Journal of Christian Ministry | 2020: Hospitable Learning Spaces

2020: Hospitable Learning Spaces

2020: Hospitable Learning Spaces


Ellen L. Marmon

Ellen L. Marmon, PhD, is professor of Christian discipleship and director of the DMin Program at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Abstract: When a doctoral degree is “applied” or “professional,” the variable of student-practitioner experience adds multi-layered, context-specific resources to the curriculum. However, adult students often believe their experience pales in the presence of an educational professional. These unique dynamics at play in DMin programs generate important questions:

  • In what ways are DMin teachers aware and respectful of the decades of praxis gathered in their classes?
  • To what extent are students willing to ascribe value to their peers’ contributions in the learning process?
  • Could a conversation between a metaphor, adult learning theory, and subsequent practices assist teachers and students in engaging the transformative dynamics of applied doctoral education?


We all needed a caffeine break; five-day intensive classes can wear out the heartiest of doctoral students and faculty. Waiting for the tea water to boil, I rejoiced in the warmth coming through the window. “Isn’t it great to see the sun, Daniel?” My new friend from Zimbabwe answered with a resounding, “No! It’s a trick.” His response caught me off guard.

A trick? But Daniel, stand right here in the sunbeam, and look out at that beautiful blue sky!” (These were survival techniques I learned growing up – weeks of gray, gloomy, cold days were the hallmark of Midwest winters.) Daniel shook his head and repeated: “It’s a trick. In Zimbabwe when you see the sun, it is hot outside. When the sun is out here [central Kentucky], it means nothing.”

Daniel had a point, a point of view to be specific; he taught me a different and equally valid way of thinking about sunny, winter days in the Northern Hemisphere. More complex conversations than weather await both students and faculty in Doctor of Ministry programs, ones that bring multiple, seasoned perspectives to the classroom.