four parts when it comes to learning tasks. Vella tries to use letters as a mnemonic device. The four I’s are: Inductive work (context), Input (research and content), Implementation (doing something meaningful with the content, and Integration (when everything comes together, renewing the context (p. 70). (These four elements in a learning task are summarized in a chart on page 63). The other instructional technologies with which Vella works throughout her book are implementation challenges on-line with assignment and course activities, and chat time via Internet set aside with the professor. She states that, “such a structure proved functional both for learning and for teaching” (p. 17).