How to Build Developmental Classes that Actually Work

If we’re going to pursue relational poverty alleviation ministry that aims toward long-term development, one of the main outcomes we’re looking for from ministry participants is learning. We want to see the people we’re walking with learn new skills, rediscover their dignity, and grow in their capacity to navigate the complexities of life. 

To do this well, we need to understand deeply how people learn best. For many of us, we think of learning as a classroom where we sit quietly, taking notes while a teacher or professor talks about something they know more about than we do. But not everyone learns best in this teacher-student model that sees the mind as the only place where learning happens within a person rather than practicing whole-person, embodied training. Moreover we don’t want to practice helping that hurts in our training ministries. We have to be careful not to set up learning environments that reinforce the idea that those who are not materially poor have all the knowledge and authority, and those who are materially poor have nothing to contribute to learning.

We Are Wired for Relationships

In order to teach for transformation, we need to take into account the multifaceted design of human beings who are wired for relationships with God, self, others, and creation. Pedagogical approaches that engage the whole person are generally more effective than a lecture-based style. Research suggests that transformative learning occurs when human beings engage in a repeated action-reflection cycle that impacts not just what they think (mind), but also what they feel (affections) and do (will). 

This is why all of Chalmers’ curriculums for poverty alleviation ministries, whether in U.S. or Majority World contexts, are rooted in core principles and best practices of adult education. We shared some of these adult learning best practices in a recent webinar with our partner True Charity.

Be sure to watch this recording of Chalmers’ Senior Director of U.S. Economic Development Programs Jerilyn Sanders and Lead Trainer Matt Seadore unpack what goes into a successful adult education program. You’ll also discover how you can apply these learning principles in trainings your church or ministry facilitates for people coming from a background of material poverty.

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

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