"I hate physics!"
That's what students often wrote on Eric Mazur's course evaluations. He was the Professor of Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and he was struggling to keep his students engaged.
In her article, "The Benefits of Interactive Learning," Jill Anderson writes about Professor Mazur's journey toward interactive teaching methods. In the article, she says, "Mazur shared a photograph of his early days teaching, in which he was shown hunched over a projector, disengaged from the students. The students looked equally unengaged with the lesson. Describing the scene as a “transfer of information,” he noted that there was a “lack of learning and retention” from his lectures.
From that point on, Professor Mazur began experimenting with different ways to make his lessons more interactive. Instead of telling his students what he wanted them to know, he began experimenting with methods that would help them discover it on their own. Anderson explains how:
"As a brief demonstration, Mazur posed a multiple choice question to the Master Class audience. Using a handheld polling mechanism, he asked the crowd to select an answer. Then, he encouraged the audience to talk with a neighbor who had selected a different response and attempt to persuade their classmate to change his or her answer. After several minutes of discussion, Mazur asked the audience to once again answer via the polling mechanism. By the time Mazur revealed the right answer to the question, he noted that he had the attention of everyone in the room."
Let me repeat those last words for emphasis: "He had the attention of everyone in the room."
Isn't that what we all want in our KidMin rooms?
The Gospel message is the most important message a kid could ever hear, but if we don't have their attention, they won't hear it. If our lessons are more like a "transfer" of Biblical information, we probably won't see the learning results or, more importantly, the life change that we're hoping for.
But it doesn't have to be that way. When Professor Mazur began making his lessons more interactive, he saw an immediate increase in attention and learning. “What I was able to show is that I doubled the learning gains. In fact, it tripled once I got better questions to ask in class and also much longer retention,” Mazur said. “I’ve never looked back.
And neither will you!
In my next post, I'll talk about some practical ways we can make our KidMin lessons more interactive. In the meantime, do a self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions: How often do the kids get to talk or participate on a Sunday morning? Do your lessons look more like a "brain dump" or a "discovery zone?" What level of ownership do kids have within the lesson?
In Hebrews 4:12, Paul says, "For the word of God is living and active." Let's devote ourselves to teaching it that way!