I recently heard a speaker say that “…everything and everywhere is a classroom and therefore an educational setting….” While the hyperbole makes its point, the use of the term “classroom” posits a danger for misunderstanding. My concern is that, while I agree with the sentiment, there is risk in using a classroom as a metaphor for anything other than . . . well, a classroom.
I think the speaker was correct to stress that learning happens everywhere and anywhere, and so, any place can become a context for learning. But the context in which learning happens is never neutral. The classroom facilitates a certain kind of learning (instructional, didactic), but not others—and can in fact, inhibit certain other kinds of, and modalities, of learning. We “get” this at some level, which is why we go through the trouble and expense of, for example, taking youth or adults to a retreat setting in order to facilitate a “different kind of learning.” Or why we use phrases like “on-the-job training,” make the distinction between “book learnin’” and “common sense,” or say that someone went to the “school of hard knocks.”
But I suspect we often fail to fully appreciate the significance and power of situated learning. I ran into this a bit at a recent conference where I served on a panel. At one point the question of the issue of seminaries and the formation of clergy came up. My response was to say that seminaries need to stop fretting about attempting the “formation of clergy” because it’s something they just cannot do. Seminaries are good about the formation of seminarians. But only congregations can do the work of the formation of clergy. You learn to be a pastor in the church, not in seminary. And much of that fact has to do with the power of situated learning.
Which is why it’s important, in my thinking, to not confuse terms and concepts and approaches. A church is not a school, a seminary is not a church, a school is not a community. When we confuse one for another, or even attempt to use one as a metaphor for another, we often slip into ineffective ways of educating because we go contrary to the nature of the context.
Date posted: Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 12:05 am | Under category: Christian Education, curriculum, discipleship, leadership, teaching
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