Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning is Doing

On my last blog post I spoke on the real struggle of organic, simple and missional life. It's not an easy path for those who like knowing where they are going on a tangible daily basis. You just don't get all the information you'll need for this journey as a set up manual when you step into it.
For most people; figuring it out as we go, with the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as our guide, can be disorienting and uncomfortable. Some of us don't like adventures all that much and want the map! We are used to being told what to do, believe and sign up for!

Like the children of Israel, after leaving years of captivity for the promise of a land of inheritance and fruitfulness we, instead of saying; "give us manna!", proclaim; "give us the manual!"

However, God has a land of inheritance for each of us that is unique, tailored and fruitful. It's imperative that we learn and discover it on our own with Him on that one of a kind journey.

We don't get the manual, instead, we learn by doing it with Him. The Teacher of all teachers.

When my kids were little, I had to make a conscious effort to help them learn to do things for themselves because I knew it was better for them, even if it was not better for me. I wanted my kids to love the learning process, so they'd continue to grow and learn all their lives and in every context. From a selfish and convenient perspective, it was easier, quicker and more efficient if I did things for them. They on their own, usually produced large messes as they figured out to feed themselves, dress, keep up their room, brush teeth, make cookies, do science projects, term papers, etc. I was okay with the messiness of learning because I knew the end resulted in truly acquired skills, learning and confidence. I could of done many things for them. I could of instructed them in every detail, closely monitoring and controlling the process. However, would they of really learned, or just learned to be good at following instructions and a controlling parent?

In the journey of learning a simple, organic and missional life, we want the manual of instruction to study and contemplate over first. We think we learn by gathering all the information we need first, and then do it.
We listen to various speakers, take some notes and contemplate what we learned. We fill our brains with information, examples, models, other people's testimonies and maybe try out some of what we've read or heard about. We wait until we have what we think we need and then try some of it out. Enevitably, we make a mess. We struggle. We hate the process because it has messes and failures. We look like complete wackos to those around us who are watching the whole experiment. We evaluate all the things that went wrong and re-evaluate the whole paradigm. We wonder if we ARE wacko! We want more information and instructions. Then, we'll be successful! NOT!

As humans we learn by certain ways. Auditory (hearing), Visual (seeing), and Kinesthetic (doing). We can learn by any of them, but one will dominate the others as our best learning style.
As a homeschooler, it was important for me to ascertain what learning style worked best with my three kids. Once I determined which one dominated the others, I tried to incorporate as much as I could of that learning style into their learning process.
As we age, we usually become more "balanced" in our learning styles. However, one learning style increases in it's effectiveness as we age, regardless of it's previous dominance or not. That is the Kinesthetic or the "doing" learning style.

As some of you know, Tom and I are instructors for motorcycle safety riding courses for the State of MN.
We go through a long and extremely intense training process to become licensed instructors.
One of the things we learn as instructors is the best way adult learners acquire skills and retain information.

Adults learn quickly and retain the most through using their gross motor skills first.
Then, once that is acquired, the learning moves to fine motor skills and into our thinking process.

In other words, actually using your body in the learning process comes before the thinking and understanding of that skill if you wish to really learn and incorporate it.

Whether your into motorcycles or not, ride along with me a bit as I use them as a good example of what I'm talking about.

Let's say your riding along and you want the motorcycle to lean to the left (as in a curve to the left). In order to do that you must press the left hand grip. Vise versa for the right. No one understands this until they actually get on the motorcycle going about 10 mph, press the hand grip in the direction they want to go and see the bike lean and go in that direction. It makes no sense in our brains until we actually do it and see the affect.

If I'm teaching someone how to find the friction zone (the area where releasing the clutch engages the power of the motorcycle's rear wheel and you begin to move forward), no amount of explanations help until the student actually gets on the motorcycle and feels the friction zone for themselves. Since they are using their hands in new ways, balancing a couple hundred pounds and feeling pretty nervous, they inevitably stall the bike a few times in the process! Who cares? They have felt and thereby learned just what a friction zone is. Now, they can continue to improve their skills until it is a smooth and thoughtless maneuver.

Of course, all our learning is individualistic. Some students learn quick and others need to spend a bit of time to master the process. However, by actually doing the skill first, as opposed to thinking and understanding it, the skill is acquired. Motorcycle riding becomes less stressful and more fun as skills grow and confidence blooms!

It is a similar process in learning the simple organic and missional lifestyle. You must experience it (and in my motorcycle analogy; kill the motor a few times) by doing before it really starts to take shape and make sense. It can look messy, and you may have a lot of starts and stops. (You may feel like a new student on a 250lb motorcycle, a complete klutz and one who will never be a track racing star, but your moving!) Your really living out your faith in new ways, and experiencing God in the ways of Job who said "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you".

Be encouraged by your learning process. Learn by stepping out and doing some of those ideas you have in your heart. Let the Holy Spirit show Himself faithful to His Words in 1 John 2:27; "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as his anointing teaches you about all things; and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."

We have another saying in the motorcycle community; ride your own ride. It means, let those around you ride their machines in the skill and abilities they have, and you ride within yours. We are not in any competition, any striving for the status of "best rider". Rather, we ride the ride the Author and Perfector of our faith has designed for each of us. Unique and exciting, full of the joyful ride of His ongoing faithfulness to us.

1 comment:

  1. I think a better way of thinking about learning styles is to try and develop cognitive styles in people such that they become functional learners. If you simply teach according to peoples' preferred styles then you give them no opportunity to really develop their learning skills. Functional learning is well understood via the hybrid model of learning in personality for example ... all best and good work, Arthur