Friday, March 16, 2007

Creative Approaches to Teaching - Inductive vs. Deductive

When we prepare a lesson we investigate. We gather the facts, look into historical backgrounds, lexical issues, theological themes in the book we are studying. The more we study the more questions we ask and the deeper we dig the more we learn. We do not start with all the answers. We put the pieces together and have a sense of ownership over the material and over the opinions we form and the answers we reach. That is called the inductive method. Some of you may disagree with me here but I believe that is how we learn most of what we learn. Through trial and error, asking questions, and investigating we form our views and opinions.

Typically when we teach a class we turn all of that upside down. Instead of starting with where we started in our study and working through the same questions that led to our conclusions, we rob people of the experience of working through the issues and asking the questions. We start with the conclusion and then we tell them the main reasons that conclusion is true (usually in the form of a 3 point outline). That is the deductive process. We expect the student to arrive there from a different direction than we did.

Deductive Example:
Topic: Jesus is the Messiah
I. Jesus is the Messiah because he fulfilled scripture
A - Pentateuch scriptures fulfilled
B - Historical books scriptures fulfilled
C - Prophetic scriptures fulfilled
II. Jesus is the Messiah because he performed miracles
A - Miracles over nature
B - Miracles over death - even his own
C-Jesus forgave sins
III. Jesus is the Messiah because his followers were willing to die for what they saw
A - The apostles saw him risen from the dead
B - All but one (John) were martyred for their beliefs.

Medium - lecture.
This is how it is and here is why

Inductive Example:
Topic: Is Jesus the Messiah?
What would it take for someone to be considered the Messiah?
- They would need to have fulfilled certain scriptures.
Did Jesus do anything that would point toward being the Messiah?
-He performed many miracles
-He was able to forgive sins
Are there any other valid explanations for who Jesus could have been other than the Messiah?
-No, his followers were willing to die for who he said he was because what he said about his resurrection came true.
In the end, when these pieces are sorted through, the class concludes that Jesus was the Messiah.

Medium - discussion (including their questions and concerns)
Working from a question, through the supporting answers to the solution rather than working from the answer backward through supporting information.

This is the natural way people learn but in Bible classes people seldom teach inductively. That is probably because it is discussion and we may fear that people will not come to the same conclusion we do. The deductive method is safe because you have people on lock down and it is hard for any alternatives to be examined (and in this case eventually ruled out!). But it also robs people of their own right to investigate their own valid questions and concerns and deal with those in a safe environment. When we teach deductively we take all that hard work, all the questions, all the investigation and we remove it from the class. As a result we have removed the aha moments from the students' lives as they no longer reach conclusions based on the discussion, they are told the answer first! What we learned inductively we present deductively in outline form. Our investigation didn't have all the answers up front. We had to ask questions and figure things out for ourselves. Wouldn't it make sense that the students in our Bible classes would also benefit from working through the investigation process just as the teacher had to do?
Here is the key - In order to learn most effectively, students need to work through the same process that the teachers (who are also learners) have worked through.

When you start to work on a Bible lesson you don't know all the answers. You were thrilled when you had the "aha!" moment. Why not allow those in your class to have that too? Teaching deductively removes much of the student's participation in the learning event. It removes them from the discovery process and does not allow them to approach the subject with their questions and concerns. When we teach deductively we proceed to answer all relevant questions before they are asked and the learning process is short-circuited.

Isn't it much more powerful to come to the conclusion on your own rather than have someone tell you that is just the way it is? Isn't it more powerful to let the students wrestle with the issues and come up with their own questions and concerns rather than just lay it all on the table at once?

We wonder why people are not very engaged and involved in class. That points us to the next topic -helping people feel safe to participate in discussion.

3 comments:

Paula Harrington said...

Good lesson.

Thanks

Darin said...

Good post. Thanks.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Matt, what you're saying here is so true.

For about a year now, I have been struggling to come up with ways to lead my students towards discovery without giving them too little or too much. In other words, the trick is for the teacher to serve as a facilitator who gives students enough to start and work with, without giving them "the answers."

And then there's the other question of creativity, making it fun. What I have discovered is that when I succeed in sending them on an intellectual hunt (usually in groups) they always have a better time than they would have sitting, listening to me, and taking notes.

However, the wise teacher will not overlook the value of telling students something. Before the students are sent on a discovery mission, I always have to teach them something for starters.

The preparation of what and how I send them searching has become for me the hardest and most-satisfying part of my work as a teacher.

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