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Leadership Development Methods
In this session we are going to be taking a look at leadership development methods. Within the field of education, a very common differentiation is made between three methods of learning or three methods of education. One is formal educational methods. The other one would be non-formal and the third one is informal. Let’s look just briefly at each of these categories.
Formal education, this is usually related to a school, college, university. Formal education is, it’s normally full time, not always but normally. It’s long term. There’s normally some form of accreditation with admission standards and requirements that need to be met with a standard curriculum. It’s usually leading to some kind of a diploma or a degree that someone gets, that’s offered through the school. It’s normally content centered and it can be very costly.
Now formal education is usually seen as isolated from the student’s normal context. It’s primarily teaching and curriculum centered and highly governed. This type of learning is the type of learning you’d normally think about in schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools and other educational institutions.
A second method of education or learning is non-formal. Now, non-formal education is normally part time, as opposed to formal being full time. Instead of long term, it’s short term. It is not accredited whereas formal is accredited. There’s easy access. There’s not a barrier in terms of not having the credentials or the background necessary to be received into a school or an educational program.
It’s personalized in terms of the curriculum and the methodology. It’s usually offered through distance education, through conferences, seminars, apprenticeships and it usually occurs in the learner’s normal context. Again, in contrast with formal education where it’s usually not, and it is affordable whereas formal education is usually expensive. The key point here, just as before is that, it’s primarily learner or learning-centered, where formal education is primarily teacher or teaching or curriculum centered.
Now the third category is informal education methods. Informal methods are unstructured. They’re spontaneous. They’re highly relational. They’re way of life. There is no curriculum or credits. It doesn’t lead to any diploma or a degree. It’s just simply a teacher, a mentor working with someone that needs help and needs development with a skill or some area of life, and the teacher, the mentor is simply someone with more experience. It’s highly learner and learning- centered like non-formal education, but the focus here, there is no program at all. It is just simply a focus on walking through life with someone and learning in time and in life, in light of contexts that arise.
Now this was obviously the primary educational method of Jesus that he used in the training of his disciples. There was teaching. There were times that he would preach and teach to crowds, but yet it seems like, from the scriptures, that most of the learning of the disciples was in what we would call an informal method process.
Now there are times when the lines between each of these methods of learning are just not that clear. They can be blurred. In other words, it isn’t always as cut and dry as it seems, but these definitions, I think can help you have a general idea of each method of learning and impact how you learn and develop as leaders, as well as how you help develop leaders in your ministry. Now finally, I want you to note how these three educational methods can be seen as three developmental training levels of a teacher.
Now notice here, level one is teaching content to the learner. You see the teacher at level one bringing content as the arrow goes from the lower right to the upper left. This is curriculum centered. Then level two, as you see a significant turn being made back to the right. That would be facilitating. This is when the teacher moves from teaching content to the learner to facilitating the learner’s needs. This would be learner centered or non-formal, where the first would be more formal.
Then level three, the next turn would be the teacher really taking on more of the role of a mentor, accompanying the learner, walking through life. That would be informal. So if you look at this now through the earlier grid, you can see level one is formal, with the focus on content. Level two is non-formal, with the focus on the learner and learning and informal, the third level, walking through life.
So it’s very significant to see how this turning of the corner takes place when, as you can think of yourself as a teacher, you learn to shift from level one, that is merely focusing on teaching content to someone, transmitting information. That’s the curriculum centered, to level two, facilitating, becoming learner centered. Then to level three, accompanying or walking through life as Jesus did with the disciples. Now I want you to note how in all of these shifts, you see a shift from the formal, level one, to the non-formal, level two, to the informal, level three.
Now forms of all three learning methods are normally needed in developing leaders holistically. It would be a misunderstanding to think that one of these levels or one of these methods of learning was actually superior to the other. They are all just different methods that need to be used appropriately and most effectively. It could be summed up in a, in a sense in the old Chinese ancient proverb that the essence of informal learning is “I do and you watch. I do, you help. You do, I help.” And then, “You do and I watch.” Then what’s often forgotten is the last step, which is “You do and another watches.”