Piaget, presentations, and participation in groups

Today’s blog post is an excerpt taken from a truly classic book on Christian education authored by Dr. Rick Yount. Created to Learn is a slightly more technical read than other books on Christian education, but it is rich in content, and Dr. Yount connects learning theory to its practical application in the classroom. I highly recommend you have this book in your library.

Today’s excerpt is about the implication of Piaget’s theory for teaching. Hang in there! It’s not as boring as it may sound. Piaget actually had some great things to say about how adults learn, and how teachers should go about the task of teaching. I try to put these things into practice in the group I teach weekly. Here in his own words is Dr. Rick Yount:

Piaget’s view of education in general, and teaching in particular, is extreme…He saw the goal of education as creating opportunities for learners to…discover knowledge…Piaget encouraged teachers to create situations in which meaning can be discovered by learners. Early followers of Piaget called for a de-emphasis on transmitting knowledge by lectures…We expect Bible teachers to ‘teach the Bible’ – that is, explain to learners what the Bible says (and means)…Piaget underscores the fact that teaching must be more than talking at students. Teaching requires more than presenting a lesson to students if we hope to change the structure of thinking of students…Piaget would tell us that teaching to establish biblical understanding is hampered by one-way communication. The better approach is for teacher and learners to enter into interactive conversations…

This has been my approach to teaching the Bible for many years now. I seldom lecture, and when I do, it’s in short bursts – “mini-lectures” that last only a minute or two.

4 Implications for group leaders

  1. Group leaders must talk less – view your role as that of a guide, not a teacher. In fact, if you have 40 minutes for your group’s Bible study, talk no more than 20 minutes – the rest of the time should find your group members talking, discussing, and participating in active learning activities.
  2. Group leaders must sit down – when a group leader sits, he or she joins the conversation with the rest of the group. No longer is the teacher standing (an authority position) or sitting behind a desk. It signals to the group that the teacher really wants to hear from everyone in the group.
  3. Groups must be arranged in circles – discussion-centered groups tend to be arranged in circles. People are encouraged to talk when they can see other’s faces. Sitting in rows means you don’t see faces, only the backs of people’s heads. Discussion is enhanced when everyone can see everyone else!
  4. Group leaders must change their thinking about what teaching is – As David Francis and I said in the book 3 Roles for Guiding Groups, “Talking does not equal teaching any more than listening equals learning” (p.12). Teachers sometimes incorrectly believe that they are the centerpiece of the group, and that the teaching universe revolves around them. While a degree of that is true, effective group leaders have learned to share the stage with their group members, leading and guiding them to discover biblical truth through discussion and active learning techniques.



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