When I was at Parkin Wesley Theological College our student placements were
arranged by Rev Laurie Mickan. One had to walk down a narrow hallway to gain access to Laurie’s light, neat and small office. It was in this space that Laurie’s challenge was placed before me. “What do you want to learn on placement?” he asked. I really struggled with Laurie’s question that day.
“What do you want to learn?”
Is a challenging because it was asking me to identify that which I did not know. To learn is to explore something beyond our current experience.
This is a challenging question for us all. What are you learning? Are you able to describe what you learnt this week, or this day just gone?
A few weeks later I was back in Laurie’s office with a draft learning plan.
In this next conversation Laurie explained the way in which were were gong to keep track of my learning journey using the ‘action reflection’ model.
Each week on my placement at Rosefield UCA I would write a reflection on a event (action) from my placement. This was presented and discussed with my supervisor Rev Dr Ian Price on a weekly basis. In this professional supervisory setting I was asked any number of questions including;
- What is actually going on here?
- How did I come to a particular view about matter
- What other options did you have in that moment?
- How have others experienced me in this particular matter
- What can we learn from this moment?
The supervisory space was seeking to improve my insight into how I am perceived by others. It was a learning environment which extended and challenged me. It was a time of which I have fond memories.
The principles of the Action Reflection model is congruent with what I hope to achieve through the Faith in Action initative. Like Laurie and his students Faith in Action is premised on the idea that the best learning occurs when stop and ask “What is going on here?” When we ask open questions which assist us to reflect on the recent past.
Some questions deepen understanding and open us to seeing more than is present on the surface.
- Describe how other people experienced you in that conversation?
This questions asks you to imagine yourself in the shoes of another. Can be quite difficult but very enlightening after the first two or three attempts.
While other questions confirm our prejudices (pre – judgements) and trick us into thinking we already understand.
- Do you understand what is going on here?
A dualist yes / no question where one answer is wrong and the other is correct – else one looks foolish to colleagues.
Asking the right questions of ourselves and others is a critical skill one needs to practice in a community development setting. Questions can either box people in and close conversations down or they can ask people to give their hearts and minds to a particular problem or opportunity.
Often funerals finish with quiet reflective music as the casket is carried out – but not Laurie’s! Listen to the postlude conveying purpose and passion- Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 549