Christopher Chelpka

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Links for Improving Your Teaching

Churches should use a wider variety of teaching strategies, especially in their adult classes.

Those who start exploring this idea, will quickly encounter something called active-learning.

As a heads-up, I’ll tell you that there are various misconceptions about what active-learning means, and it’s something of a buzzword. So be careful. And if you’re a pedagogy nerd, you might find it useful to learn about the constructivist pedagogy behind this term. For that, Virginia Richardson’s overview and evaluations of the constructivist movement is helpful.

But for those who just want to start experimenting , Cynthia J. Brame’s executive summary on active-learning is a great place to start.

But is it ever OK to Lecture? Of course, it is. As you expand your pedagogical repetoire, dont’ leave behind the lecture.

You might map active-learning activities and lecturing onto a distinction Mark Strom makes between conversation and communication. Covnersation involves “creating shared meaning,” whereas communication invovles “sharing created meaning”.

I don’t want to be precious about this. At a certain level communication and conversation are synonyms. Yet the distinction is not just playing with words. The bigger pciture is our assumptions about knowing and meaning.

Conversation is a tool often used in active-learning. Because, conversation not only allows knowledge to come about inductively, but, as Strom observes, the process tends to “be a doorway to new meaning and new knowledge” and the formation not only of single mind, but a community.

Conversation tends to assume that knowledge and meaning take shape through interaction. Conversations highlight how meaning is tied to relationship.

Communication, on the other hand is about “sharing created meaing”.

[Communication] suggests there already exists some knowledage that others need to knjow. We need to communicate: clearly, concisely, and relevantly. This is crucial in every kind of enterprise. Sometimes things are straightforward, and the last thing we need is a never-endering process of consultation that’s supposed to deliver consensus. Communication tends to assume that knowledge and meaning are things to be discovered and passed on.

Lectures are perfectly suited for this, if they are engaging, and if the listeners know how to engage themselves in their listening.