Going Beyond Discussion: Other Activities for Adult Learners

Posted by Kristen Ferguson on

We have all been there. Another Bible study to teach, and the same basic lesson outline. It usually goes something like this: Opening illustration, read the passage, a few basic discussion questions, application, prayer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this lesson outline, but using it week in and week out can become a bit monotonous for you and your class. Why not try to generate some fresh interest in your small group by incorporating creative teaching methods designed especially for adult learners?

group of people sitting at tableWhat do we mean by "adult learner"? Educational research shows that adults have certain characteristics that inform how they prefer to learn, which then informs the sorts of lessons and activities we should create. For example, adults tend to enjoy bringing their own experiences into the lesson, directing some of the learning themselves, and applying their learning immediately to pertinent realms of life such as family and work.

Here are three of my favorite activities:

  1. Buzz Groups: Break your class up into groups of 3-4 people. Give each group a different topic to explore or question to answer. Let them search Scripture, Google, or whatever might help them come up with an answer. After a predetermined period of time, ask each group to report on what was discovered in the group. Then, allow each group to discuss how other groups’ responses related to their own. Summarize the findings as a conclusion to the activity.
  2. Prophecy in Pictures: Imagery in Scripture can be so detailed and abstract that we need to see it, or at least a visual representation of it. Bring some colored pencils and paper to class and ask your class to draw the imagery as you read it. Ask them to share their drawing and why they chose the color, setting, and details that they did. Make this activity lighthearted so no one feels intimidated about drawing, and use it as a way to bring out a deeper understanding of the text.
  3. Interviews: Ask your class to interview someone (maybe another church member, family member, or person on the street) regarding a topic you will study the following week. Without revealing their name and identity, ask the class to share some information they gleaned from the interviews. Find themes and ideas that resonate between the various people interviewed and make some tentative conclusions. Use this information to begin or illustrate your lesson.

There are many more activities that you can choose from, but only you know the interests and activities that will engage your class in the learning experience. Choose something that helps bring your main point home, gives deeper meaning to the passage or topic of study, and allows your adult learners plenty of opportunity to participate. Who knows, changing it up a bit might even be fun for you, too!


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