Crafting the Learning Environment
The best learning environments are carefully designed and tended by internship settings. What is an ideal learning environment? Click on the image below to view a one-minute video.
Adult learning theory came to the fore in the early 1970s with the publication of Malcolm Knowles landmark book, The Adult Learner. Much of his pioneering theory is still considered foundational to adult learning theory:
- Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)
- Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).
- Involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).
- Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).
Listen to a brief video about adult learners by clicking on the photo to the right.
However, there are generational differences as seen in sociologist Roberth Wuthnow’s recent book, After the Baby Boomers.
What does all this mean?
The supervisor-mentor is inviting the student into a “community of practice.”
In Cultivating Communities of Practice, Wenger has an extended discussion of the nature of knowledge that is apropos to this kind of learning through participation. He describes four qualities of knowledge.
1. Knowledge lives in the human act of knowing. For example, reading Thomas Long or Fred Craddock on the subject of preaching is quite a different learning experience compared with stepping into the pulpit and preaching.
2. Knowledge is tacit as well as explicit. In other words, as Michael Polanyi has observed in The Tacit Dimension, “We can know more than we can tell.” Interaction and informal learning opportunities–dialogue–can release this knowledge.
3. Knowledge is social as well as individual. For example, diversity of persons, experiences, and theological perspectives in a seminary class adds texture and richness to the experience.
4. Knowledge is dynamic, not static—it is continually in motion. In fact, Wenger asserts, our collective knowledge in any field is changing at an accelerating rate. Nevertheless, he observes, the core knowledge of a community of practice tends to be stable and provides the required baseline for meaningful participation.
As the supervisor-mentor, you are the professional who brings students in–further in, deeper down– into the spiral of deepening competency. Figure 1 below illustrates this concept. To learn more, read this excellent article by Matthew Floding and Glen Swier: Legitimate Peripheral Participation: Entering A Community of Practice .
Opportunities for ministerial practice should aim at deepening competency, and out of that experience comes “raw material” for ministerial reflection.
Next: Practicing Hospitality