Academe: Pedantic Monologue or Engaging Pedagogy?

Views on the Fall Colloquy by Josh Rose, Ph.D. Student in the Area of Foundations of Education

As a PhD student dedicated to the study and preservation of foundations of education, this semester’s Colloquy provided a sense of peace. You know, like a deep, abiding peace. The Hebrews called this Shalom. I feel this way not because the topic of theological education and serving churches brings me peace, but the experience gave me a sense of being whole.

The life of the academy, from my brief experience, is filled with stimulating dialogue. There are fewer things in life that gets my engine running than slowing down over a cup of coffee and discussing theology, the gospels, King Jesus, teaching and learning, curriculum design, philosophy of education…I could keep naming things but I’ll stop so you will keep reading.

As a small groups pastor that cares for 100+ small group leaders and coaches, I normally have no problem finding a companion to sit, talk, and drink coffee with me. However, when the academic community gathers in large groups, I find the experience is designed for lengthy monologues with a Q&A at the end. Now, I know the history and the reason for this. Personally I am an auditory learner so this does not bother me, but I have wondered if there was a way to include my whole self in the experience.

A few years ago I attended my guild’s national conference (Society of Professors In Christian Education) and by the 3rd lecture even though my mind was loving every minute, my lower back was aching, the nerves in my legs were cutting off the circulation to my feet, and I realized I had far too many questions that had arisen than time would allow me to ask. These were great lectures and I took a lot of notes, but I was hoping for more. I wanted to be involved more than seeing and listening with an occasional opportunity to speak. Having the opportunity to attend Carroll and learn what I have, I deeply desire to engage all learning modalities because I know that lecturing can communicate significant content. But so can group collaboration, guided introspection, and discussion that resembles a game in a pinball machine rather than back-and-forth table tennis. I desire to engage my mind, my heart, and my hands so that I can strengthen and/or challenge what I know, what I feel, and what I can do.

Enter Dr. Linda Cannell. What a significant learning experience for the Carroll family! The Colloquy main sessions this semester were full of engaging pedagogy. I realized I was probably a little childish in my excitement at her approach when I looked at my friend sitting next to me and…let’s just say he would have preferred a more traditional format. Dr. LeRoy Ford is still right, we need different strokes for different folks. I love that there are things such as learning preferences!

Dr. Cannell addressed many important tensions facing the local church, and more specifically Carroll in the coming years. The changing nature of theological education and its need to wrestle with the best way to serve the church is an important topic. Society is changing. The marketplace is changing daily and is requiring students to graduate with a set of skills that will help their industry face the future boldly. What better way to facilitate a discussion about theological education needing to adapt than to force a room of academics to adapt and physically move tables, work with paper and scissors, share personal, emotional stories in small groups, and collaborate towards solutions for challenges that face Carroll.

As a student, watching Dr. Cannell guide us towards significant learning was a joy. The experience with my fellow students and Carroll faculty stretched me. To echo Jimmy Valvano’s (1993 ESPY Awards Arthur Ash Recipient; watch 0:01-1:20 ) recipe for a full day: I laughed a lot in community with my Carroll family. I spent significant time in thought as God used Dr. Cannell to stretch my presuppositions about theological education. Lastly, my emotions were moved to tears listening to stories of my classmates during our group time as well as my time dreaming of what God could do with Carroll in the future. It was an exciting experience and a privilege to hear Dr. Cannell. Colloquy brought me peace. Can’t wait until the Spring!

Shalom!

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