Faith Integration Modules / Learning Objects
Module 4: What is learning?
Video Clip Introduction (Download RealPlayer)
What is learning?
Learning is a natural part of being human. Webster defines learning as “a property of living organisms”.
We might also see learning as the development of a sense of meaning – what do we mean by the expression, “getting it together”?.
It is easy to recognize a conceptual link between the view of faith development in Module 3 and contemporary views of learning. Caine and Caine (i) for example, see learning as:
- making connections;
- seeing patterns and wholeness;
- seeing a 'big picture'; and
- finding meaning.
Such a view reflects a move from 'surface knowledge' to 'deeper meaning'. In similar vein, research on the function of the brain in learning accounts for ideas and experiences being built into 'neural nets' or 'maps of meaning' that go together to make up a 'big picture' (or gestalt). Such conceptualizations of learning help us to understand what faith is and how it grows. These ideas are not new in essence. Fowler (ii), for instance, speaks of the development of personal 'master stories' as part of one's faith. These master stories are at the heart of what Stephen Covey (iii) describes as 'paradigms' that inform and drive the development of personal integrity of character, meaning and effectiveness. Dwayne Huebner (iv) introduces the metaphor of ‘weaving’ in which individuals create a 'fabric of life' comprising an interweaving of ideas, abstractions, memories, biblical metaphors, and cultural mores derived from the faith community and the relationships within it. He argues that life in the intimacy and context of those relationships affirm a personal and a collective past that in turn, acknowledges, practices, and celebrates the presence of God. And it is dynamic, nourishing, and renewing. Such ideas are consistent with the kind of individual God created in His image 'with power to think and to do' (v)
With this in mind, it is easy to see a learning dimension in faith growth and development, as individuals actively explore and share their reality. Much of the sharing will be between learners and their mentors - be they teachers, parents or other significant individuals. This view has critical implications for how mentors relate to students, as well as the learning processes they use to help the learner develop a personal sense of meaning. There is no room in this conceptualization for a passive individual. The relationship between mentor and learner is not one-directional either. From Parker Palmer’s perspective, for example, an interactive learning community is a fundamental context for knowing truth in the deepest and fullest sense vi In such communities, mentors themselves are no less learners than those under their guidance.
i Renate Nummela Caine & Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, Addison-Wesley, 1994.
ii James Fowler, Stages of Faith, New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
iii Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, London; Simon & Schuster, 1989.
iv Dwayne Huebner, ‘Practicing the Presence of God', Religious Education, vol 82, no 4, (Fall) 1987.
v Ellen White, Education, Review & Herald, 1903.
vi Parker Palmer, To Know As We Are Known, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993.
1. What evidence do we have of the phenomenon of learning taking place in our environments?
2. What are some connections between learning and faith?
3. How does my understanding of what it means to be human influence the way I relate to the learner?
Blomberg, D (1996) ‘Knowing and Learning in Biblical Perspective’, Ch. 9 in I. Lambert & S. Mitchell (eds) Reclaiming the Future, Macquarie Centre, NSW: Centre for the Study of Australian Christianity,.
Blamires, H (1978) The Christian Mind, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books
©2002 Don C. Roy, Ph.D. email@example.com
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Last updated April 23, 2006