Learning to teach and teaching to learn

“The more I have prepared to teach, the more I have learned and understood. Each time I teach I learn many things through what I deliver, and the participants also teach the facilitator through the discussions or dialogue” (Stephen Kewaza, Provincial BUILD Coordinator, Church of Uganda).

Learning to teach and teaching to learn is the title of one BUILD learning unit. In the context of the sustained learning that is Psalm 73, it draws attention to features of the BUILD curriculum which, by providence and design, make it such an effective training tool. For example, the unit points to the familiar pyramid of learning retention by teaching method used. The ascending recall rates are around 5% for a lecture, 10% for reading, 20% for audio-visual, 30% for demonstration, 50% for discussion, 75% from action, and 90% from teaching others (e.g. David Sousa, How the Brain Learns).

BUILD participants are challenged by the figures and note how the Psalmist himself reflects and passes on his learning in the form of the Psalm. As a result learning preferences and local learning styles are discussed, along with the need for a range of teaching strategies, and the importance of passing on learning. They learn that ‘teaching-to-learn’ has become a recognised adult-education strategy in its own right.

The curriculum as a whole illustrates these points: BUILD uses a number of methods, including highly visual and active approaches to understanding biblical texts, with discussion central to BUILD. And teaching-to-learn is integral as trainers are exposed to training modules and, with the help of notes, pass on their learning through local BUILD groups. Stephen Kewaza, quoted above, adds that for the believer God and his word stands behind this process:

“I have grown steadily spiritually too: when you read the bible to teach others there is a way God speaks to you as a person. Through the time of preparation you end up also reflecting on God’s message and what he wants you to do. The Bible is a unique book which does not spare anyone. As you preach or teach others the Holy Spirit also teaches you.”

Stephen also points to the fact that the Scriptures arm the teacher with the attitudes needed for teaching-to-learn: “My experience indicates that I am the most needy student…, rather than those being taught.”

Finally, his experience bears out recent research that suggests that the learning from teaching-to-learn is deepened when retrieval is achieved without notes:

“When I first roughed [through] BUILD module one in 2005/6 there were many challenges to me as teacher. I was always reading the participant’s and facilitator’s notes word to word when teaching. But after ten years I can teach even without the books. One time my students asked me: “Sir, how did you learn all this with biblical references in your head?” I answered that if you start groups to teach you will also better understand the subject and topics.”

Over time it is important for trainers to be weaned off notes, and that in turn streamlines BUILD training further, making it yet more scalable and sustainable.