We as educators throughout LAC are constantly giving examinations. Yet, do we ever think about doing a self-examination of ourselves as teachers? As we begin this New Year, we need to stop, think, and evaluate our own teaching methods. There are some key questions we can ask ourselves. How am I doing in connecting with students? Where is my concentration in teaching? What is my ultimate goal in teaching? What methods am I using? Are there visible outcomes?
To draw from my past research on what kind of teachers are in our Bible schools, I discovered much through interviewing hundreds of students, faculty, and leaders. Though my study was not done in LAC, but in India, I think there would be a lot of similarities and things we can learn about teachers and students.
When we look at education we tend to look at “formal” education and its importance. And it definitely is very important. That is why we have Bible schools and are teaching. Formal education is what we do from kindergarten through high school, onto college, and manyonto graduate school.
In formal education, do you, as the teacher, only use the lecture method or do you encourage dialogue and interaction from your students? Perhaps culturally students are not used to involvement in the classroom but only listening to the teacher lecture. The students may see the teacher as the final authority, being always right, and the expert on the subject; therefore, never questioning the teacher.
As teachers, we need to deposit as much knowledge as possible into the lives of the students. For each class taught, teachers need to be prepared,being willing to make notes for students to help reinforce our teaching.
Our Bible schools must pass on more than facts, methods, and skills. Though this source is old it is still true today, as Roger Hedlund (1990) pointed out, “Perhaps one of the causes of failure of missiological training and theological studies is the penchant for appointing lecturers as persons who are academically qualified but inexperienced and incompetent in practical field training” (279). This is where formal education is not enough. Non-formal education is also very important.
Every student who attends the Bible school needs to be involved in ministry in order to shape their lives. Bible school teachers must be spiritually competent in order to pass on an uncompromising commitment to Jesus. Our goal should be to train men and women to learn, know, preach, and live God’s Word, and then to go out filled with the Holy Spirit and spread the gospel. As teachers, we must make sure spirituality serves as an integrative element that is interwoven in academic disciplining, practical field ministry, with reflection and evaluation for training pastors and leaders throughout the LAC region.
As teachers, we must recognize that schooling must reach out beyond the classroom and create alternatives to typical teaching and learning. This will reduce tension between centralized control of education and participation of the local population in the teaching and learning process. Nonformal education is an important type of educational mode outside the classroom.
It is when we as teachers take that step beyond lecturing in the classroom to taking interest in our students outside the classroom. Through this, we reinforce our teaching through practical application outside the classroom, serving as the mentor. This requires a great commitment of the teacher to see students succeed.
There is not only formal and nonformal education as vehicles for training students. But there is also informal education which involves mentoring, observation, informal talking, and storytelling. This is accomplished student-to-student and is relational. Often informal education can happen when the focus may be on something else. The impact into the student’s life is powerful.
I found it very interesting in my research that while we put our greatest emphasis on formal education, in actuality in the interviews with students and leaders, the data revealed that formal education was the smallest factor in the students’ lives. Formal education with set classes, degrees, and accreditating uses this as a basic philosophical model. It is seen as a stepping-stone for upward social mobility. The training usually moves towards some anticipated use, with much emphasis placed on the completion of the requirements of the program. One of the keys of this model is that it is organized to train a group rather than individuals.
The research showed that nonformal and informal education were factors that had a much wider influence and impacted the students to a greater degree. We know that formal education is where the most importance is given while the other two modes are normally not given much time, yet they are the most effective.
It was demonstrated through the research that the informal training model took place in the context of normal life activity. The deliberate use of life activities gave a sense of measurable progress and completion. Life activities were always going on and easily individualized as they utilized observation as a basic input methodology. Informal education utilized imitation modeling as a major experiential model. Resources are everywhere and normal daily life activities became the teaching tools.
Normally in informal education, there is low accountability with low evaluation. However, if teachers are willing to use a high level of hands-on activities, there can be a high accountability with high levels of evaluation.
Jesus’ model was one of a high level of hands-on activities with his disciples. Paul stated in I Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The question we have to ask ourselves, “how are we doing?” Can our students imitate us? What are we passing onto them? If we are stuck in a mold of only using formal education, perhaps it is time we step out of our box and begin using more nonformal and informal modes of teaching.
Hedlund, Roger E. 1990. Indigenous Missionaries vs. Partnership.Evangelical Missions Quarterly 26(3):274-279.
Lowell, Jeanne M. 2001. Educational Contributions of Assemblies of God Women Missionary Educators in the Formation of Leadership in Tamil Nadu, India.Ph.D. dissertation.Biola University.