Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Growth in Knowledge Achieved by Experience

We are in the habit of crediting only the mind for our knowledge, forgetting the essential role of the bodily senses, especially the ears, which seem to get the biggest workout. Some call this workout the cramming method of education, a method not always seen as the most helpful. A better teaching method, often used as an adjunct to the lecture, relies on visual aids to retain what is being taught. But the best.way, according to many educators, is to directly experience what is to be learned, a hands-on learning by doing.

Over the years, the programs using this third method have been enthusiastically received and the results have been long lasting. On one occasion a professor divided his class into two parts, showing one picture to those on the left side of the class and another picture to those on the right, After a few moments he told them to forget what they had seen; and made them shake their heads to confirm they had indeed put the pictures out of mind. All were then shown another picture, a composite of the other two pictures, and asked what they were now seeing.  Those on the left saw a man, those on the left saw a woman. This third picture, though having elements of the two other pictures, was a picture in its own right, but not seen as such by either part of the class. Even though the class had been told to forget the previous pictures, the memory of those pictures was still too present in mind, resulting in an inaccurate perception of the third picture. This was a lesson, the professor explained, to show how susceptible we are to the conditioned response, which in many cases programs us to see what we see, to experience what we experience.

This type of hands-on teaching is very effective in changing our behavior and our values. A catch-all phrase we often use for this teaching style is game simulation. Industry uses this as a hands-on way of getting persons to experience something that would be expensive and dangerous.

A Korean diocese using this hands-on approach was recently written-up in the Peace Weekly. The diocese took as their guideline 2:42-47 of the Acts of the Apostles, which explained how the first Christians lived the message they received. This Christian community was faithful to the teaching received, had  fellowship, and shared what they possessed. The following summary will give a rough idea of what is being done by the diocese, as it attempts to model itself after that early Christian community.

Two parishes of the same diocese were involved in the program. In the first meeting, they shared their thoughts on the scripture passage and what it meant to each of them to live in the manner of these early Christians. In the second meeting, they  decided on what they were going to share, each one expressing his or her opinion on the best way to do this. The discussion continued until they reached unanimity.

The third meeting, three days later, was preceded by a lot of prayer, and it seems they decided to bring money. Each  person expressed their need,  after  discussion, each  one is  assigned to  deliver what was considered needed to the  person who expressed the need.

In the last meeting, a week later, each one shared what they felt about what they had received, and discussed what they thought of the program, the difficulties encountered, and their personal experience of God during the time of the meetings. The diocese has plans to have this program, deemed successful by the participants, in all the parishes next year during Lent.