by Tim H., Asia strategist
What is the difference between traditional learning and facilitated relational learning? It’s more than just small group learning.
The problem we face in learning is how to catalog and store all we hear. Adults need relevance in the learning process, something children typically do not need. As kids, our brains tend to absorb all the information we receive. As we become adults, we develop a number of filters to try to help us determine priorities for what we hear in life, to help us figure out how to store it for recall.
Adults look for the “value added” of information they take in. When we sit in a traditional teacher/student learning setting as adults, we tend to be passive, primarily receiving, trying to determine the value of what we’re hearing and how to store it effectively. That is where the filters come in. Sometimes they work against us, if we cannot find relevance in the information.
Posing questions primes the mind to first form its own analysis and assessment, which often includes assignment of value, and this simultaneously opens pathways to storing the information. Answering a question requires one to form an opinion, using the mind and reasoning in the process, thus actively engaging in learning.
Answering questions in small group discussion also forces participants to express and sometimes defend their thoughts (providing clarity of their own beliefs). Group discussion then helps them either confirm or find flaws in their own thinking, or discover aspects from others’ comments which they may not have come up with on their own.
Jesus used the question/answer technique – especially with his small group of disciples – putting them in a position where they had to actively determine what they believed, then guiding the discussion to ensure it remained centered on truth and led to deeper understanding of what God had said.
This principle is borne out by a comment from a man who recently went through one of Entrust’s newest training modules (still in pilot testing), Becoming a Man of Understanding. “I gained valuable insight into myself as well as how the other men in the group processed their understanding of who Christ is.”
Men tend to hesitate to share with others; small groups built on mutual trust, where learning is guided by well-crafted questions, create a safe environment where they open up and grow, not only in their own understanding, but also in their awareness of the need for community in their faith walk.
This article appears in the spring 2017 edition of Engage.