For best catechetical results, actively engage adults in the learning process
[The] principle of active learner participation is one that holds throughout the lifespan when it comes to learning effectiveness. Teachers of all ages of students have long known that the more engaged they can help the students to become in the learning process, the more effective the learning. “Don’t just tell them; show them,” and “Don’t just show them; have them discover it for themselves” are mantras in contemporary education.
We tend to forge this when it comes to adult education because we think that adults, by virtue of their maturity, don’t have to be “occupied” for good learning to take place. After all, they are not going to fidget or throw spitballs. They can actively listen, take notes if they want to, and draw their own conclusions. But when we fail to give them the opportunity to tap into their own experience and enrich the process of that experience through discussion and other activities, we shortchange their learning potential. Besides, adults have the wisdom, the experience, and the ability in many situations to serve actively as co-presenters, such as when invited to serve on a reaction panel to a formal presentation or to be group leaders.
Excerpted from A Concise Guide to Adult Faith Formation by Neil A. Parent, Ave Maria Press, 2010.
Neil Parent is Director of the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership, a research project on Catholic parishes that is funded by the Lilly Endowment. He is the past Executive Director of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership.