Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Where a classroom led to so many years ago …

Written by: on September 6, 2013

I remember sitting at my desk in fourth grade dutifully coping my geography text.  Perhaps my teacher was a kinestic learner that transferred her learning approach into her classroom teaching or perhaps we were just doing busy work to keep a room full of active ten year olds quiet.  Whatever the pedagogy behind her assignment I recall feeling a sense of satisfaction when I turned it in.  I liked the tactile approach.  It was solid.  The information was concrete; it was known, confirmed and not questioned.  Without realizing the teacher or the author as the authority began to define my approach to learning. He or she was the expert.  I looked to them to tell me what I needed to know, clearly something I did not know already.  I was the dry sponge that wanted to soak up what was presented.

It can be helpful to be a sponge, one that is eager to learn.  Certainly it is better than a dry hard crusty sponge that can no longer receive any water because its fibers have lost absorbing capability.  Perhaps the key to an effective sponge is keeping it moist often enough so it will indeed accomplish its intended purpose.

Reading The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder took me back to that classroom.  Critical thinking, even critical learning it was not, it was however an elementary beginning.  In the many years since a slow evolution has taken place. Where I did not use to question, I now do.  Where I sought to align my understanding with what was being presented I now consider perspective and context. Without knowing it I have been growing into a critical thinker, one that embraces the “art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.” [1]

As an adult learner, returning to study in a Doctor of Ministry program, I am embracing what I do not know.  Just as one gains strength by doing, learning to question, and exploring  concepts from different vantage points gave me strength to stretch my boundaries. Learning to question and not take things at face value is a learning journey for me.

Not knowing what exactly I want to focus on in my DMin research, I’ve found Paul and Elder are a perfect read.  They reminded me to ask questions because research has a fundamental purpose and goal.[2] What question do I want to answer?  What do I want to improve? What problem needs to be solved?  How would I analyze it?  What are the possibilities?  What is my bias? These are among the essential questions beginning a process of discovery.[3]

As I read I was surprised to recognize that critical thinking itself could be, dare I say should be among my spiritual practices? Without being too dramatic or relying only on assumption I wonder if my desire for clarity and accuracy stopped short because it lacked the wide open spaces of relevance, depth, breadth and significance among the standards of critical thinking?[4] If I invest in clarity I explore communication: What is being said (or written)? Whom am I addressing? What is my tone of voice?

Consider just a few of the intellectual traits mentioned by Paul and Elder: humility vs arrogance, courage vs cowardice, empathy vs narrowmindness, and fairmindedness vs intellectual unfairness.[5]  This last area is marked by a need to treat all viewpoints alike.  It is unfair to another to discount a viewpoint I no longer hold or like.[6]  Fairness holds me accountable to seek to understand others, rather than want only my interest or perspective to be right.  Fairness invites listening.  Holding the tension I recognize that at the heart of fairness is a call to love the other.

The challenge I face in this short little book is to let these tools become a resource, not only for my research topic but to explore the standards, elements and traits that comprise critical thinking so that I may pass it on to those I lead.  Would integrating critical thinking into our spiritual rhythms help to foster hospitality?  What if our faith communities experienced learning communities where questions are welcomed, purposes are discovered, and assumptions are recognized because trust has developed?  What if we discover that the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:16 may have been encouraging us all when he wrote that we have the mind of Christ?

[1] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, 6th ed.  (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Kindle Location 37.

[2] Ibid, 233.

[3] Ibid, 74, 80.

[4] Ibid, 259.

[5] Ibid, 184, 198

[6] Ibid, 198.

About the Author

Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

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