Discussion Ruts – Teacher Training Session

Discussion can be a great Bible teaching method that can be quite effective but sometimes teachers can get into ruts in the way they use this method. If lessons become nothing more than questions followed by dialog, then perhaps it is time to consider other ways to use this methodology.

Here’s a teacher training session idea you can use if you’re a Christian Education, Sunday School, or Small Group Director who wants teachers to get out of their discussion ruts:

Sharpening Your Bible Teaching MethodsTo use this idea you will need to order the Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods Resource which permits you to copy and distribute it in whole or part to your teachers. For this training idea you will only make copies of the methods referenced below. (You can use the remainder of this resource at another time.)

1) Word Reaction/Circle Response: In just one or two words, give your reaction to “Discussion” as a Bible teaching method.

After everyone has responded, draw conclusions about what was said, which could include something like the following:

Positive reactions were undoubtedly based on seeing the benefits of using discussion whereas negative reactions undoubtedly come from ineffective use of this method and getting in discussion ruts.

In this session we want to look at the benefits of using discussion, how to skillfully use discussion, and then how to avoid getting in a discussion rut which can undermine the benefits.

2) Brainstorm why it is a good method to use. Write their responses on a chalk or white board. Once it seems they have finished, ask them to look at all the benefits of using discussion written on the board and draw conclusions about its effectiveness in Bible teaching.

Then state that for discussion to be an effective method, they need to:

  • Know how to guide the process.
  • Not get stuck in a rut by using this method the same way all the time.

3) Distribute the pages from the Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods Resource on Discussion.

State that to help them know how to guide the process, you are going to read through the “Skills Needed section starting on the second page of the handout.

You state the broad skill and then have teachers take turns reading the bullets under that skill. Do this for setting the stage, planning the questions, and establishing the guidelines.

Then when you get to the skill of facilitating the discussion, you will find three bullets. Have them take time to silently read what is under the first bullet only. Ask someone to summarize what they read in just one or two sentences. Do the same for the next two bullets.

Question: After reading through these skills, what is one thing that particularly stood out for you that you can do differently to more effectively use discussion?

 4) Refer to the final skill on the handout about varying the format.

This is what will help you not get stuck in a rut using this method. When you use a good method over and over, especially when you use it the same way each time, you can actually undermine some of the benefits we already discussed. (Point to what was listed on the board during the brainstorming session.)

5) Distribute handouts for the following variations of discussion:

agree/disagree statements
buzz group
case studies
circle response
neighbor nudge
word reactions

  • Ask them to quickly find and read the definitions only for each of these methods.
  • Ask them to pick just one of those methods they have never used before that sounds interesting to them.
  • Ask them to turn to their neighbor (neighbor nudge) and each share what method they chose and why.
  • Challenge them to thoroughly read through the handout on that method at a later time on their own and then plan a time to implement it into an upcoming lesson.  Encourage them to also read through all the methods handouts you gave them for possible future use but to particularly focus on the one they chose.

6) Follow-up after the training session: Check with individual teachers to see how it went using the method they chose.

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