Tuesday’s Teaching Tip: Use More ALTs in your Bible Study

Years ago, Dr. Howard Hendricks made this comment in a video training series called The Seven Laws bored-forehead-tapeof the Teacher: “Christian education today is entirely too passive.” That’s a phrase that has influenced me as a teacher. My goal as a teacher in a Bible study is not to do all the hard work prior to class and then have an “information dump” on Sunday mornings. My goal is to engage my group members in an active study of the Bible. Dr. Hendricks went on to say, “Never tell a learner anything that he can discover for himself.” Dr. Hendricks was a big proponent of active learning.

This past week I read an article in the CEJ (Christian Education Journal, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 2015) about the experiences of a friend, Dr. Kenneth Coley, who teaches at Southeastern Seminary. He took a trip to Cuba and trained a group of educators there to better understand and apply ALTs (Active Learning Techniques). By the end of his time there, he was able to heavily influence their appreciation for the use of a variety of teaching techniques in the classroom.

ALTs – Your Group Members will Love Them!

Most teachers I know and have sat under in Bible study rely too heavily on lecture (which in and of itself is a fine teaching technique). I have heard of teachers reading large portions of their teaching materials to their groups. Others lecture heavily and sprinkle in a few questions here and there.  The really good teachers know how to use ALTs – they have the groups that people like to attend.

Here are a few Active Learning Techniques you can use in the days and weeks ahead as you teach your Bible study group. This list is certainly not exhaustive! There are dozens and dozens of these kinds of learning activities that you can incorporate into your Bible studies:

  1. Think-Pair-Share: Group members are asked to think about how they would respond to a question or a scenario posed by the group’s teacher, then are paired up with another group member to share their thoughts.
  2. One-minute Paper:  Group members are given 60 seconds to write and respond to a question or other assignment made by the group’s teacher. They write as much and as fast as they can for that one minute.
  3. Take-A-Stand:  Group members are instructed to move to one of two corners of the room as a way to respond to a question or scenario posed by the teacher.
  4. Pass the Chalk: (or some other object) The person who holds the item must respond to the next question asked of the group. Once that person has answered the question, they can pass the object to any member of the group, and that person must respond to the next question posed by the teacher.
  5. Muddiest Point:  It’s like the One-Minute Paper, but used at the end of the teaching session to clear up a point that was fuzzy or unclear to the learners.
  6. Directed Paraphrasing:  Group members are challenged to paraphrase a portion of the Scripture being studied, translating it into their own words.
  7. TV Commercial:  Group members are asked to create a 30-second commercial based on the content that has been studied. Once created, the group acts out the commercial.

Too many group leaders dismiss these ALTs as “silly” or they call them “fluff.” For many group leaders, “real” teaching means straight lecture. ALTs are perceived as time-wasting fun-and-games activities. But the reality is, we learn better when we are more actively engaged. We remember more when we are actively engaged. Active learning is good learning, and it makes good use of the teacher’s time, and the time invested by group members!

To keep learning about ALTs, simply perform an internet search for “active learning techniques.”

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One comment

  1. Ken,

    This is a fantastic article! Here are some of my thoughts to continue the discussion:

    One Minute Paper: There are some who communicate better in writing than speaking. By giving each member an opportunity to write the answer first it may result in some great conversation that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

    Pass the Chalk: I would be careful about the questions being asked since you are “forcing” everyone to respond. This could have the opposite affect of what is desired if a member becomes embarrased/uncomfortable.

    TV Commercial: This is my favorite on your list. I recommend the group be divided into at least 2 teams to do this. That way they can also have fun watching and learning from another team.

    We also learn better when we are having fun.

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