The Joy of Active Learning

What’s the best learning experience you ever had?  What made it so helpful?  Most likely it wasn’t a time where you simply sat and listened to someone.

I am currently taking an art journaling class and it is wonderful!  Every week I learn so much!  But there’s barely any time spent sitting still listening or scribbling notes.  The instructor gives us step by step, direct guidance helping us create a picture similar to one she already fashioned.  As she’s teaching it, we are doing it!  But she also gives us freedom to be creative as we make our own pages.  In the process, are we ever learning new art techniques!  This really is a wonderful way to learn!  And that’s not only true for art journaling classes…

People really do learn best when actively engaged!

Recognizing this, adult learning specialists identify four types of learning tasks:  Inductive task, Input task, Implementation task, and Integration task.  Now that may sound a bit heady, but I have to tell you as I attended a workshop on this today I was amazed to discover my best “one on ones” really do employ all four types of tasks.  Can this ever help to de-mystify why some “one on ones” are so impactful whereas others aren’t.

For example, when I share with someone for the first time how to have a quiet time, there are four key things I do:

1.  First, I ask her to share with me what, if anything she’s done before for a quiet time.  As she describes the different things she’s tried in the past or even what she’s doing currently I always ask, “How is that working for you?” Nearly every one admits to struggling so there is an eagerness to want to learn something that will truly help.

This is one example of an inductive task.  “An inductive task begins with the life and experience of learners and describes their present conception of the topic.  An inductive task sets the stage for learning by showing what the person already knows.  In a well designed inductive task learners are connecting their life-long experience to new content.”**

2.   Then I ask if she’d like to see what’s benefitted me for the past thirty years.  I show her my current quiet time notebook and explain what I do, then give her a notebook so she can write the outline down in a format ready for her to use.   (eg., “Look, Listen, Live It out”)

This is an example of an input task.  “Input tasks invite the learner to grapple with new knowledge, skill or attitudes.  The learner is challenged to do something with this in order to learn it.”**

3.  Next we do a shared quiet time together – this truly is my favorite part!  (For more specifics on this see the article “How to have a Shared Quiet Time” in the Helps section)

This is an example of an implementation task.  “Implementation tasks invite the learner to use the new knowledge, skill or attitude in the learning environment immediately.”**

4.  Finally, I give her a bookmark listing suggested Psalms she can go to for quiet times in the coming week and encourage her to do so on her own.  Sometimes I even encourage her to do with someone else what we’ve done together, helping a friend learn how to have a shared quiet time!

These are both examples of integration tasks. “An integration task invites learners to apply what they have learned to their life and work.  Typically the participant would select a time after the program and agree to send a report to the facilitators when this has been accomplished.”**

As much as possible seek to utilize all four types of tasks each time you meet.  One of the worst things you can do is get together and spend the whole time telling her things!  And while the names may sound daunting, it’s actually very basic – find out what she already knows, share with her something new that can help her and spur her on, do it with her, then encourage her to do it on her own.

And note – there is a best order for these tasks occurring – you don’t want to wait till the end to ask, “By the way, what have you done in the past?!”

Once again I am in awe of the Lord and the way He so faithfully guides when I take Him up on His offer in James 1:5, asking Him for wisdom while preparing to meet with women!  Does it ever bring joy discovering reasons why His ideas work!


**All quotes are copied from a handout by David Dougherty distributed at his “Using Learning Tasks”  workshop given at Navigator Headquarters, October 16, 2013.  More information on these learning tasks can be found in Jane Vella’s book Taking Learning to Task.

Show and Tell

You know how Eric Liddell says, “When I run I feel His pleasure?”  For me, that happens when I’m speaking.  I’m not saying it’s a breeze to get up in front of people – with my hearing loss it’s always stretching whenever the Lord asks me to do this – but once I’m up there,  I could keep going for hours and it’s amazing how time flies… for me.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, no matter how great a speaker is, when I’m sitting there listening, it’s hard to sit for a long time!  Besides how much can you process in one sitting?!  Too much of a good thing can certainly be too much!

I think there’s a reason Eutychus’ story is included in the Bible – and not just to demonstrate God’s power to raise the dead!  (Acts 20:7-12)

In Ephesians 4:29 we’re instructed to speak “…only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  So even though it’s a joy for me to speak, I need to keep in mind what’s best for those “who listen.”

If I do what comes naturally, I can talk non-stop.  But not only can that be tiring for those listening, from an adult learning perspective it’s not the best for them learning either!

When you are meeting one on one with someone, you need to keep considering their perspective – how can they best benefit?  Now this varies from person to person, and ultimately you want to learn what’s best for them, but a good starting point can be considering what is beneficial for you as you listen.

One thing I love about teaching kids – you have to do this or you’ll soon be talking to yourself!  So I find myself seeking to be even more creative and concrete when communicating.

For example, I was recently teaching a group of missionary kids about the armor of God.  When we went over the belt of truth I didn’t just talk about it ~ we literally made belts using links of chains and a carabiner.

Then I borrowed extra large adult jeans and had the kids spar with swords while wearing them – first with the belt on so it held up their pants, then without it.  It was pretty humorous to see them discover how vital those belts can be, and how vulnerable they are without it, as pants dropped to their ankles!

Then we talked about how the most important truth you can ever know is the truth of who God is.  Because when hard times come Satan wants you fixating on the circumstances and trying to figure out why rather than clinging to the truth of who God is.

Many times, this side of heaven, you won’t figure out why – so focusing on that can really throw you off balance and make you even more vulnerable to the enemy.  But when we keep taking time to remember who God is – can that ever fortify our souls even in the darkest of trials.  And that’s not just true for kids!

We are personally going through a tough time right now and first thing, I went and got some plastic links and a carabiner from Lowes.  Every day as the Lord is revealing who He is, I write that new attribute on a link with a permanent black sharpie…

“Purposeful, Powerful, Active Refuge, Planner, Savior, Provider, Conqueror, Finisher…”

I know it may sound crazy, but even though I’m not wearing the belt (talk about a fashion statement, eh?!), making the effort to do something concrete like this is really helping me focus more during my quiet times on who God is and keep recalling this throughout the day.  And I find I’m not forgetting these quiet times like I often do if I don’t do anything with them.

Creative, concrete illustrations can be very impactful, very beneficial in helping people learn, understand and remember what you’ve talked about – it’s easier to just “tell” but God doesn’t call us to do what’s easy, but what’s beneficial for those listening.

Remember how they use to have “Show and Tell” in kindergarden?  That’s a great thing to strive for when discipling someone!