Challenges to student-centered learning in children’s ministries volunteer training

As the Director of Children’s Ministries at Christian Life Fellowship church, I am responsible to provide the children’s ministries volunteer training sessions in a manner which is most beneficial, convenient, and accessible for volunteers. While optional monthly volunteer training sessions are currently offered September thru May to provide volunteers the opportunity to receive professional development training on topics pertinent to current children’s ministry pragmatics, less than ten percent of volunteers take advantage of these training sessions. With the increasing schedule constraints that people are facing, it is conceivable that an online format of training would be a much more advantageous avenue for attaining volunteer development training than the current face-to-face monthly training workshop. The online format could provide a much more accessible avenue for attaining volunteer development training than the current face-to-face monthly training workshop.

The proposed online training format would consist of a variety of elements which would all serve the purpose of fostering an engaging and collaborative learning environment. Volunteers would take on the active roles of knowledge generation, collaboration, and process management (Palloff & Pratt, 1999) within the learning framework. These learners would receive an email with a link to view an interactive instructional presentation online. After choosing to participate and viewing this presentation, individuals could access additional resources relevant to the topic discussed and then participate in an asynchronous discussion board. The collaborative learning processes involved would afford volunteers the opportunity to work together in achieving deeper levels of knowledge generation through a, “shared process of meaning-making” (Palloff & Pratt, 2001, p. 32). While not a pure “student-centered” format, this would be an initial step towards providing training in a more accessible, relevant, and engaging context.

The goal of this interactive learning process would be to provide volunteers with additional opportunities to ask questions and seek out additional resources beyond even what is covered in the instructional presentations. This constructivist learning format would entail a complete paradigm shift from the current instructivist learning philosophy that has permeated the volunteer that that is currently being offered. The current pedagogical foundation does not consider the needs of the learners. According to Land & Hand, “Pedagogical foundations form the affordances and activities of the environment and should be inextricably linked to corresponding psychological foundations” (Land & Hannafin, 2000).

From the needs, task, and contextual analyses that I have conducted, I have deduced that the technological, cultural, and pragmatics of the current scenario do favor the development of such student-centered online learning environments. Volunteers surveyed have indicated their interest in participating in a more convenient format of training, with 87% stating that they would like to participate in a sample online training workshop.

As I examine the logistical and financial considerations in making online training available, the pragmatic foundations, “recognizing the reality check of learning environment design and implementation” (Land & Hannafin, 2000) certainly illustrate the feasibility of developing an online training program using a combination of instructional presentations with synchronous and asynchronous communication. There is a no more efficient or effective means to provide ongoing training to my children’s ministries volunteers than through an online format.

– Jason

References:

Land, S. M., & Hannafin, M. J. (2000). Student-centered learning environments. In D. H. Jonassen & S. M. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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