We can improve learning, ours and others. We can!!!!
As an Adventist university teacher I feel deeply my inadequacy to teach and to learn. I get overwhelmed with how little I have learned and how limited the development of those I help is because I lack some of the skills, structures, and attitudes needed to really teach well.
I then throw myself on Christ’ strength to help me at least take baby steps in my teaching and learning.
There are 8 areas I see as ways to leverage the small that I have into the great learning God can provide:
- Increase choice. I can chose between options and improve my own learning. I can help others (children, students, colleagues) decide between alternatives, and thus strengthen the will needed to make learning happen. In my classes, I can let them pick between alternative assignments, or even let them create their own innovative assignments. I can let them pick books to read or eliminate some I wanted them to read. Giving students more options gives them more of the steering wheel–the steering “will”–of learning. I can do that for those I live and work with. “Where the spirit of Jesus is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17).
- Ask more than tell. I repeatedly make this mistake and realize too late I am trapped again by the temptation to see teaching as telling and talking instead of asking and encouraging discovery. Edgar Schein’s book Humble Inquiry really can help us figure out how to turn teaching into more than telling so that students will be asking tough questions that pull and push them into a deep learning dynamic. Co-discovery works best with a culture of questions coming from everyone…. THEN, WE ARE LEARNING AND TEACHING TOGETHER AND LEARNING THINGS WE WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT OF BY OURSELVES!
- Faith integration. Connecting a new concept or discipline or knowledge base or practice to a God’s character, a kingdom principle or a spiritual lesson helps both the new learning stick deep into our soul but it also renews and maybe even reinvents our spiritual understanding. Things get anchored deeper with faith integration. However, its THEIR faith integration that is the focus. What is their faith? How is it different than yours? Back to asking instead of telling. Ask them how to build the deeper connections.
- Reflection. Connections are made in requiring, or at least encouraging, reflection, especially reflection that is written down. What did you learn and how? How does that learning improve your life and the lives of others? Where and why did you fail? What do you want to do next? Why? How?
- Diversify, diversify, diversify. I love books. My temptation is to make book learning and lectures to important. I must force myself to diversify my learning modes and I can also help others add spice to their learning by making it more individualized for them. See Kolb Learning Styles process to help with this. I have blogged about Kolb as it relates to ethical leadership and development.
- Keep Service/Application a central focus. How will the students use this classes experiences and learning to help someone at their school, home, or preferably, the community.
- Increase feedback time, loops and groups. Most effective teaching occurs when students (and teachers) receive feedback about their performance that is timely, provided in systematic ways (loops) and come from various groups (not just the teacher).
- Improve assessment processes. Teaching is part of a system of learning and the whole system needs monitoring and a feedback process. Curriculum maps can start the journey and then regular syllabus and class audits and updating can improve the process, but ultimately collecting data and reflecting about it the way the whole school or program process can improve.
God, help me to learn better and to teach like you do!!!