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Education (Adult)Leadership Development

Moving Toward Dialogue Education

Dialogue Education? What is that? …you may be wondering. Traditional teaching or training is usually one-sided: the expert talks; the learner listens. In Dialogue Education, they are engaged in a dialogue together.

Dialogue Education (DE) is an integrated set of principles and practices that engages learners with content and with one another. DE provides a better answer to the critical question: how do we know when someone has learned something?

One Challenge has always been a learning organization. As with any mission-sending agency, OC’s workers are life-long learners. Global workers going overseas are always learning, including about travel, culture, language, security, and team. Those who send them have the responsibility to prepare and train them well. The training doesn’t stop after deployment, or even after a decade on the field. Many of our workers are involved in leadership training of various kinds, formal, non-formal, and informal. This is a two-way street: the global worker equipping other leaders as well as receiving ongoing leadership training and coaching themselves.

Learning has always been and continues to be part of our ethos. It is so important to OC’s posture that LEARNING is one of OC’s six guiding principles:

We are lifelong learners who seek to grow in competency as we serve the body of Christ in its context and intentionally mentor, coach, and disciple one another.

A Course for Learners and Trainers

January 14-17, David (OC’s Leadership Development Strategist) hosted a 4-day Foundations of Dialog Education Course at the U.S. Mobilization Center. David is a Certified Dialogue Education Teacher through Global Learning Partners (, an organization that equips trainers across a spectrum of domains and cultures. He designed and facilitated the January course for internal OC training.  

The Evolution of New Training

In 2014 a task force was formed to review the training OC provides for all its workers. OC’s leadership felt the time had come to rethink, redesign, and restructure how our people were trained across the whole spectrum of effectiveness, from their organizational entry to retirement. Within that framework, part of what the team recognized was a need for the whole organization to land on the same page in our thinking, principles, language, and strategies.

David explains, “Many of us at US-MC are involved in designing and facilitating learning events and processes for our workers. An increasing number of us are in conversations about sharpening our skills to ensure effective learning among adults.  When I shared this model of training with the Training Task Force, the group agreed that Dialogue Education could help us, as an organization, be on the same page in terms of language, principles and concepts – so that we maximize the learning of our workers in our training processes.“

Elements of Dialog Education

Dialog Education incorporates many elements which result in a superior learning experience. Course attendees learned to ask, ‘What should the participants have to do or decide during the learning event to demonstrate they know the content?’  Etta, future Director of Prefield Training said, “I was encouraged to think of things our appointees can actually do (not just talk about) during our time together for training.”

DE emphasizes teaching the whole person through ideas, feelings, and actions, for maximum impact.  Traditional training can err in the direction of too much of one of those, or completely neglecting another. In the course the 8 Steps of Design gives trainers a helpful model to use in designing a learning event or process.  This model can provide a helpful framework for designing engaging curriculum.

Used with permission from Global Learning Partners, Inc.

Feedback from Participants

For four days 12 attendees worked their way through the material, actively participating and presenting a training session of their own on the last day. The OC personnel who took the course were primarily from different US-MC departments and represented different generational groups. We asked them for their impressions of the time. This is what they said.

I wish I would have learned this seven years ago when I began my Prefield role. I look forward to Dialogue Education being a common approach within OC. It ensures learning by doing during our training sessions, rather than teaching how to do something following the training. (Dennis)

The most significant take-away for me is simply having a formal, comprehensive education structure to refer to and the vocabulary to engage with its application. I’ve never had any formal education training, and these 4 days gave me a workable framework for any educational environment I’ll engage with in the future. (Josh)

Not only is Dialog Education a multi-dimensional approach, and therefore a more interesting and personally engaging form of training, the learner has opportunity to practice what is learned, so experiences competence before leaving the classroom. (Doug)

This course gave me hooks to hang principles and practices on, and a framework to follow in creating meaningful workshops and training events.  I hope to put these practices to work as I facilitate helpful training for our newest mission workers in my new job as Director of Prefield Ministries. (Etta)

For all it was an enriching experience and a good step toward maximizing the learning of our workers in our training processes. Josh, of the Mobilization Department said this,

I think a shift towards DE helps us standardize training formats across the organization, at least in the sense of how we approach our design structures. It will also help with bringing in multiple trainers who can all use a similar format, providing more flow and ease of understanding for participants.”

Leadership Development One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. We are committed to the equipping of leaders, inside and outside the church, with kingdom principles allowing them to move entire people groups toward transformation, hope and justice. Those leaders in turn can mentor others, and together we all bring God’s transformation to lives, communities, and nations.

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