Learning and education
Well, I’m 1 ½ weeks into my masters course, and, not surprising, feeling slightly overwhelmed. I expected this, I knew that I was breaking into a whole new subject area, since my previous degree was in theology, the half-a-degree I dropped out of in 1975 was in Social Work (covering a little sociology, anthropology, psychology, and, thrown into the mix, a year of Italian, which I did as a general arts subject because someone told me that no one ever failed it). At school, back in the dark ages, I did high level maths and physics because I had to (that was my father) but my joy was in English. And here I am studying Adult Education .. (No wonder I keep asking God what he’s up to in my life – I can’t see the pattern).
But you see, I expected most of the overwhelm to be purely intellectual – learning the jargon and thinking and methodology of an entire new discipline. And, of course, dealing with that little voice inside me that now has to acknowledge that I got through my undergrad degree, but seriously questions whether I’m capable of doing a Masters. Mostly I try to ignore it! What I was not prepared for was the personal impact of some of this stuff – already! I think back over myriad bible studies etc and question the relative agency of “teacher” and “learner” – who sets the agenda? I immediately see that this is why my husband and I have never been able to co-lead – our natural styles fall at very different points along the continuum.
I read about a guy called Freire and his educational philosophy, kind of the educational equivalent of liberation theology, and realise that this process (labelled by some as “insurrectionary”) was exactly the process of self-education I was unconsciously using as a child to distance myself from the “dominant culture” of a dysfunctional family. I’m still processing that one. Then I find myself reading about the next guy’s approach and find myself saying, “Ah! An admixture of Skinner and Piaget!” I haven’t studied either of those guys since 1975 – what vault of memory was that locked away in?
And of course, since one of my conscious goals in doing this course was to work out better teaching methods in the church, I already find myself critiquing the approaches of various people and institutions that I know (since a little knowledge is a dangerous thing). I don’t think we’ve done very well (and I’m thinking denominationally here) in working out how to teach absolute truth in a way that empowers the learner, instead of leaving them with a sheep-ish undiscriminating dependence on the “experts”? How do Jesus’ teaching methods compare in this respect? When did we lose that incredible balance?
Hmm .. I’d better go read some more ..