Ministry Resources

Discovering and Doing

Discovering and Doing

Juan was pleased when Maria was given the bread recipe which had been used by her mother and grandmother for years. He had always enjoyed the warm, crusty loaves that the women in her family baked. Maria read the recipe then placed it on the kitchen table. She proceeded to make her bread dough using the same ingredients and recipe that she had used since she and Juan had married. After only one bite of the freshly baked bread, Juan knew Maria’s bread was not like her mother’s. Maria had all the instructions for baking delicious bread, but she had continued in her old method of making dough without making any changes in her recipe. Without making the changes the new recipe called for, there was no way Maria’s bread could taste like her mother’s.

You may recall some experience in which you learned new information but did not act on it. Learning includes discovering truth, but it does not end there. Learning should also lead one to apply the truth to his daily life. In this lesson you will study how people learn to discover truth and how they act on that truth in making appropriate changes in behavior.

Two Concepts of Learning

You already have some understanding of what learning and teaching are, no doubt. Your definitions may not be technical or formalized, but you have some idea what these words mean.

Since you wrote what you think, there can be no right or wrong answers. Many people hold either one or the other of two popular points of view on this matter. As I explain them, you decide which view is more like the one you wrote.

Some people regard telling as teaching and listening as learning. If someone tells a story, states facts, or explains information, it is assumed he has taught. And if someone listens when a teacher does these things, it is assumed that he has learned. The learner may be expected to write or copy the
teacher’s words and memorize them. If the learner can recall the information later and recite the teacher’s exact words, according to this view, he has demonstrated mastery of the material he has learned.

Teachers who perceive the teaching-learning process in this way talk a lot and require their learners to sit and quietly listen. They believe that teachers teach lessons; therefore, they view the lesson content as the key element in the process. To them, teaching is seen as the transfer of information from the teacher to the learner. How do you suppose this interpretation affects the teacher’s style of teaching in the classroom?

The teacher, in this context, is considered a source of knowledge. He is supposed to have extensive knowledge of the subject, and the learner is viewed as having little or no knowledge of the subject. The teacher’s task, therefore, is to transfer his superior knowledge of the subject to the “empty mind” of the learner. This concept of the teaching-learning process has led many teachers to attempt to lecture rapidly in order to cover many facts, complete their lessons, and give the learner maximum exposure to much information. Because this view expects a transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the learner, it is called either the transfer approach or transfer learning.

Another method of teaching operates on the assumption that the learner is the subject of the operation and must be involved in the process. Adherents of this point of view believe that the learner should be equipped to do more than merely recite the information correctly. They want the learner to understand the material and be able to relate it to previous knowledge, developing some personal convictions about it and learning to use it in establishing values as a basis for solving life’s problems. This approach requires the learner to interact personally with the material; the learner must discover truth through his own efforts.

Notice the different emphasis in this second approach: the teacher teaches a person rather than a lesson. The learner and the results of his learning are the important elements. This teaching method requires the teacher to guide the learner in the process of learning. Its adherents do not equate filling the learner’s mind with knowledge with significant learning; they do believe that the teacher can and should help the learner discover and apply truth. This view is called either the discovery approach or discovery learning.

Brigette holds more to the transfer view. When she is teaching, telling the Bible story, she believes the children are learning while they listen, and they are to some degree.

Pierre, however, uses the discovery approach. He wants the learners to interact personally with the material, and he has arranged different activities to help them make discoveries for themselves.

You may have attended classes where both of these concepts of teaching and learning were followed. In the past, the transfer approach was common, and it is still used; however, modern teachers tend to follow the discovery approach. The discovery approach is based on current understanding which has resulted from psychological and educational research. If you have studied under the transfer approach, you may have wondered if it was the best approach. It is indeed important to understand many facts that concern us in today’s world. And it is important to be able to remember and recall this information which helps us to be knowledgeable and alert to life around us. However, it is far more practical to understand the facts you have learned in a way which can be applied to the solving of real life problems. The ability to apply knowledge, as we shall see, comes through experience, through use.

Please memorize the following definitions of teaching and learning. You will be required to recognize the correct definitions of these words in the self-test and in the student report.

