Have you ever tried to articulate a set of aims for the class you teach? It is good to have a certain measure to know if you have done what you set out to do.
I teach a college age class every week. The explicit aim of the class is to “make sense of life from the truth of the word.” In order to test the outcome of my class I measure it against three goals. If I succeed I have scored a “hat trick” (a “hat trick” in soccer is one player scoring three goals). Here is my hat trick for teaching my college class:
Scoring a “hat trick” in teaching college class is when I am able to communicate (1) how human experience only makes sense, in principle, if the Biblical Christian Worldview is true, (2) how human experience only makes sense, in practice, when the truth of the Biblical Christian Worldview is applied to life and (3) if any alternative worldview that one might come up with fails to achieve (1) and (2).
Try to design your own “hat trick” (there doesn’t have to be three goals). First, take into account at what point in the students’ learning process your class is placed. Is it an eighth grade class? Perhaps an element of your aim is to prepare your students for high school, all the new challenges they will face. How does your curriculum reflect this need? Do points of application need to reflect this need?
Second, what ministry passion do you bring to the classroom? There is nothing wrong with this passion being reflected in your aims for the class. In fact, it might be why God put you there! And, if you are passionate about what you teach, you will probably teach it better.
Finally, ask yourself what your particular age group needs. A basic distinction is between middle school, high school and college. While I risk being reductive one can discern some of the pedagogical needs of each group.
Middle school is a great age for learning the facts. If they gain a good overview of scripture they will have an excellent foundation for life. But middle schoolers also need to know how the scripture applies to life. They need to have their “so whats” answered.
High school is the era of questions. It is their first encounter with doubt, with the nagging suspicion that they are only Christians because their parents are Christians. Sometimes high schoolers become bored of their faith, they sleep during class. How does this affect the class aims? Perhaps it requires that the aim of the class is to creatively teach scripture. As we all know, creativity in teaching has to go up as the interest of students goes down.
Then college kicks in and so does life. And life cries out to be made sense of. It is also when most Christians become interested in apologetics, how their faith can stand up to well articulated objections made by cool, well dressed, intellectuals who haunt the halls of the academy.
When you have come up with something ask yourself this: can I measure my class by the aim? A vague aim like “help students to understand scripture” is hard to measure. What are you wanting students to understand about scripture? All scripture? All parts of scripture? How will you know that they understand? Sometimes this problem is solved by locating the standard more in the mind of the teacher than the student. For example, my aims for college class are testable even if all my students sleep through my class (some have and I don’t mind, college makes a person tired!). If you want to know whether or not your class “got it” you need some way to find out. Test them! Middle schoolers love a good pop quiz. The point is that if student understanding is a key aim (it is obviously an implicit aim of all classes) then that affects the lesson plan itself.
Any good ideas for class “hat tricks”? Share them in the comment box.