Friday, November 08, 2013

Apologetics Toolkit: Tips for Lifelong Learning #05

This continues the Apologetics Toolkit series on: Tips for Lifelong Learning. The goal here is to provide a sort of "apologetics toolkit" -- habits, tips, and tools the Christian apologist can use to continue to grow, learn, and develop.

Tool #05: Learn Through Teaching

The Problem: You think you know the subject. Your study it. You are familiar with it. You are immersed in it. But only when you attempt to teach the subject will you realize where you fall short. Everything changes when it is time to teach what you think you know. The fact is that deeper learning requires elements of teaching what you are learning.

The Tools: The teaching element of learning is not limited to the formal instruction of others, as a narrow use of the word teaching may suggest. Instead, the teaching element entails an intentional internalization and re-presentation of your subject. Here are a few ways that you can learn by teaching:
  1. Writing about your subject causes you to put what you have internalized into your own words. It forces you to make your ideas clear. It is intentional, specific, and displays in black and white what you know.
  2. Talking about your subject, formally or informally, allows you to interact with the ideas in a way that forces you to verbalize what you know.
  3. Explaining your subject to others allows you to adapt your material so that it can be understood by people at different levels of understanding. Your focus is to bring others to a fuller understanding; starting simply and going deeper.
  4. Rephrasing the ideas within your subject is crucial. Seek to own the idea for yourself by putting it into your own words, using your own illustrations, and presenting it from a fresh perspective.
  5. Summarizing by formulating concise verbal summaries of certain points allows your subject to be distilled in its simplest and purest form in your mind.
  6. Reviewing books on your subject is useful in extracting the key ideas from authors. This forces you to summarize and rephrase the ideas of others, which helps make them your own.
  7. Formal Teaching is the truest test. This may begin with a few individuals or a small group, and then grow to something more substantial - but perhaps here is where you can learn the most. Do those listening grasp what you are saying? Are your ideas bringing clarity - or confusion? The real-time feedback and "post-mortem" feedback from teaching opportunities can be the most useful means of learning.
The Benefits: By incorporating these elements of teaching, you provide yourself with the opportunity to learn more deeply. All of these tools will help you make the subject your own - in a way that is simply not possible otherwise.

What teaching tools do you recommend? What helps you to make your subject your own?

A book worth checking out that helps reinforce good communication is How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer J. Adler.


Craig said...

I would agree with the thrust of the article, especially point 7. Teaching others will test you and force you to understand your material. Since this is about apologetics, I suggest teaching material in Sunday school if it is possible. I taught the book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and it challenged me in multiple ways - first in having to prepare lessons and do additional reading, then in presentation, and finally in answering questions, many of which I hadn't even thought about.

emmzee said...

Craig, I plan to teach that book for this Sunday's class (grade 11's). Any tips? :)

Craig said...

It could be challenging to teach the entire book in 45-50 minutes. I would focus on the bare essentials. First note the components of the gospel and that the resurrection is essential. Then, note that the facts you are going to share are acknowledged by almost all NT scholars, atheists included. I usually present a caveat too, that we'll make our case assuming the Bible is not inspired, but is merely a historical book. We present it this way so that it can be examined using common methods of history. Do Facts 1, 2, 3, and 5. I would skip Fact 4, the conversion of James. The evidence is there, but it is quite detailed in the book. For Fact 1, the crucifixion, I would note that it's in all four gospels, and then note one or two of the non-christian sources listed in the book. For Fact 2, they claimed it and believed it, you could start with 1 Cor 15:3-8, noting that v. 3-5 date to within 5 years of the death of Christ. You could then bring in a speech or two from Acts. You could then briefly describe the suffering of the apostles for their beliefs. For Fact 3, you would note that Paul persecuted the church (his own writings as well as those in Acts). Then describe his conversion, in his own writings and in Acts. And finally his suffering too. Last, Fact 5, the Empty Tomb, though I wouldn't be as cautious as the book. WL Craig always includes this. Here you might narrow the focus by talking about Joseph of Arimethea (implies the tomb location was known), the discovery by women (embarrassing fact not likely made up), and the fact that it was discovered empty in Jerusalem (the last possible place that fraud could occur). You could stop here, or you might mention a few counter arguments. By now you're running out of time. Perhaps mention apparent death theory or hallucination. Most people find apparent death unlilkely, especially since they've seen The Passion of the Christ. The book has a good discussion of hallucination too. You could simply ask one of the students if he enjoyed the dream you had last night, to open the discussion of this point. I doubt you'd have time for anything else, like historical methods, so you'd have to implicitly describe why women discovering the empty tomb makes it more likely (embarrassment), or why it's important that the same basic narrative is in the gospels, acts, and Paul (multiple, independent, early sources), etc. The really tough task will be whittling it all down. If you could just get through the four facts listed above, so the students could take them home with them, I think that would be success. Sorry about the length. I hope the moderator is forgiving ... :)

emmzee said...

Thanks Craig that was helpful, I will have to spend some time tomorrow planning this all out! :)

Brian said...

I agree - very helpful. I will be covering this content in under two hours and I find this advice useful. Thanks!

jwwartick said...

Thanks for these excellent suggestions. I have been incorporating them (especially the toolkit #4 which has lead me to some new reading habits) in my daily life, and they've been very helpful.

Brian said...


Glad to hear it. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Here’s an acronym for the ways of learning by teaching.

F.R.R.E.S.H. Take

F- Formally teach
R- Review a book
R- Rephrase
E- Explain
S- Summarize
H- Have a “talk” (formal, informal)
Take- Take time to write

Hopefully, that will help others have a "F.R.R.E.S.H." Take
on something they’ve already studied for a while!

This sounds like some good advice to me...


beingcompletelyhuman said...

This is quite very helpful, thanks!

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