Teaching Tip: Don’t answer your own questions!

Yesterday’s post on the one teaching weapon you need in your arsenal was an accidental early stopwatch-34107_960_720release! If you didn’t read it (it came out on Mother’s Day) just click here and jump to it. That post was supposed to be scheduled for today (operator error), so I’ve given you a bonus teaching tip blog post this week. Today’s post is about the importance of remaining silent once you ask a question. And if you aren’t used to doing this, what I’m about to recommend will seem like an eternity, but it will change the dynamics of your Bible study group.

When you ask a discussion question, how long should you wait before offering an answer yourself? If you are a group leader, you shouldn’t answer your own questions if at all possible. Give your group members time to think about their responses. Robert W. Pazmino writes in his book, “Research indicates that the quality of student responses improves if the wait time after a teacher’s question extends beyond the normal one to three seconds to twenty seconds” (Basics of Teaching for Christians, 68). Twenty seconds! Try it right now – ask a question out loud, any question, and start counting to twenty. You’ll see that it feels like an eternity. As a group leader, you need to get very comfortable with twenty seconds of silence.

Three things will happen if you use this effectively in your Bible study group:

  1. You can re-train your group to answer questions if you’ve been answering them too quickly as the teacher of the group. You’ll see discussion start to rise again in your group if you’ll out-wait your members.
  2. Someone will talk – I promise. Ask a question, cross your arms, take a sip of coffee, or look at each of your group members. Just be comfortable with the silence, because there’s at least one person in your group who isn’t as comfortable, and they will be the ones to speak up and break the silence. It happens every time.
  3. People will give you a more thoughtful response because in those twenty seconds, they are thinking of how to articulate an answer. When they respond, it’s going to be great, and what they say will add to the discussion taking place.

You’ve heard the phrase, “silence is golden,” and that is especially true when you are teaching a Bible study. The next time you teach, ask a question and force yourself to wait those twenty seconds – you’ll be glad you did.



One comment

  1. […] Wait for your group members to answer a question – In the book Basics of Teaching for Christians, author Robert Pazmino presents research that informs us of a basic truth: if you want people to talk, you must wait at least 20 seconds for them to respond. That means you, the teacher, cannot answer your own questions when no one else does initially. For more on this, click here to see an earlier blog post where I more fully presented this subject. […]

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