Ministry Styles 4: Learning to Learn by Steve Childers

October 5, 2018 — Leave a comment

Video Transcript (slightly edited)

In this session, we’ll take a look at Learning Styles.

 The whole concept of a disciple is a learner, so the topic of learning styles is really one of discipleship.

In Acts 2:42 we learn that the early church was “devoted to the Apostle’s teaching.” They were devoted learners. The vision here is that you are intentionally developing a church into a devoted learning community.

Later in this series, we’ll go into depth in this whole area of personal discipleship, but in this session our focus is primarily on the bigger picture of community or corporate discipleship. Our focus here is on understanding some essential learning principles and methods that can help you be more effective in teaching.

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As a church leader, you’re entrusted with the task, not merely of teaching, but as Jesus said in the Great Commission: teaching people to obey. And there’s a big difference. This means you are given the task of helping people learn. And since, “the purpose of teaching is to make learning possible”, we call these “learning styles,” not “teaching styles.”

The purpose of teaching is to make learning possible.

This is because if you have just taught that doesn’t mean that anyone has necessarily learned. Many times church leaders are teaching and no one’s truly learning. This means that you, as a church leader, need to understand well the dominant learning styles of your ministry focus group in your cultural context.

When developing a church among an illiterate, rural poor community, you must communicate with those people in a way that is very different from how you would communicate when developing a church among highly-educated, urban wealthy people.

Everyone, including you, your core group and your ministry focus group, has their own personal learning style—a way they can be communicated with most effectively.

Social Scientists propose one way of thinking about it—presenting us with three modes of learning that define common ways that people remember or learn. Each of us uses all three of these modes in varying degrees, but we tend to place greater emphasis on one of these over the others. It’s this emphasis that defines a unique learning style in this context.

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These 3 styles are called an auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learner.

An Auditory Learner – remembers best by listening to the spoken word and by forming the sounds of words. They will tell you things like:

I need to hear myself say it in order to remember it.
I often talk through a problem out loud in order to solve it.

These people will sometimes say:

I memorize best by repeating information out loud or to myself over and over.
I would rather listen to a recording of a book than sit and read it.

Then there is a… Visual Learner – remembers best by looking at images, demonstrations, and body language. They will tell you:

I like to see an illustration of what I’m being taught.
I prefer books that include pictures and illustrations.
I like flashy, colorful, and visually stimulating objects.
I remember better when I can actually see the person who is talking.

These are in contrast with the… Kinesthetic Learner – remembers best by becoming physically involved and actually doing something whatever they are learning. They will tell you:

I have a tough time sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time.
I learn best by participating and doing something.
I remember whatever I did more than what I heard or read.
I prefer to read books or hear stories with lots of action.

You will normally discover clusters of learning styles among various age groups in your ministry focus group – depending on education, family upbringing, interests, vocations, and all kinds of other factors that shape their culture.

But the challenge is learning how to identify those particular learning styles that can maximize the learning experience of the people you are serving.

In the process you learn how to adjust your teaching and discipleship learning styles so that the individual’s or group’s dominant mode of learning is emphasized to be most effective in transformational teaching. And yet all the while we want to be stretching individuals and groups to use and strengthen their less dominant modes of learning too.

Effective learning methods must be based on sound educational principles.

In the field of education today, great advances have been made in the principles and practices of effective education of adults.

In fact, a new word has been popularized for adult learning during the end of the 20th century called Andragogy. Andragogy is the theory and practice of the education of adults as opposed to pedagogy–the education of children.

Andragogy is intentionally less “content/teaching-centered” and more “learner/learning-centered” with a strong focus on engaging adults within the context of their learning experience.

These principles will be studied more in depth later, but let me just highlight a few of the more important ones.

  • One is the principle of Motivation: Adults must want to learn. Adults learn most effectively when they are motivated to acquire a particular type of knowledge or develop a new skill.
  • The other would be the principle of Relevance: Adults often need to see connections to learn. They learn most effectively when they see links between new information they’re learning and their previous knowledge and experience they’ve had, especially how the topic they’re learning relates to their life and work.
  • Then there’s the principle of Participation: Adults normally must interact to learn. Adults learn most effectively by an extensive use of interactive exercises that are critical for student engagement and learning, as opposed to passive listening or reading.
  • Then there is Peer Learning: Adults learn most effectively when they receive input and feedback on the subject they’re learning from both the teacher and their peers.
  • And then the concept of Problem-Solving: Adults learn most effectively when focusing on solving relevant, realistic problems as opposed to acquiring knowledge sequentially.
  • Then there’s the concept of Mastery-Learning: Adults learn most effectively when they receive immediate feedback from testing methods resulting in self-discovery. Unlike most testing methods in traditional education.
  • Then finally the concept of Hybrid Methods. Adults learn most effectively when they are using integrated learning methods that are adapted to their unique context and learning styles. Unlike most traditional education that focuses mostly on formal learning methods, adult students learn best through integrating formal, non-formal, and informal methods.

When you begin to learn and apply these principles and methods to your learning ministries, you will not only have people with renewed minds, but renewed hearts and lives.

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