Tag Archives: administrator

Applying conative styles in the home

At this point, I know some may wonder about the practical value of discussion conation and conative styles sounds. Today, I want to look at how this might impact the way we do Christian education in various places. Firstly, although I think through the conative lenses of the philosopher, practitioner, educator, scholar and administrator, we need not fear “pigeon-holing” students or children. Labels help us to categorize and identify characteristics for the purpose of creating understanding. Labels cause problems when it becomes about the label rather than the person. Labels help us say, “When you see this pattern of behavior, consider these things.”

Let me start with the obvious. Parents (and teachers of children) need to recognize that few children will exhibit all of these styles, but rather one or two of them. That bossy child who runs the playground? Teach her how to channel that administrative energy. The curious child who constantly asks why? Teach him how to research in a scholarly manner. The tinkering child who  breaks things? Teach him how to apply his knowledge in a practical way. The key for parents is to observe the natural tendencies of the child, and then help the child to employ them in a helpful manner.

For example, I would self-identify as a scholar in my primary drive. I want to know why and I constantly seek to increase and integrate my understanding of the world. Consequently, I constantly went to my parents for answers to my many, many questions. My mother, quickly reaching the limit of her own knowledge of my questions, introduced me to the encyclopedia. Once she taught me how to use the set, whenever I had a question, she responded with, “Good question: look it up and come tell me about it.” My questions soon shifted to, “I read in the encyclopedia XX and YY, but I don’t understand how that can be true when ZZ.” Note that she matched her budding scholar with his primary methodology (research and modeling).

I believe, similarly to Kolbe, that people tend to operate out of their primary drive. A scholar (like me) will default to research and modeling when encountering a problem, and will operate out of their secondary drive (educator for me) when actually dealing with the problem. Even as an academic  adviser, I first research the person and their issue and try to build a mental model to predict behavior, and then I teach the person what I’ve learned, based on what I understand of their primary learning mode. For me, I default to a research/teaching practice in all that I do, no matter the setting. My practitioner/administrator spouse begins by first developing or examining operating principles, and then organizes people and processes when encountering problems. This means that when I present a problem to her I present it as “how do I…” rather than “tell me what you know about…”

We need to realize, however, that we teach not for the sake of teaching, or encourage learning for the sake of learning. Let us recall the task of Christian education, and shepherd our children to carry out that task.

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Matching conative styles to methodology in Christian education

I think you can match conative styles to methodology. How so? Let me show you.

  1. The Philosopher. Considering the philosopher’s desire to understand God’s revelation and then communicate it to others, it seems to me that the philosopher’s chief methodologies are communication and rhetoric. They need to understand how to speak to others in every medium, and how to effectively organize their message in order to create the maximum impact in a person’s life.
  2. The Administrator. The administrator’s desire to organize people and processes manifests in the methodology associated with leadership (people) and management (processes). They need to understand how to direct groups and organizations in carrying out tasks.
  3. The Educator. The educator’s desire to help others understand themselves causes them to understand the methods of teaching and learning. They need to understand how people change in their affections, knowledge, and in their methods.
  4. The Practitioner. The practitioner’s desire to create meaningful change in their environment manifests in methodology related to policy and evaluation. They need to understand how to create and evaluate operational principles and then implement those principles.
  5. The Scholar. The scholar’s desire to understand their environment relates to methodology associated with research and modeling. They need to know how to gather and process information, and come up with predictions for future behavior.

So as I see it, the five methodologies are communication and rhetoric; leadership and management; teaching and learning; policy and evaluation; and research and modeling. Note that the student in Christian education can use any of these methodologies in any cognitive field. For example, the Christian artist who is a philosopher/administrator might learn skills of communication and management in order to function in her role as an art director.

Let me take this a step further. What if you organized your school around these five methodological disciplines? We employ these general disciplines in every field, recognizing that the application of these methods to specific fields varies. For example, research in the behavioral sciences looks different than research in the natural sciences. Research tools and languages in biblical and theological studies looks differently than research in ancient far east religion and philosophy. The general methodology is the same, but the tools and practice are different.

What if, in the Christian home, parents had a strategy and program of study to train their children in all five methods, but also focused on the one or two that their children naturally employ? What if, in the Christian elementary school, we structured our learning around these five methods, using the content of the various cognitive subject matters to teach the methodology. In other words, we taught the subject matter (mathematics, science, Bible, theology, etc.) but all in the context of understanding communication, or research, or leadership, or teaching, or policy. What if, in the Christian church, we organized our Christian Education programs around teaching the values associated with the methods, rather than on the demographics. Fundamentally, I believe that we need to find the universal commonality in education and start there, and I think it should start with conation and methodological disciplines.

We call for educational reform. I say Christian educators should pursue an educational revolution by deconstructing the whole thing and rebuilding from the ground up.

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A Theology of Conative Styles in Christian Education

Having previously examined a model of conative styles, today I want to consider what conative styles might look like through the basis of a Christian theology. I derive the theological basis of conative styles from the severed relationships of Genesis 3, which by reminder are God/humanity, humanity/humanity, humanity/self, humanity/nature, and nature/nature. As such, I would expect to see five conative styles related to the five severed relationships. It so happens that I tend to see five in my work and life, and label them as follows:

  1. The philosopher, who uses knowledge of the revelation of God to observe and then comment on the actions of others with the goal of motivating change in others. Philosophers deal with questions of morality.
  2. The administrator, who uses knowledge to organize people and processes in order to create change. Administrators deal with questions of direction.
  3. The educator, who uses knowledge to teach others about themselves, God,  and their place in the world in order to create change. Educators deal with questions of identity.
  4. The practitioner, who uses knowledge to make direct, applied change in their environment or to create things. Practitioners deal with questions of stewardship.
  5. The scholar, who uses knowledge to better understand the revelation of God, and expand knowledge of their particular field in order to tell others what they’ve learned. Scholars deal with questions of dominion.

How does this work?

I find that people have a primary drive and a secondary drive. The primary drive describes what they want to accomplish while the secondary drive describes how they go about doing it. For example, I work for someone I would classify as a Practitioner/Educator. As a practitioner, she wishes to make applied changes in the world. She uses education in order to make that happen. I have a pastor friend who is a Practitioner/Philosopher. Like my supervisor, he wishes to make change on the world (he works for a non-profit organization in a poor part of Dallas) and he does this by speaking into people’s lives.

I see similarities between the styles. For instance, the educator and the scholar both perform a teaching function, and in fact, scholars generally end up in teaching careers as their profession. However, while the educator seeks  to teach, the scholar seeks to understand and to expand fields of knowledge . The philosopher and the educator both observe for the purpose of fostering individual change, but the philosopher focuses on God’s view (theological perspective) on the situation while the educator focuses on humanity’s view of self (anthropological and ethical perspective).

I will deal with the application of conative styles in another post, but I end this post with the following:

  1. Look over the course of your life and your present circumstances: how have your conative styles shaped your personal and professional choices?
  2. People of many conative styles have varying professions. My Practitioner/Philosopher friend currently works at a non-profit and is building a church plant. My Philosopher/Administrator friend is an artist with yearnings to be a creative director.

May we train up children in the way they should go, not the way we went.

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