I've been meaning to rant about this ever since I heard the news last week. Here's what's buggin' me. On Monday night the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Madonna.
Muh-DON-nuh?! . . . In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? . . . While folks like the Steve Miller Band are still waiting in line? I just don't get it.
Hey, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Madonna didn't record rock and roll. Of course, neither did Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and they're in too. But I guess my question is, Why not induct the people who performed and recorded rock and roll? Just a thought. Oh, and what's the impeachment process?
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One of my weaknesses in teaching is that I don't often ask good questions. For a lot of my class sessions, I prepare a lecture that doesn't exactly want or invite interruption. So I don't often stop to ask a question. It's not that I don't want questions. And sometimes I do stop and ask, "Okay, what questions do you have?" But that's not the same thing as asking questions that actually involve the students in exploring the topic.
Yes, I've read that when students passively sit and listen, they don't take much home. They're much more likely to learn and retain something if they become active in responding to questions, or if they state what they know and think about the topic of the class. And I've accepted all of that. From the neck up. But I don't do much of that.
Oh, I guess I could blame my former teachers. Some of them presented straight lecture for hours on end. Class sessions were often a matter of us students writing down notes as they were read to us by the professor. It was like we'd signed up for a course in copying dictation. In one graduate course I took, students asked a grand total of two questions all semester long. In both instances, the question was an awkward interruption of the professor's reading class notes to us.
And then there's my preaching experience. Most sermons don't invite or want any sort of question, feedback, interruption. Our inherited definition of "preaching" means that nobody talks but the preacher, which is why many churches marvel at how smart the preacher is while everyone else feels sort of dumb and inadequate. (Ever notice that virtually all of the sermons in Acts get interrupted?) I think this point is connected to the health and growth of churches, but I digress.
I don't want to revert to the teaching models I've always known. A lot of them are weak and ineffective. I feel compelled to do better. But it's hard for classroom teachers to throw off the dream of being the sage on the stage. That's part of the problem. Another part is that teachers sometimes just don't know how to change for the better. So I want to begin by asking more, and better, questions in class. I'll begin by practicing on you:
1. You teachers out there, do you ask probing, open-ended questions when you teach? Did this come naturally to you, or did you have to develop it?
2. Who is the best "question-asking teacher"you know? What are that person's class sessions like?
3. Are there benefits and good uses of more less straight lecture or speeches? What are they?
4. It's assumed that today's Christian preaching is much more "conversational" than the preaching of a generation ago. If that's the case, do you church-goers have any experience with talk-back sermons? (that is, where listeners ask questions, pose problems, during a sermon).
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I'm teaching from John chapter 7 tonight. I've read and studied and thought. Guess I should pray too. Take a look. What questions sort of raise themselves when reading this passage? What's most conspicuous? Troubling?
Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?