Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Taking Learning to Task by Jane Vella – A Proactive Report

  • The nature of a proactive report is that you go into the book with a few questions that you hope to answer.  It starts with an overview of the book, then a set of questions and finishes with a summary and synthesis.  So here are my thoughts Taking Learning to Task by Jane Vella.
  • Vella in Taking Learning to Task makes the case for a third way of learning; its not teacher centered or learner centered, but learning centered. Vella makes a compelling argument that the best way for learning to take place with adults is through learning tasks.  She first helps us understand the underlying assumptions of why learning tasks are necessary for adult learners, and then by example, she teaches us the practices and skills of how to put learning tasks into our approach to training others, which is what she does throughout the book.  She makes her closing argument by giving us twenty good reasons for using learning tasks in adult education as well as twenty congruent principles.

    Proactive Questions
    1.  What are the four underlying assumptions behind the use of learning tasks?

    • Learners arrive with the capacity to do the work involved in learning
    • Learners learn when they are actively engaged with content, cognitively, emotionally and physically.
    • New content can be present through a learning task
    • Learning tasks lead to accountability and are habit forming (45)

    2.  What is the difference between teaching tasks and learning tasks
    Teaching tasks is the more typical approach teachers take, it is where the teacher lectures, maybe even uses slides and others media with the goal of passing on content to passive learners.  Learning tasks is a fresh approach to learning where the teacher assesses the needs of the adult learners, and develops a learning approach that involve actual tasks that the learner engages in, so that the learner not only learns, but transfers new knowledge, attitudes and skills into the workplace with the goal of impacting the entire organization.  Learning tasks can be inductive, where the learner connects what they know to their context, they can be oriented around learning new content, helping learners apply the content in the workplace as well as discover new ways to apply it to their everyday life.

    3.  What are the twenty reasons why teachers ought to take the learning tasks approach to learning?
    Learning occurs immediately if you use a learning task (111). Learning tasks stop us from merely telling (112). Engagement is insured with learning tasks (113). Learning tasks invite critical thinking (113). Learning tasks invite the teacher to be concerned about critical feeling (114). A learning task ensures comprehensive work with all content (115). Learning tasks also ensure completion of all achievement-based objectives (115).  Products of learning tasks offer substantive indicators of learning (116). Evaluation can be focused and accurate if learning tasks are set (116). The structure of learning tasks invites intragroup dialogue (117).  Learners are invited to be subjects of their own learning if they are engaged in learning tasks (118). Learning tasks can be diverse for all types of learners (118). Learning tasks involved cognitive, affective and psychomotor functions (119). The sequence of learning tasks affords safety for learners (119). Using small groups in learning tasks allows inclusion (120). Learning tasks lead to comprehensive documentation (120). In dialogue using learning tasks, the teacher can also learn (121).  Using learning tasks makes time management more efficient (122). Vast amounts of data can be efficiently dealt with in learning tasks (122). The four I’s (inductive, input, implementation and integration) are useful models for preparing any educational session (123).

    Summary and Synthesis
    Taking Learning to Task is all about engaging the learner in her learning, by providing meaningful tasks that will enable the learner to work and live differently.  It is an active approach to learning that I will seek to use more fully in learning events in which I help to lead.  This book is a rich resource that I plan to go back to when designing learning sessions for others.


    3 Responses to Taking Learning to Task by Jane Vella – A Proactive Report

    1. In my studies in Christian Education, I have typically encountered “learning tasks” referred to as “action/reflection” instructional method which has a long history in the Judeo-Christian faith. It can be seen in the rabbinic tradition of the Mishnah with stories that go back to the last zugot of the Second Commonwealth period. It is also one of the instructional methods used by Jesus (Mark 6). And it is one that is still used today in some youth ministries (think short-term missions, work projects, servent-evangelism, lectio divina, etc.).

      And if I am remembering correctly, I believe Vella finds herself within the Judeo-Christian faith. I think that her ideas help us to concretely evaluate the effectiveness of this particular instructional method.

      Thanks again for another great review and for highlighting the ideas of a master educator.

    2. jrwoodward says:

      Paul,

      Learning tasks or “action/reflection” does have a long history, and Jesus seemed to use this method quite a bit. Mark 6 is a great example, and when he sent out the 70 is another. And I love all the examples you share.

      I personally don’t know what her faith is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was her tradition. I’m glad you enjoyed the review and thanks for adding so much through the comment. Peace.

      JR

    3. Pingback: Discipleship Around the Interwebs · discipleshipremix.com

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