When you teach a Bible study, one of the most effective ways to help learners engage in the study is to ask compelling questions. Jesus asked questions when he taught. “Who do people say I am?” was followed up with “Who do you say I am?” Sometimes Jesus used questions to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders; other times He asked questions to help people clarify their thinking.
Most teachers use questions in their small groups, but most commit a teaching “sin’ when they ask their questions. What kind of sin is usually committed? The teacher answers his or her own question when the group members don’t answer right away. By doing this, a teacher trains his or her group members to wait for the answer, and the teacher wonders why people don’t respond to discussion questions! Group members have been trained to wait because experience has taught them their teacher is so uncomfortable with the silence, he’ll answer his own questions.
20 seconds of silence helps the teaching-learning experience
Research by Dr. Robert Pazmino 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 according to Basics of Teaching for Christians (p.68). Group members need time to process the question that’s been asked, but all too often teachers jump the gun and answer their own question because they are nervous and uncomfortable with silence.
The next time you teach and ask a question, commit to refrain from answering your own questions, and get comfortable with the 20 seconds of silence. If you do, you’ll find that your group members will begin answering the questions, and you’ll boost the discussion that takes place in the group. While you are waiting for a person to respond to one of your questions, simply:
- Cross your arms
- Drink some coffee
- Sit down
- Look people in the eye
If you’ll learn to out-wait your group members, you’ll have them talking in no time! Silence is golden…especially when it’s 20 seconds of silence.
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