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Do we have the guts to confuse and perplex our learners?

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Today I discovered this TED talk by Ramsey Mussalem a chemistry teacher. Three years ago a life threatening condition gave him some deep insights into teaching. If you have a teaching role in the church this video is really worth watching.




Ramsey suggests that it is the student’s questions that are the seeds of real learning — not some “scripted curriculum that gives them tidbits of random information.”

I found this very challenging. It seems to me that most Christian Education curricula encourage teachers to spend a lot of time talking to children and asking them questions. If Ramsey Mussalem is right it is the children who need to be asking question. So I’m going to ask a challenging question:

How do we turn our teaching around, so that the learners are asking the questions?

Ramsey says, “If we have the guts to confuse our students, perplex them and evoke real questions…. then we as teachers have information that we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.”

My first response is to say, “Woah hold on a minute! Confuse and perplex our students? Really?” But isn’t that what Jesus did over and over again? Turn to John 3 and read the account of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Do you see how Nicodemus is confused and perplexed into asking deep questions?

Ramsey has three rules that he brings into his teaching

  1. Curiosity comes first. Questions can be the window to great instruction, but not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess- understand that learning can be messy- It can mean a lot of trail and error.
  3. Practice reflection

So how do we translate this into children’s ministry? For that matter how do we translate this into any kind of teaching ministry? How might this kind of approach change

  • the ways sermons are preached?
  • young people are prepared for confirmation?
  • synods are challenged?
  • clergy are trained?
  • church educational resources are written?
  • Bible studies are led?

I have no idea! I’ve only just started to think about it. I know it challenges me as a teacher and writer. It scares me to even contemplate this kind of approach. Do we have the guts?

What do you think?

“If we as educators embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity, we might just bring a little bit more meaning to their school day and spark their imagination.”

Sharon Harding

About Sharon Harding

I was born in England and immigrated to Canada almost 30 years ago. A graduate of Gloucestershire University (B.Ed.), I have been involved in children’s ministry since I was 16. Over the past 12 years I have written for a variety of Christian Education curriculum resources. I also write a blog at encouraging parents to build strong connections with their children. When I am not working I enjoy painting, reading, and pottering around the Internet.
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