One of the God-given means for influencing the heart and the will is to encourage students to be active participants in the learning process. Most people would agree that it is good for children to be involved in the learning process. Most of us could even give reasons why this is so:
- Makes the lessons more interesting, and therefore helps children to pay attention (easy for their minds to wander if you are doing all the talking)—Students do not get bored if they are actively participating in the learning process.
- Children will often remember the concepts longer if they have been involved in the learning process.
- When children are involved in the discovery of knowledge themselves, sometimes they can internalize truth better—discovering a Bible truth sometimes causes that truth to be embraced in the heart rather than just understood in the head
These are all true, but how to get children involved seems to be much more difficult to grasp. There is the total “hands on” approach where the child is actively involved in a learning activity, but often the result is that the child had a lot of fun, the experience was very time consuming, and while some of the subject matter was absorbed, very little real learning occurred. I think the problem is that we often confuse “activity” with “active learning”—by active learning, I mean, that the mind is active, not necessarily the body.
Please hear this correctly—I am not against children getting up and writing on the board, participating in role plays and demonstrations, putting together visuals—being active while they learn—in fact, we encourage that, especially in the younger ages but…
… active learning goes beyond activity. Active learning involves children’s minds interacting with the subject matter; they are thinking—discovering, imagining, questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying the material.
If we just sit children down and tell them what to believe, they may not be comprehending, agreeing with, or internalizing the truth—and the same may be true if we ask them to act out a Bible story, retell a story, or recite a Bible verse
We want them to be able to look at a text in the Bible…carefully observe and rightly interpret the text; make real application of that truth to their own lives, and eventually respond in faith to that truth—embrace it, own it, live by it …and be willing to die for it.
When children are little, we must tell them much of what they need to learn—they are little sponges soaking up everything—but by fifth grade, when they can begin to think logically, we need to be dialoguing with children, asking questions, and expecting answers.
By leading children and youth logically through a series of questions designed to lead them to correct conclusions, we are encouraging them to discover what God actually says in His Word—our questions should teach them to observe, interpret, and apply the truth. The mind then becomes a conduit for the truth to reach the heart.