In educational settings, retention applies in two directions. Retention applies to prevention of student dropouts, and it applies to remembering what was learned. In this post, I will focus on lesson retention, or understanding and remembering what was learned.
Addressing Learning Styles for Lesson Retention
The people in our classes are unique. They learn differently and have different learning styles. As a result, if we want those who attend to understand and remember what was taught, then we must plan for retention. To do so requires keeping our students in mind.
LifeWay lists eight learning styles: relational, musical, logical, natural, physical, reflective, visual, and verbal (see Johnston and Brown’s Teaching the Jesus Way (out of print), 2000, pp. 152-154). Based on that material, I developed a one-page tool which can be reproduced and given to class members. Leave a reply, and I will email it to you. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. I recommend that it be completed anonymously (no one writes their name on the form).
When the learning style inventory is completed, ask each member to circle the top two styles (where he/she has the most checkmarks). That helps the member learn about the ways they learn best. At the same time, when you collect the inventories, you will quickly see the top learning styles for your members. What you will discover is that 6-8 of the learning styles will will represented in any class more than 3-4 people.
Your lesson preparation will then keep in mind the learning style preferences of your members. If more of your members are verbal and logical, you will tend to use a few more teaching methods which address those two learning styles. But don’t ignore those learning styles which are less represented. Remember that when you teach addressing my learning style, I tend to pay more attention and I tend to remember what you taught better.
Most curriculum lessons include a variety of teaching methods. But I believe that each truth in God’s Word has a preferred method for communicating the truth to that group of people at that moment in time. It is your job to listen carefully to God in His Word and stay in touch with your members in order to choose wisely the best methods during your preparation.
Other Preparation for Retention
Knowledge of your learners and their learning styles is strong help for increasing lesson retention. In addition, there are many other simple retention actions which can be part of your lesson plans. I encourage you to check out the 21 ideas I shared in Sunday School Strengthening Learning Retention. Consider the following:
- give assignments (before or after the lesson) and then call for reports
- ask someone to prepare a report or a portion of the lesson
- get everyone to talk by dividing into groups of 2-6 for discussion
- preview what the lesson is about and why it is important
- review the lesson focus and main truth and its application to life today and to attenders’ lives
- ask group members to read the scripture before Sunday, perhaps with a key question
- talk about a way for the group to apply the truth together
- and many more.
When we make the lesson personal, participants pay more attention. That can be accomplished by sharing your story or asking for participants to do so. Another way is to ask each person present to share or write down a plan for response to the truth of the lesson.
What can you do this week to adjust your preparation to increase lesson retention. If they remember the lesson and the truth from God’s Word, they are more likely to obey Him. Listen carefully to God in His Word as you prepare. Get to know your learners. Get to know their learning styles. Then plan to personalize the lesson and to involve them in it. As you do so, watch as excitement about God’s Word increases and as group members grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!