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Models of Learning


To reach a new generation, we have to change the way we teach

Learning models are rapidly changing. This is because a contemporary generation processes life differently than the previous one. Many of us run the risk of becoming outdated and antiquated in our approach to teaching and equipping the church.

We should be asking ourselves not "Are we teaching?" but rather "Is anyone learning?"

New models of learning are changing in part because of the influences of a postmodern shift in culture and the proliferation of technology. Some models that have served us well in the past are now irrelevant and need to be discarded.

For most, the change will present a major paradigm shift in the way we currently perceive learning. What are some of the learning models that are shifting in America? How do we embrace and leverage them to reach a generation for Christ? Here are a few to consider:

1. From Greek to Hebraic. Most Western learning models are built upon the Greek method of education. This model says learning comes from the simple acquisition of information and knowledge.

The Hebraic model says one cannot learn something by the mere acquisition of information; rather, one learns by combining information with experience and participation. This is why Jesus called the disciples to "be with Him."

2. From monologue to dialogue. Jesus rarely taught through means of a monologue. When we study Jesus' methods, we find that most of His teaching, especially in the temple, turned into dialogue or a discussion. Why? Because adults learn best by processing and interacting with information. They perceive truth at a deeper level through interaction with the topic and with others.

Postmodern learners desire community and relationship in all areas of life, but especially in the classroom. They learn best by hearing others' views while assessing their own thoughts and experiences. Perhaps we, as teachers, need to open more conversational space instead of trying to fill it with our expert information.

3. From top down lecturing to personal discovery of truth. Studies show that adults learn on a deeper and more meaningful level when they discover truth for themselves. If this is true, then the discovery process itself becomes imperative. (And it's likely why the Bible documents Jesus asking more than 300 questions during His ministry.) Asking powerful questions forces one to process his inner life and engage truth.

We also must see a subtle shift from deductive to inductive preaching and teaching. This means we no longer start our messages with a statement of truth; rather, we seek to end up there. This forces discovery and seeking on the part of postmodern hearers and brings greater buy-in to the truth. I call it the Jesus Method.

The coaching model of learning embraces all these learning models and more. It seeks to come alongside the learner and aid him in personal discovery of the truth. This is done through various skills, including the ability to ask questions, listen intuitively, and offer support, encouragement and accountability. Not surprisingly, the Holy Spirit, as One sent alongside to help, operates in much the same way (see John 14:26).

Learning models are rapidly changing in the postmodern world. Given that, the question that begs an answer is: "Are you staying on the cutting edge, or running to keep up?"


A certified professional coach and trainer, JOHN CHASTEEN is also the assistant dean of Southwestern Christian University Graduate School in Bethany, Okla. You can read his blog at heycoachjohn.com

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