In my earlier post on this subject I discussed what a learning community is and is not; not simply a teaching community, a talking community or a study community. Here are some ways to great a community that really learns together. And though some of these strategies are familiar, the question is, “Are we working to make these a reality in our groups and teams?”
To begin, we must consider how people learn, not just what they learn. These familiar learning styles must be considered when you teach a class, lead a group or work with a team. It takes preparation time to utilize these, but the results are self-evident.
1) Visual (See): People who enjoy watching someone do something, or learn by looking closely at the desired result or outcome (like the photo of a desk you want to build).
2) Auditory (Hear): Need a description and information about steps to take; listen to a CD.
3) Kinesthetic (Touch): Need to tinker around with the truth or the idea to understand how it works.
4) Experiential (Feel): Love to experience it first-hand, feeling the emotions as well as observing the details. (You’d rather spend the night in a homeless shelter than watch a documentary on how one works).
Once you know how to vary these styles in your facilitation or teaching, focus on these 3 actions.
FIRST: Learning communities engage truth: we do not shy away from truth, and we seek after it. Whether it is truth about the world or God or self, learning communities look seriously, unapologetically and courageously at the real truth — not just the truth we want to see or hear.
SECOND: Learning communities seek to understand; we ask questions, and we listen more than we speak. We want to get to the core of the issue, never settling for superficial responses or pat answers. In biblical times the people of Berea sought to understand what was being said, and they did it in community (Acts 17:11). They did not take teaching at face value – they wanted to see if it was accurate and discussed it together.
THIRD: Learning Communities practice the truth. If you read Ezra 7:10 you observe he had a strategy for learning and for helping others learn. Notice the pattern: NOT study, then teach. Rather, study… practice… teach. We could all benefit from that approach. The last thing we need are pastors, teachers and group/team leaders who spend 30 hours studying, 2 hours teaching, and almost no hours practicing. We all have to get out in the world and live the truth we are teaching others. Not always convenient or easy — sitting in my study is easy.
Practicing the truth is called obedience, as in the Great Commission – “Teach them to obey all that I have commanded,” not simply “teach them all I commanded” — we are called to help one another put truth into practice as Jesus exhorted at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:24-27). Parker Palmer, in helping college professors do the same described it this way:
“To teach is to create a place where obedience to truth can be practiced” – To Know as We Are Known
That makes sense. But becoming a Learning Community — and creating one — is often a challenge work. I want to be up for that challenge and get better at it. Hope the same for you.
What have you discovered about this in your setting? What is working and what is not?