1. Learning is discovering information and making desired responses to that information.

2. Teaching is helping people learn.

Perhaps you are beginning to understand that teaching and learning are interdependent. Generally speaking, if one teaches effectively, according to the foregoing definition, learning results. If receptive learners fail to learn anything, effective teaching has not taken place. We may think of teaching and learning as two sides of one coin. They are inseparably joined as two parts of one whole concept. Because of this, we will refer to the process as teaching-learning.

Changing the Learner

Change is essential to learning. The learner discovers information and responds to it. If the learner does not change, learning has not taken place; and if learning has not taken place, teaching has been ineffective.

Do you understand the connection between teaching disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded and our observation that learners must change if learning occurs? How could someone obey the commands of Jesus without first understanding them and then building his life on them? Obedience implies fully accepting and doing what is learned. Knowledge must be translated into action if it is to be effective. The major goal of learning, then, is for the learner to put truth into action, being convinced of truth to the point of making it his own and changing his life accordingly.

Our efforts to nurture Christian growth are particularly affected by this concept. Our goal is to see people changed by helping them grow in Christ so that His life can find living expression through their lives. Christian nurture helps people to be changed progressively into the likeness of Jesus. When
we become Christians, our lives may be far from Christlike; however, as His life grows within us and we adjust ourselves to what we learn about Him, we take on His likeness.

Change must occur in learners if learning is to take place. But how are learners expected to change? As a child grows, he changes. He gradually takes on more adult-like characteristics. Changes are expected with growth. Learning change is generally thought of as growth, maturing, or adjustment.

Educators have identified three areas in which learning changes occur: 1) knowledge, 2) attitudes, and 3) behavior. It helps me to remember these by thinking of them as the head (knowledge), the heart (attitudes), and the hands (behavior). All learning change occurs in these three areas.

Change in knowledge may include adding new information, correcting a point of view, or acquiring increased support for a viewpoint. Changes in attitudes involve values and feelings. Changed values or feelings may reflect an increased or decreased degree of feeling about something. Changes
in behavior often involve the skills that are required to do something. These changes may include developing new skills or becoming better, faster, or more efficient in the performance of a task. Quite frequently in the spiritual realm changes also include a changing of goals and the changing of habits
discontinuing those that are detrimental to Christian growth and acquiring those that encourage it.

The area of attitudes is the most difficult to change as people tend to cling to their values. Human emotions run deep, and a change in values necessitates adjustment in emotions and attitudes. Changing values is not easy; nevertheless, this area is a primary concern of those involved in nurturing Christian growth. With proper teaching, however, changes can be brought about in all three areas.

Levels of Learning

When can you say you know someone? Do you know someone after having met him just once? You may know him well enough to recognize him when you see him again and you may remember his name, but do you really know him? Many encounters are required to know someone well. We might say that a growing acquaintance with someone is marked by degrees or levels of friendship.

Similarly, there are various levels of learning. We learn some information at one level and other information at another level. Educators have identified four levels by different terms, and each one is often found where nurturing is taking place.

Rote memory. The learner memorizes facts of information and is able to recall or recognize the information later.

Restatement. The learner knows material well-enough to restate it in his own words. He can change information into different forms without changing the meaning.

Comprehension. The learner discovers relationships among facts, integrates new information into what he has already learned, makes generalizations, forms values, and develops skills.

Application. The learner uses information to solve life’s problems, modify his attitudes and behavior, and make evaluations of good or bad, right or wrong. As he applies information in new and concrete situations, he engages in original, creative thinking. These abilities require the identification of issues and the selection and use of appropriate data and skills to resolve issues and solve problems.

How People Learn

What factors are involved in human learning? How do people learn?

Through the Senses

The five senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting are doorways through which people physically experience their environment. People learn more through some senses than through others. Educational research indicates that people learn through the senses in approximately the following proportions:

How We Learn
Seeing 83%
Hearing 11%
Smelling 3.5%
Touching 1.3%
Tasting 1%

Seeing and hearing are considered the two most effective senses for learning. Learning is greatly increased when information is both seen and heard. And retention is considerably greater when information is perceived by more than one of the senses.

