Traditional learning not working in this class

The traditional learning situation does not always provide a rich learning experience for adults. This was true for a class in which I was asked to participate, on Sunday at the church I attend. The class is intended to help acquaint and prepare members to attend the temple. Although I am not one of the learners in the sense that I need to be prepared (I have already attended the temple, with 30 years of experience), the class included those who have experience.

As is common in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, lay members are called to teach. The results are varied, some better than others, and some instructors become better as they teach. It is meant to give all a chance to be a teacher as well as a learner.

This was the first lesson and the subject matter was outlined in a manual for the instructor to use, listing an objective, suggested preparation and presentation. As this is largely left to the teacher to choose methods of learning, and involve the class, results are varied. Class members are encouraged to participate in these type of lessons, but this is at the discretion of the teacher. Suggested lesson development is included, but left to the teacher.

The subject matter for lesson one: "The Temple Teaches About the Great Plan of Salvation,"  covered the reasons for attending the temple and the doctrine presented in a temple session. The plan of salvation was covered, from the premortal life to the fall of Adam, the mortal life, death and resurrection, and kingdoms of glory. The class consisted of couples and single adults preparing to go to the temple for the first time. This is a class for all adult ages, from age 18 and upwards. There were seven students in the classroom, plus the teacher. The purpose of the lesson as stated in the manual is "to help class members understand that the plan of salvation is taught in the temple." The course is made up of seven lessons, to be carried out over a seven week period. Each class period is approximately 45 minutes in length.

The instructor stood at the front of the small classroom that accommodated approximately ten students. The attendees were seated in molded plastic chairs, facing the instructor and a chalkboard. One side of the room had a glass window, partially covered with a curtain. After the teacher introduced himself, student manuals were handed out and the lesson proceeded with the instructor reading from the teacher's manual, which consists of each lesson's objective, suggested preparation, and the presentation of the lesson, along with questions.

The class sat silently and listened as the instructor read a block of text. The teacher next asked one student to read a quote from the student manual. After which the instructor framed the question listed in the manual. I followed along with the rest of the class, quickly speeding ahead and reading the entire lesson in a few minutes. I glanced up at the class, and listening in as they attempted to answer the posed question.

The teacher explained that the plan of salvation is taught in the temple, but we can read about it in the scriptures. He said we can discover answers to these question about the plan: Where did we come from? Why are we here on earth? Where are we going after this life? The class listened as the teacher read a prompt,
"Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. As a result, they were separated from God’s presence. This separation is called spiritual death. They became mortal, which means that their physical bodies would eventually die. They also became able to have children. The change to the mortal condition is called the Fall." (Endowed from on High)
After the reading, the class members were directed to scriptures that support these ideas. We took turns reading. The problem in this classroom was not the material that was to be covered, as that has ample opportunities for constructing knowledge, conversing, discussing, and reflecting.

I was bored, and maybe the other members of the class were bored as well. Granted, I do not want to pipe up and tell everything I have discovered through the years of study, as it is imperative that each member discover these things on his own. The building of faith is based on this idea of developing your own testimony, your experiences, and letting others develop at their own pace. In fact, sometimes it is difficult to remember this and not just lecture, but instead guide and let the treasures be discovered by each individual. This was a traditional setting, where the teacher did most the talking, the curriculum was set, there were no group discussions, or individual study, and the material was dictated by the teacher.


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