Learning with the students

Posted on October 4, 2011 by Global Mission Support

The Rev. Justin and Kari Eller are ELCA missionaries in La Paz, Bolivia. To support the Ellers, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship. Justin writes in his blog:

Kari and Justin Eller

Kari and Justin Eller

Most of my students are second career and are taking classes at night during the week. This often means that they arrive to my class tired, hungry, thirsty and not in the mood to hear an hour and a half lecture.

The first class I taught here in 2010 I lectured and they listened for that was the way I had learned. However, I quickly realized that when students are bored out of their mind, they are less apt to learn. Also they didn´t read the assigned readings or turn in assignments, and what they did turn in was often plagiarized. So I asked them what was going on. They told me I was giving entirely too much work for them to realistically do in their free time. Ah, I remembered uttering those words to my friends in seminary.

I am a trained biochemist and pastor, not necessarily a teacher or seminary professor. So I had a thing or two to learn and, thanks be to God, Kari taught me everything I know as a teacher-professor. She taught me about effective lesson plans that should guide the lesson, not make it rigid and inflexible. She taught me about objectives and how to create assessments to make sure I had reached my teaching goals. She taught me how to have fun with my students and be dynamic and spontaneous.

Now in my second year as a seminary professor, every class I teach incorporates activities (most with movement) that make the subject matter apply to the daily lives and situations of my students. So now, my seminary professor colleagues here are asking about mine and Kari´s teaching methods because they have heard from our students that they´re staying awake in our classes and having fun while learning. I have plans to incorporate even more popular education and dialogue education models than I have been using thus far. As I believe and tell my students, “In this class we are all co-learners, the only difference is that we´re learning different things from one another.”