Road Block

images-1.jpgAt some point in time, there will be a shift away from the idea of developing content knowledge and towards teaching ways to scaffold concepts. Let’s get there already! The thing that I find very curious is the question of why creative, successful adults understand that their own work depends on conceptual layering, but they don’t see this as a need for their children.

There is a significant disconnect between what we expect of our own work and learning and what we expect from children’s. Here is an example: Let’s say that you are assigned to write an advertising campaign. You are given a deadline and then put to work. Imagine that instead of being able to work at this assignment in your own mode, with your creative prompts, on your best working schedule,  you were rather asked to spend most of the day in an uncomfortable desk with a lot of other people in the room learning about the history of the company for which you were designing the advertisement. At the end of this so-called learning, you are not released to finally go do your work. Instead, you are given a three part quiz–some of it is multiple choice and your supervisor has intentionally added a few trick questions just to see if you are paying attention–(because tricking people into learning is effective… not). This might make you go crazy. If you had to do this sort of thing day after day instead of getting to work on creating the things you were hired to create, well, you might even quit because you would be wasting your time and your talent. In other words, you might drop out.

Why do we think teenagers are so different than us in their need to be useful? They want to DO things. I can’t imagine why so many people are skeptical about Project Based Learning. Sometimes when I talk to people about this being the real way to approach learning, I get this cautionary look—raised eyebrows, been-there-done-that kind of smirk, and the skeptic says,”But there are so many bad projects, surely you can’t let the entire system rest on this happenstance idea.”

This drives me mad. It is like someone experiencing bad food at a restaurant and saying we should all stop eating. It is not experience alone that matters. It is not simply the philosophy of John Dewey–the important thing for us to now grasp is that doing should no longer be the question. The new question should be, “What should children be doing that will both challenge and engage them to serve the ends of their own futures?”–not our idea of what their lives should look like. As far as kids and learning go, I often think the adults are standing in their way.

  1. Henry Zonio Reply

    I am dealing with the same kinds of thoughts when it comes to children’s ministries at churches. There is so much talk amongst prominent church leaders about the direction Church should go, and very little thought is given in to how that should affect what people like me (children’s pastors) do when working with kids and families. There is much said about the importance of children’s ministry, but little thought is given to it. Much sentiment is that as long as children are learning the info they need to know and incorporating the behaviours they are supposed to be incorporated, then everything is OK. Then when we talk about adult spiritual formation much talk is given to formational ways of teaching rather than informational ways. Um, that applies to kids, too. I would add that on the spiritual front that adults are also standing in the way. When it comes to spiritual formation, it is one of my life goals to help children’s ministry move from the “kids’ table” discussions to the “big table” and be the one asking the nagging questions about how all this works within the context of working with kids and families. After all, if those in leadership in the church are tasked with helping to shape culture then it needs to be done at younger ages.

    BTW, after reading this blog post I was checking out the site for the Willow Creek Children’s Ministry Conference and noticed you are going to be speaking there. I look forward to hearing from you and maybe having a chance to meet you.

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