Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 3, 1968
NUMBER 22, PAGE 3b-5

Teaching For Learning (IV.)

Martin M. Broadwell

We want to deal further with the matter of objectives, this time getting away from the Book of Acts. In review, let's remember that to be realistic, objectives should state specifically what the learner should be able to do at the end of the study period: they should also be measureable. They need not prescribe how these objectives are going to be met, that is, the type of teaching to be done to enable the student to reach the objective. (I'm reminded of an answer I heard given to the question, "How are you going to teach this subject?" The answer: "Well, I hope!") But even though the objectives don't tell how the results will be reached, they do have a way of making the teacher pay more attention to what he is doing, providing they are stated in a measureable way. We must remember that what we are teaching in religion is measureable! Especially is this so in our Bible classes. (Or it should be so, anyway.)

Let's take a group of teenage boys in a Wednesday night class. Suppose we want to train them to make talks. The method we use will be to have them make talks in the class on various Bible subjects. It would be easy to set an objective that says: "Each boy will be able to get up and make a five minute talk at the end of the study period." How would you evaluate this as an objective? Does it say what they are to be able to do? Yes, very clearly. Is it measureable? Yes, since all you have to do is watch them and have a clock handy. But look how much is missing! There has been no standard of performance given, nor any restrictions. The boy who reads his whole speech has met the objectives just as well as the one who memorizes everything he says. The boy who uses twenty scriptures is no different than the one who uses none or only a few. The fellow who stammers, uses "uh" and "ah", and never looks at the group is just as far toward meeting the stated objective as the polished orator. The key — as we have said — is that there is no standard of measurement that sets the limits of acceptable performance.

Watch what happens when we begin to set these standards. Let's restate the objectives and include them. For instance, there is the matter of scripture usage. "Make a talk that includes at least five pertinent scriptures..." This can be further refined by including the condition that at least three of the scriptures be memorized. Now take the matter of oratory. "Performance will be considered satisfactory when such nervous expressions as "uh" and "oh" are not used more than five times during the presentation." More conditions can be added by stating that the speaker must always look at the audience except when referring to his notes, and the notes will be limited to one three-by-five card (or 15 words, or just the scripture references, etc.). Depending on the particular school of oratory you use, other things can be added such as not touching the speakers stand, or the necessity for using a certain number of gestures, or the requirement to write or draw on the chalkboard.

Each of us can fill in his requirements, but by now we have learned the trick. The good part of all of this is that the learner is the one who receives all the advantages from this approach. He knows what is expected of him, and knows when he has reached the appropriate level of performance.

While we are talking about this business of making talks, let's put in a bad word or two about so-called "teacher training" classes we run in a number of places. Very often these turn out to be just another night of Bible study, rather than any directed effort to produce teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with "another Bible class" - we just need to be realistic enough to call it what it is, instead of what it isn't! I'm talking about the class that just goes on and on until it finally dies a sad death. Only the "faithful few" remain with it until they decide that the rest of the men must be "unfaithful" because they don't attend every class period. We have other classes by other names that end up with the same fate. There is a reason, and it isn't all "unfaithfulness." A better name for the failure is unpurposefullness.

To overcome this lack of purpose, we sometimes use a study guide for this "training class." For some reason, we seem to think that having an outline or following a book will make everything come out all right. But what will a book or outline do for us? It will keep us organized, tell us the scope of the study, and perhaps even keep us on a schedule. It fails to do the one thing that we need to do the most in this kind of does not tell us what we will be able to do when we finish that we can't do now! "Wait", someone is thinking, "when we finish we will know this material." Will we? All of it? Or certain parts? How much?

Will I know ten more scriptures, or twenty more facts about denominationalism, or seven qualifications of an elder, or be able to define the purpose of the church using scriptures, or...?

Not long ago we had a class for those who wished to learn to lead singing. Now it doesn't seem that complicated to set objectives for a song leading class, but let's look at what we did. We could have simply said everybody would be able to lead singing at the end of the series of lessons. But we didn't. Under the guidance of a capable song director and teacher, we stated the objectives like this: "At the end of six weeks, meeting one night a week those attending all of the classes will be able to tell what key the song is written in, what the pitch is and (using a pitch pipe) blow the first note of the song. This person will be able to tell the timing of the song and be able to beat this time with hand motions. Where there is the talent, the person will be able to lead several songs in front of the group by the time the classes are over.

Does that sound like too much trouble? Note several things, then. There are some things about song leading, such as timing, pitch, etc., that do not depend upon musical ability. These can be learned even if the singing ability isn't present. The objectives recognized this. Secondly, and perhaps the most important thing of all, the objectives gave a specific time limit in which the students would accomplish the objectives as stated. This was more than just another "training class." It was a class that specified what would be accomplished and what the time limit was. Those attending knew they were not starting something that was endless and purposeless. If you have a "training class" in mind, try this approach. It can be expanded. Five weeks on speaking before the congregation; three weeks on personal work; four weeks on teacher improvement, etc., etc. Different people may be involved in different studies. This way it isn't necessary to depend on the faithful few.

We have spent a lot of time on the subject of objectives. It wasn't wasted time! But now let's go on to something just as important. In the next issue we hope to begin to look at some specific techniques for reaching these objectives. One of the key thoughts we will work on will be the subject of involvement. Why get involvement? How can we get involvement? What are some ways we can force the student to become involved? Work on these questions before the next article and see if you are getting your students truly involved or are you doing all the work while they watch the clock?