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.