Could Too Much Participation Be an Obstacle for Revolutionary Adult Classes?

Sunday 29th October, 2006

What is the most challenging, most growth-producing balance of lecture and other teaching methods? Is it a mix of 50% lecture and 50% participatory methods? Is it a mix of 25% lecture, 25% discussion, 25% question and answer, and 25% small group work? What is the best mix? It depends on several factors, including learning styles of learners, truth to be taught, circumstances prior to the lesson, and leadership of the Spirit. In most cases, I would contend that few learners learn best in an environment of 100% lecture.

In my informal survey of teachers in scores of training sessions, fewer than 20% of them are verbal learners (when asked to identify their 2 out of 8 learning styles). If few learn best with 100% lecture, what about the other extreme? Is it possible to have too much participation? If we leave out consideration of "chasing rabbits" as a part of participation, is it possible to have too much participation even if it stays on task/subject?

I have written previous blog entries about the teacher as guide and the teacher as facilitator. In general, I would respond that too much on-task participation would be rare. This is partly because the revolutionary teacher strives to guide examination and application of the truth of God's Word in a prayed-about, Spirit-led, and prepared direction. In that circumstance, too much participation will only become an obstacle to life-change

  • when it is difficult for the teacher to accomplish the objective of the lesson because of too much, off-task participation and
  • when one person is dominating the class by answering all questions and pursuing his/her own agenda.


A revolutionary teacher gently guides off-task participation back onto track with probing questions and conversational bridges. But how does the teacher deal with the obstacle of the person that talks too much? There are several ways to address the talker:

  • pray;
  • draw him/her aside privately; ask him/her to allow others to participate more; ask him/her to allow at least 3 people to respond before he/she responds again;
  • say to the class, "Does anyone else want to add a thought?";
  • call on learners by name (with their advanced permission) to contribute a thought/answer;
  • don't let the situation drag out without addressing it;
  • divide the class into groups of 4-6 with assignments--more will feel responsible to participate in a small group; and
  • enlist the talker as a small group leader or apprentice and ask him/her to encourage all others to participate before he/she does.

Have you been in a class which had too much participation? Do you regularly have to guide your class back on track? Are you dealing with someone who dominates class time? Share your experiences and how you handle them by pressing the comments button below. Pray. Prepare for life-change. Guide. Involve. Deal with obstacles. Be revolutionary!

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