This article is part one of a ten part series. Each Thursday for the next ten weeks an article will be posted discussing Learning.
When you hear the word “Learning” what is the first thing you think of?
However, if you’ve studied Blooms Taxonomy of Learning, knowledge is the lowest level of learning, so learning must involve more than just gathering data or content. For example, when I was a misbehaving little boy, my mother would say, I’m going to ‘learn’ you not to do that! Poor English, but effective. It had to do with my experiencing something that would transform my behavior.
Here are my definitions:
- Learning is discovering for oneself. (You can’t learn anything for anyone.)
- Teaching is coaching discovery;
- A teacher is a coach to discovery.
If you participated in sports in school, I’m confident your coach did not seat you in padded chairs in an air conditioned room, got behind his lectern and said, “Today, boys, I’m going to teach you the game of football.”
He probably put you on the field and let you experience the exhilaration of catching a touchdown pass or the agony of a hard tackle. He let you learn the game by experiencing it yourself. That’s our job as teachers…
Therefore a teacher’s job is… to set up experiences so that learners discover for themselves Bible truths that are transformational.
God gave us five senses for learning: People learn 1% taste, 1 ½% touch, 3½% smell, 11% hear, and 83% sight. This is when the sense is isolated. For instance, have you ever played the game where an object is place in a bag? The person cannot hear, see, taste, or smell the object; only touch it. It’s difficult to tell what the object is; however, if one sees an object usually one can quickly determine what it is or might be.
If we learn 83% through the sense of sight, what do teachers need to do? Use lots of visuals, of course.
Principle: Support all verbal methods with a visual method. An old proverb says: Teaching is more than telling; learning is more than listening.
Teachers can “set up experiences” by using methods that involve our senses:: according to our best research, after 3 days, people retain10% of what they read only, 20% hear only, 30% see only, 50% see and hear, 70% hear and tell back, and 90% tell back and demonstrate. Principle: Learning retention increases as direct involvement increases.
The highest percentage methods involve the learner. With hear and tell back, the learner is asked to listen for something specific and then tell back what he hears. Three days later, the learner will retain 70% of the concept or truth; not necessarily the content. A biblical example of this would be the passage of the Good Samaritan story. When the scholar asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with a story. It is not recorded, but it is assumed that Jesus expects the scholar to listen for the answer to his own questions as Jesus tells the story. Then, Jesus asks, “What do you think; who became neighbor to the man?” The scholar responds by telling back the answer that he discovered for himself. Jesus didn’t tell him anything. Finley Edge, in his book Teaching for Results, calls this Purposeful Bible Study. He recommends that rarely should a teacher ever read a passage or give a lecture without asking the learners to listen and tell back what they heard. This can also be done by dividing the group into listening teams or in pairs to listen for a specific thing, or in “Buzz Groups” to discuss the issue and bring a report of findings to the group.
Tell Back and Demonstrate increases the involvement of the learner so that s/he not only tells back the answer, the learner must demonstrate an understanding of the relevance of the answer for us today usually through a creative method or a story. The learner will retain 90% of the biblical truth for three days; not necessarily the content.
Remember the importance of sight (83%). An educator friend recently taught me a new learning: When direct involvement of the learners is coupled with supportive visuals in the learning environment, retention increases from 3 days to 14 days! Jesus understood the importance of visuals; Consider the lilies…; A sower went forth…; whose image is on the coin…; I am the good shepherd…; the fig tree…. With most of his teaching Jesus probably pointed to visuals in life with which he supported his story or teaching. How else do you think the gospel writers remembered all of the things recorded in their writings; the Holy Spirit inspired them, yes, but Jesus’ good teaching helped them retain the learnings? Jesus knew how people learn.
Phil Stone is the State Sunday School Director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.