What We Retain
10% of what we READ
20% of what we HEAR
30% of what we SEE
50% of what we SEE and HEAR
70% of what we HEAR and TELL
90% of what we HEAR and DO

Therefore, to facilitate learning and increase retention, learning activities should involve more than one of the senses. Ideally, the learning experience is maximized when the learner responds either verbally to what he has heard or actively by doing something in response to what he has heard.

Compare mentally what you have learned earlier in this lesson about the need for the learner to obey the truth and what you have discovered here about the senses. Learning through hearing and doing is retained longest. Using truth as the basis for making life choices and guiding actions is the goal of learning.

Through Involvement

The learner alone can do the learning. He must discover truth for himself through personal interaction with the information. No one else can learn for him or force him to learn. The learner must personally interact with the material for desired changes to occur. This involvement may be intellectual,
emotional, or physical, and in Christian nurture we may add spiritual involvement. People learn through a direct, active involvement and interaction with the material. While we cannot learn for another nor force him to learn, we can plan learning activities which provide opportunities that facilitate learner interaction with the truth. If you are helping someone grow spiritually, you can create a setting for the lesson, provide resources, and structure experiences which will lead him to discover, change, and learn.

Through Practice

People learn by practice or conditioning. When an action is repeated many times it usually becomes a habit. After that, quite routinely, without planning or even thinking about the activity, we continue to perform in the same way we have practiced. Talking is learned in this way. Also, we learn to ride a bicycle by practice, and we learn to swim by swimming. We develop patterns of behavior in the Christian life, too, such as reading the Bible, praying, attending church, and obeying God’s Word. Conditioning is considered a low level of learning because it does not require understanding by the learner. We develop habits simply by repeating the action frequently. It is quite possible to act habitually without understanding the significance
of the action or realizing what is taking place. Both positive and negative factors are involved in the formation of habits. As you teach others and help them mature toward Christlikeness, you must be aware of these factors and use this principle wisely.

Through Problem Solving

Problem solving is a means by which people learn. When faced with a difficult situation, people tend to find a solution. A common saying points to this truth: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

In teaching situations, it may be helpful to begin with problems the teacher and students can solve together. As the learners are led into the Bible and other resources, meaningful solutions are found. The teacher guides the learners through problem solving situations, but he does not provide answers
to every problem. As a learner considers possible alternatives and decides on a course of action, learning takes place. In this way his critical thinking skills begin to develop, and the learner solves problems on his own initiative.

Human learning is not simple. Many factors such as the nature of the individual, natural ability, interests and needs, background, and values are involved in the learner discovering truth and applying it in his own life experiences. Learning is equipping for life. Planning activities which lead the learner to interact with truth and structuring learning opportunities which enable him to recognize when and how to apply the lesson material for making choices and solving problems are a major function of the teacher.

Nurturing Christian Growth

Learning involves discovering and doing—interacting personally with truth and putting that truth into practice. The learner must change. He must grow through modifying knowledge, adjusting attitudes, and correcting behavior.

These fundamentals of learning are essential to Christian nurture. Christian nurture is life-centered. It involves more than acquiring biblical and spiritual knowledge. Christian nurture is a process for changing lives into the likeness of Christ, enabling people to grow toward spiritual maturity.

There is a body of revealed spiritual truth to be studied. God has revealed himself in the form of written truth. Christians involved in the nurturing process will encourage people to study the Scriptures and know this information.

Those involved with Christian nurture also recognize that attitudes and values are of prime importance. Attitudinal changes are basic to the task of Christian nurture. Jesus taught that the very purpose of the Christian is to love God with his total being. This love, which is an expression of the will, is extended to his neighbor, and ultimately is revealed in his own self-concept. Love permeates the attitudes and values of a Christian, and how these attitudes are projected depends on how one has learned to express them. Growing spiritually and becoming more Christlike help us make attitude adjustments to be more like Him.

Likewise, knowing and feeling are not enough. Full obedience to Christ is necessary. We are not fulfilling our responsibility to nurture Christian growth until the truth finds living expression in believers. Obedient conduct is basic to the Christian life. Since our task in Christian nurture is to foster spiritual life, we must seek to help people grow until the life of Christ finds mature, living expression in their behavior.