Call it what you will, but my preferred style of teaching is discussion based. The last thing I want to have to do is get up in front of a group and impart knowledge upon them in true lecture style. Maybe it’s a little selfish, but as a teacher I want to get something out of my classes too, so I tend to formulate questions that I think will lead to a discussion in which we can perhaps question our understanding and interpretation of a given subject. Sometimes it works wonderfully and sometimes it fails miserably. It is largely dependent on the group.
Back in college I took a course called the Great Books Colloquium. The course was based on a similar style of teaching called the Socratic Method. What I loved most about the course was not the books we were asked to read and discuss, but the method in which we discussed those books.
One of my favorite teachers of all time had this practice down pat. Each week he would take some sort of stance on a topic and force us into a discussion in which we would apply what we had just read to either justify or refute the validity of that stance. It was an exciting, engaging class that has really helped to shape who I am today. I don’t think I would be as interested in a discussion based teaching style if it weren’t for this class and that teacher in particular.
So, you’re probably wondering what this all has to do with the church. In short, nothing. In our churches, and I’m speaking in generalities here, we sit and listen to a sermon, we sit and listen to a teacher in a Bible class, and more often than not we sit and listen to yet another teacher in our small groups. There is a lot of being talked at in our church experiences. That’s great if you are able to learn that way, but for a portion of us, and I’m probably speaking mostly for myself, it doesn’t work. I can only handle so much listening. I need to be engaged in another way.
Here’s my solution. Let’s try another method of teaching and learning at least part of the time. Let’s be more purposeful in how we attempt to engage our students because we know that everyone learns a little differently. I’d like to see a Bible class in which we discussed topics and passages using the Socratic Method, or a similar style of teaching. What do you think? Would it work?
Part of the problem with a class like this is that we have been conditioned to give church answers. Answers like: Jesus, God, Forgiveness, Love, and Resurrection. We answer questions like mindless zombies, not stopping to think about what we’re really saying. For a class like I’m talking about to work, we would have to let down our defenses and admit that we do not know it all. We have to be willing to have a discussion.
So, perhaps the real question is not would the Socratic Method work for Bible class but are we willing to have honest, open, discussions? What do you think about that?