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What is the ultimate goal of teaching? Is it not to impart knowledge? Many think so … but just because a student knows something, does that mean they will use/ apply it? Would you not, therefore, agree that the ultimate goal of teaching is that the students not only understand the information, but make good use of it?! A teacher is like a catalyst in a chemical reaction. It is the student who makes the change (in their thinking and behavior) … the teacher merely helps ignite and accelerate that change! Indeed, if behavior hasn’t changed, neither has teaching/ learning truly taken place. Effective teaching stimulates (entices … provokes, in the positive sense of the word) learning on the part of the student! If the student is actively engaged in the material being taught; if they are inspired to consider the subject-matter from all angles and even excited by the “discoveries” they make, either by themselves or in discussion/ conversation with the teacher and fellow students, would they not be more impressed/ motivated to apply it in their own lives?

So, how does a teacher inspire such learning in behalf of their students? As stated above, it is through engagement of the students in the subject-matter! They must get excited about it … they must sink their teeth into it … they must begin practicing the principle being discussed, either during the time it is being taught/ learned (in the “classroom”) or immediately afterwards. Truly, we can only gain a testimony of a principle after we have applied it and reaped the results/ rewards of our efforts/ actions!

Now, how do we actively engage our students in the subject-matter? It is through the use of effective teaching methods. Effective teaching methods will “provoke,” if you will, diligent learning on the part of the student … they will effectively shed light on the information to the point it is seen with crystal clarity. As stated in the manual, Teaching, No Greater Call, a few of these methods include: comparisons, object lessons, stories, asking questions, discussions, using the chalk board, music and, by all means, doing assignments! One example of an object lesson occurred when Elder Boyd K. Packer* was a mission president. His wife had prepared a very tantalizing cake with “The Gospel” written on top, in icing, which President Packer presented to his missionaries at a training session. He then asked who would like some of this cake. All hands went up! He then had one of the elders come forward to receive the cake. To the elder’s astonishment, President Packer stuck his hand in the cake, brought forth a portion of it, squished it in his hand and threw it to the elder. President Packer then asked if anyone else would like some cake … NO hands went up. President Packer then had a piece carefully cut and placed on an attractive dish, served at a table with a linen napkin and nice silverware. Everyone was interested in having THAT piece. The lesson was obvious … in both instances, it was the same cake (Gospel, if you will), with the same ingredients and nutritional value; however, the way it was presented/ delivered made all the difference in the world as to how it was received/ accepted. (We might add, President Packer was more than glad to pay for the elder’s cleaning bill). What evidence is there that President Packer’s lesson was effective? It was later found that the missionaries not only (1) understood the lesson, they (2) remembered it and (3) applied it in their lives. Indeed, this is how we know whether any teaching method we use is effective.

Now come the two most important factors in effective teaching. How are we, as teachers, best inspired not only to know which teaching methods to use in a lesson, but also able to effectively use those methods while teaching? We must prepare, as well as teach, by the Spirit ... and our teaching must be the result of the love we feel for each student. We must have a genuine interest in each one personally, and they must (and will) feel our love for them by the preparation we give each lesson and the personal attention we, most often in small ways, give each of them.

One final comment -- as important as effective teaching methods are, they are only a means to an end. The important thing is that your students learn, understand, and apply true gospel principles. We must teach sound doctrine if they are going to benefit the most. To use an analogy, it matters not how good you get at climbing a ladder, if it is resting on the wrong wall! (Bob White, 6/26/07)

* (Teaching, No Greater Call, p. 222)               Assignment: Apply the above to your next lesson!

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