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August 09, 2005


Phil Sinitiere


I'm intrigued by Vella's pedagogical program (as a history teacher at a college prep school in Houston and as a PhD student in history); I've never heard of her, but will read up.

In your opinion, how does her pedagogical methodology differ from the Socratic approach? Second, do you think her approach might be applicable in a private, college preparatory setting?

Phil Sinitiere


Interesting stuff. You might also want to check out the debates in philosophy of education around Induction, or the alternative of Logic of Learning. Tyrrell Burgess and Joanna Swann are two key people in this area.

I was invited to a seminar in early 2002 on the problems of induction and teaching methods in higher education. It certainly gave me a lot to think about in terms of how theological education happens (or doesn't happen). Once I get back into a ed context, it's something I plan to follow up and in that sense, I look forward to hearing more about how your course works out.


Sounds like it will be a great course. Wish I could take it.


I will be very curious to hear how the class turns out. I've been trying to lean more towards this kind of approach in a local church context (with mixed results, honestly, because it always depends on people's readiness to take action and responsibility - but they're getting used to it;). I hope you can reflect on it as you are teaching and after the class is over, because I'd love to hear how it worked or didn't work in an academic context.


I applaud your choice because I really appreciate a dialogical approach to learning and teaching.

I guess my big question is about "learning styles," though. Does everyone learn best from a dialogical approach?



I found an interesting article on teaching/training here that talks about learning styles. Here's an excerpt:

"Know the wide variety of learning styles, and how to incorporate as many as possible into your learning experience. And no, we're not talking about sorting learners into separate categories like "He's a Visual Learner while Jim is an Auditory learner.", or "He learns best through examples." Every sighted person is a "visual learner", and everyone learns through examples. And through step-by-step instructions. And through high-level "forest" views. And through low-level "tree" views. Everyone learns top-down and bottom-up. Everyone learns from pictures, explanations, and examples. This doesn't mean that certain people don't have certain brain-style preferences, but the more styles you load into any learning experience, the better the learning is for everyone--regardless of their individual preferences."

ryan bolger

Phil, I believe the difference between Vella and Socratic is she asks questions that she does not know the answer to, (e.g. Given Paul's missional approach, what might that look like in your ministry context?) as opposed to one correct answer.

In addition, often the 'question' posed is not a verbal one, but a task to be performed in small groups.

Pernell, thanks, I hope so!!

Ben, yes, I will write about it after next week...

Bill, This approach accepts all learning styles in that there are tasks given in small groups, but they are varied tasks and can be performed according to the learning styles within that group...

Fernando, thanks for the tip on induction -- I haven't heard of that before...

Friar Tuck

Very interesting. I had so many teachers in college and grad school who were happy not learning and just punching the same lectures and study they had been doing. It is awesome that you are growing and learning.



As someone who did most of their undergraduate work in a dialogical format, let me just say this.

While I did enjoy it, I found one thing to be frustrating. I wanted to know what the prof thought much more than what my peers thought. I don't want to pay for other peoples aha moments at the expense of a deeper understanding of any given subject.

Don't allow making space for conversations to dilute the quality of the education

ryan bolger

Thanks for the encouragement, Friar Tuck...

David, thanks for your advice. Hopefully you were paying for your 'ahas' as well and not just those of your peers! A deeper understanding of the topic does not need to be abandoned for dialog -- dialog simply helps determine where those deeper understandings need to occur.


Ever since I read this entry I've been trying to find more info on "Montessori church". I have a http://kimxtom.blogspot.com/2005/08/montessori-approach-to-church.html>theory about that myself.

Ryan Bolger

Kim, I'm quoting Karen Ward of Church of the Apostles, who has said that the kind of church she advocates is a Montessori (hands on, but much more, as you noted in your blog) approach...


Nigel Newton

Hi. I would very much like to know how you got on at the course with Dr Joanna Swann and Prof. Tyrrel Burgess.
I am a Christian working in UK post-compulsory education and have been conducting research on learning cultures. Last year I met Dr Swann to discuss the possibility of her supervising me. She has encouraged me to consider Karl Popper's 'Logic of Learning' from his book 'Objective Knowledge'. There is a connection here to the work of Comenius, a C17th Christian Educator, who also believed we were endowed with a natural gift to learn in a logical way. Burgess refers to the work of Comenius in a paper he delivered on Learner Managed Learning, www.lle.mdx.ac.uk/iclml/lmlch13.pdf. (Link to paper). I would greatly recommend you considering the learning model proposed here. As a Christian I'm often frustrated by how inclined the church is to 'traditional' methodology, when considered historically it has often been Christians pioneering new approaches to learning. Our call is to 'renew our minds'; to 'get understanding' and Christ is our Wisdom!
Hope to make contact,


Nigel, thanks for making me aware of these resources...

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  • Hi, welcome to my former blog! My name is Ryan Bolger, and this is where I posted my thoughts on Jesus, culture, new forms of community, among other things. Come visit me at my new blog: http://www.ryanbolger.com. I still teach at Fuller Seminary in Southern California where I'm doing some writing as well. Feel free to bounce around the new or old website -- I hope it might stir your imagination -- feel free to stir mine as well by leaving some comments, preferably at the new site... Peace...


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