Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School

Tuesday 11th July, 2006
I led an adult Sunday School teacher conference last month in the greater Louisville area.  I had been invited by one of the Sunday School co-directors to help the teachers look at their learning styles and how they could facilitate a better teaching-learning experience.  After briefly examining how adults learn, we looked at retention percentages (how much adults still know using different methods of teaching).

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Here are the percentages I shared.  After 72 hours, learners will remember . . .

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they see and hear
  • 70% of what they say
  • 90% of what they say and do
At that point in the conference, I led them through an exercise to examine their top two personal learning styles.  LifeWay's Ten Best Practices lists those as verbal, logical, visual, physical, musical, natural, relational, and reflective.  In the group, I believe all but natural were represented.  I told them in my experience, if there were six or more learners present there would usually be at least 7 of the 8 learning styles represented.  I challenged them to lead their class members through the same exercise.  An article on LifeWay's website entitled, How to Identify Learning Styles of Your Youth, can be used to assess your own learning styles.  Just circle the two styles that sound most like you.

One of the Sunday School co-directors called me the next week to say she had led her class through the exercise.  What she discovered was that her top learning style (and method of teaching) of verbal was not one of the top two learning styles for anyone in her class, and her class was a large one.  This trial lawyer called to ask for a list of teaching methods that would address each of the learning styles so she could be even more effective at facilitating their learning and applying of God's Word.  Click here for some ideas.

Many of us teach in the way we were taught (usually lecture) in spite of the passage, truth, or learning styles of class attenders.  If it is true that the worst method is the one we use all the time, then I contend that the best method is the one which will best communicate the truth of God's Word to that specific group of individuals at that specific moment in time.  Prayer, preparation, and learner knowledge are needed in order to be revolutionary in our teaching.  Most good teaching literature/curriculum offer a variety of teaching methodologies in order to address the many learning styles.  Just knowing the background to the Bible passage is not enough--you also need to know the learners in order to teach them effectively!

How are you helping your teachers be revolu tionary in their teaching?  We are called to change lives--not just to communicate content.  See the Great Commission for what Jesus said about what we were to teach.  Look it up here if you don't have it memorized.  Share your stories by pressing the Comment button. Others will benefit.

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