Revolutionary Sunday School Teachers Engage Learners

Monday 1st January, 2007

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When we expect nothing, we usually get what we expect. Eddie Hammett says in an article entitled, When Coaching Permates Programs, "one of the major weaknesses in most Christian education programs is that we make it teacher/leader centered and driven and the students just come, sit, listen and leave. We’ve not required or even suggested that the learner and member is responsible – we enable them to remain passive by just counting their attendance not their life change. And if we did make the suggestion we didn’t put into it any accountability."

Wow, Eddie is so right. Life change requires engagement. Sunday School teachers should be coaches of engagement for life change. What can teachers do to engage learners?

Joan Cybela wrote an article entitled, Engaging Learners in Learning: A Checklist for Face to Face Settings. In the article, Joan lists ten suggestions for involving learners mentally, emotionally and physically:

  1. IGNITE CURIOSITY AND LEARNING.  What if you gave attenders a preparation assignment on Sunday for next week? What if you asked them to research a question or life situation? What if you called learners midweek and asked them to pre-read lesson sections? How could questions, stories, or case studies capture learners' attention right at the beginning of the lesson?
  2. CREATE ENVIRONMENT.  Does the environment make learning distracted or difficult? Work to make the environment unnoticed: lighting, sound, temperature, furnishings, arrangement, odors, distance, etc. Invite openness and participation by rearranging furnishings or by adding visuals or music or aromas.
  3. DEVELOP RELATIONSHIP.  Relationship heighten engagement. Invest in relationships during and between classes. Plan fellowships. Take time for get-acquainted activities.
  4. DISCOVER WHAT'S KNOWN.  Find out what learners know related to the topic at hand. Build on what they know. This is apperception: the process whereby perceived qualities of an object are related to past experience. Androgogy (adult learning) assumes that adults have experiences to add to the learning experience.
  5. INVITE DIALOGUE.  Ask questions. Set up discussion. Divide into learning teams. Seek opinions, whether they agree or not. Seek to get everyone sharing.
  6. NOTE RELEVANCE.  How does the truth relate to learners? What difference does it make to them? What is the impact today? If learners realize the relevance, they will make time for learning.
  7. BROADEN PERSPECTIVE.  Help them to see the larger picture. Help them to see how this lesson fits into the puzzle. What are the ramifications? What difference does response to the truth make?
  8. VARY PRESENTATION MODES.  On July 11, I wrote a blog entry about learning styles. The worst teaching method is the one that is used all the time. Knowledge of the learning styles of attenders can make teaching more effective. Variety increases interest and retention for some learners . All pres entation modes can utilize greater engagement, even lecture. Decrease listening and increase participation in learning.
  9. ENG AGE EMOTIONS.  Make them laugh. Make them sad. Help attenders to take time to realize the emotions they are feeling. Help them to connect to truth through stories and illustrations that involve their emotions.
  10. TRANSFER LEARNING.  How can learners continue their learning after class? How can they apply what they learned to home, work, school, play, and life? They will be more engaged if they realize how learning can transfer to the lives they live.

Are you engaging your learners? Are you coaching them toward life change? Pray. Engage. Make a difference. Be revolutionary!

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