'Best Practices' for Bible Teachers (Part XIV)
By Buddy Hanson The Covenant News
The Instruction & Learning Process
Are You an Instructor, or Merely an Informer?
All will agree that "learning" is not an isolated event. It includes an on-going process, whereby the learner is introduced to new material, has time to practice it, and then applies his newly developed skills in the correct circumstances. Effective teachers approach their topic as though they are producing a feature-length film by weaving the Big Picture plot among individuals, small groups and finally an entire team of characters, skills, and/or fundamentals. By continuously reviewing the progress of their learners, and by incrementally introducing new information, they keep the learning experience fresh, and the application effective as the learners are enabled to achieve heights they may not have imagined.
Ineffective teachers, on the other hand, approach the task of teaching as though it were a series of photographs. Even though each photo is sharp, distinctive, and attractive, no emphasis is placed on connecting the photographs together through review and practice. So, while they are adding to the learner's storehouse of knowledge, the application is largely ineffective, because there is no explicit instruction on how to connect each of the separate photographs together into a compelling storyline.
Effective teachers spend a significant amount of time in establishing ways to make it easy for their learners to use the information in their messages to accomplish a desired end result.
This sought for end result may be increased market share for a business, or a more thoroughly trained athlete who will know how to make the right play at the right time, thus greatly increasing his team's chances of success.
What is the desired end result of your message? In other words, how should the information in this message impact the lifestyle of your learners?
It is common for football coaches to introduce a new skill or play via the chalk board or a video, then go to the practice field for individual instruction. For example, the same play requires different tactics for linemen, backs, and the quarterback. So, after each group practices the play, the whole team is brought together to practice it. The next day, this process begins again in a meeting room to view the video of the previous day's practice, where additional individual instruction takes place, and then to the practice field for more group and team drills. As the team demonstrates it can perform the play flawlessly, new elements are added, as well as reinforcement as to when to use the play.
When this fluid process is compared to the static process used by ineffective teachers who are satisfied that they have accurately presented the information one time, and who then move to new information in the next message without referring back to the last message, and without pointing out how this new information connects to the last message, it can be seen why such a static method would not prove successful on the athletic field. Indeed, such a teaching method would also not be effective in business, or the military. No wonder American church members are languishing with a veritable storehouse of great information in their heads, but with no clue of how to connect it to their feet and walk their Spiritual talk!
"Enough," you say, "you've convinced me that I should be teaching God's Word as thought it is a movie, instead of separate photographs, but sports coaches, sales trainers, and military leaders have the advantage of using physical skills, and I am teaching spiritual skills, so how can the two intersect?" This is a very good question, but its focus needs improving. Instead of dwelling on what we can't do, we should focus on what we can and should do. While we can't call timeout in the middle of a sermon and say, "OK, now let's practice this biblical truth," we can agree that the traditional lecture pails in effectiveness to the hands-on teaching methods that all other vocations use. The question, then, is:
How can we use the successful hands-on teaching methods that all other vocations use, without using our hands?
The answer is that we must follow the same process, but do it by painting clear and compelling mental pictures in the minds of our learners.* They are in the hands-on mode, while we are in a mind-zone mode. A Hands-on & Mind-zone chart that illustrates how Bible teachers can take advantage of the teaching tactics of effective communicators in all other vocations, is available for the asking. Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for "Hands-on/Mind-zone."
If your message does not have the desired end result of helping your learners walk their Spiritual talk, you are not an instructor... you are merely an informer!
Next week's topic is, "Biblically-based Self-governing Strategies
* The Old Testament prophets, Jesus and His apostles provide some
excellent examples of painting vivid word pictures for their learners.
Buddy Hanson is President of the Christian Policy Network and Director of the Christian Worldview Resources Center and has written several books on the necessity of applying one's faith to everyday situations, circumstances and decision-making.