Saturday, July 4, 2009

If You Want to Learn, Start Teaching

Many times people have asked me where I received my Bible training. Then they wait to hear the name of some familiar, prestigious seminary and hope they are doctrinally aligned with it. I have seen the hope in their eyes as they ask the question because if I say I was educated at "(fill in name of great school here)" they will be relieved to know someone, somewhere told me everything I know and that I am simply parroting information. The basic assumption is that if you go to a great school with great teachers then you will attain their great knowledge. That is how, it is assumed, people learn. Well, this is not the best way to learn, in fact, it is very, very slow and ineffective, thus, the pathetic condition of Bible knowledge and Christian understanding today (we could throw the public schools into that same pile, but they already have standardized testing to humiliate them.)

Teaching and learning go together.
  • The best way to learn is to teach.
  • The best way to understand is to explain.
  • The best way to know is to help somebody else know.
  • The best way to study for a test is to write the test.
  • The best way to know the truth is to debate against someone who disagrees with "truth"
This has been proven over and over in studies and in experience. When people ask me where I received my Bible education I tell them it began in the fifth grade Sunday school classroom as a teacher. I learned so much there I began to teach whenever and wherever I could. Obviously, I have read a lot of great authors/books (including God's best seller, the Bible), listened to a couple (there are not many) great pastors, and sat up late into the night arguing with friends and foes about "truth" and doctrine. But, the greatest place of learning for me was in front of people while I was teaching. Why is this true? Well here is some information from another writer (Armen, 5/25/2009):
Memory Retention Percentages Are Based On Pressure
You learn 90% of what you teach to others because big pressure is on you at that time to not seem clueless while explaining the content. There is pressure on you here, since you would appear foolish if you offered to teach something and didn't have the concept understood. You learn 80% of what you experience because you do it on the spot, and have to correct errors during the process or it won't work out. The pressure is on you there to continue through until you complete the procedure. You remember 70% of what you discuss with others because you have solid comprehension to be able to respond to others and their possible arguments or comments. This goes on for the other points. The more pressure there is on you to know the material, the higher the probability that it will be encoded into your cognition.
So, create pressure when you want to learn. I have always referred to this pressure as a concentration level. My students are concentrating on the information, but not nearly as diligently as I the teacher am. I discovered this back in 1986. While the students were learning 10-30% of what they heard me say (I use a lot of animation, scribbling on the board, etc. to push into the 30%), I was learning and remembering 90% (on a good night, of course.)
A popular quote by William Glasser says “We learn… 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we see and hear, 70 percent of what we discuss with others, 80 percent of what we experience, and 95 percent of what we teach to someone.” The percentages might be somewhat off, but they are close enough to actual values to internalize this information for future learning.
If you seriously want to learn the Scriptures, church history, theology, apologetics, or whatever, then start a class, find a class, start an arguement or find someone who disagrees with you and start talking. It may be painful at first. My wife remembers me coming home from class in 1986 and crying as I sat in our living room because I could not effectively teach a 20 minute Bible class. It was very, very painful in many ways, but after a few weeks I learned some things and found a groove. Since then I have easily taught well over 4,000 hours of Bible classes. (That would be the same amount of time as verbally instructing a group non-stop, 24 hours a day from January until July.) Of course, I didn't teach non-stop because for every hour of teaching I probably spent three hours in study and research because I was under pressure to perform intelligently and communicate efficently.

If you want to learn start teaching.

Galyn Wiemers