Friday, December 10, 2004

by Thom and Joani Schultz © 1993
Pub. Group, 237 pages.

Why Nobody Learns much of anything in church

This book is an excellent first step in the transformation of a church's teaching efforts. The principles are sound, the motivational and explanatory stories are effective, and the interactive 'Do It' sections accompanying each chapter help the reader begin the process. Further work is needed, though, especially in applying the ideas to adult curriculum, for while adult learning is mentioned, nearly all the examples are from children's ministry.

Introduction. The lost art of learning at church: The church continues to use outdated, ineffective teaching methods like lecture, rote memorization, and text-book based teaching.
Know the goal. Teaching in the church needs a clearly defined goal toward which all teaching efforts are aim. This goal focuses on output rather than inputs or management.
Focus on learning rather than on teaching. Despite the fact that church goers rarely remember the sermon or Sunday school lesson once they leave the room, churches continue to neglect effectiveness assessment. We must start where the learners are, and then help them discover truth and provide opportunities to practice that learning. Finally, we must devise meaningful ways to verify learning.

Concentrate on the essentials. Rather than assuming people know the basics, we must start with and emphasize the basics, focusing each lesson on one major point. Understanding is important, coverage is not. Finally, teachers must clarify what is important to know, rather than assuming the students know what is important.

Emphasize understanding over rote memorization. Rote memorization is designed for ease of assessment rather than for understanding. When students simply memorize rather than understand the knowledge simply does not remain. Students must be led through the process of theologically thinking through knowledge and the connection to life.

Make people think. Learning follows thinking, and people need to learn how to think, not learn what to think. An effective way to encourage thinking is to ask questions. There are five principles to asking questions: ask open-ended question and follow-up questions, wait for students to answer, do not evaluate discussion responses, and encourage student questions.
Use active learning. Active learning takes place when students engage in real or simulated experiences, and then debrief after the experience. The debrief provides opportunity for reflection, interpretation, and application.

Use interactive learning. In interactive learning the students begin to see one another as resources and helps rather than as competitors. It builds learning communities that continue outside the classroom. Some techniques include pair-share, reading buddies, learning groups, summary partners, and jigsaw.

Use a curriculum that produces authentic learning. Teachers are, of course, crucial to learning, but teachers must be supplied with effective curriculum that follows the principles in this book.
Renovate the sermon. If Madison Avenue were to preach sermons they would follow three rules: know your people, involve your people, and use visuals.

Welcome change. For change to occur, we must recognize where we are, realize the urgency of the need for change, understand the process of change, why people resist change, and have the courage to start.


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