Module 7 - Experiential Learning

Teachers’ Seminar 

Module 7: Experiential Learning

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this teaching module, the learner should be able to:

  • Explain five methods for teaching Christian experience.
  • List five ways a teacher can facilitate growth in spiritual experience in the lives of class members.
  • List six essential requirements the teacher must meet in order to make the Sabbath School class a laboratory for life.
  • Explain the key points of conversational Bible study.

A Laboratory for Life 

When teachers are asked what they most want to accomplish in their classes, they frequently say that they want to see a change in the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of class members. Good teachers want to do more than simply move facts from one mind to another. It was the purpose of Jesus to transform His disciples, not merely to inform them.

The Bible was written not so much to be studied as it was to be experienced. It is a blueprint for living. How can the teacher break out of the routine of teaching to the basic level of education, that is, providing simple knowledge of facts? How can the teacher address all levels of each of the three domains of spiritual learning?

Experiential learning is the best way to accomplish this.

Experiential Learning 

Discipleship. Disciples go with their teachers and observe what they do, ask questions, discover answers, practice using information, and receive feedback from the teacher.

Field trip. Students observe life in action and relate information to their observations.

Outside Research. The teacher leads students to a source of information that is needed for some life experience. The teacher allows the learner to go through the experience, use the information, and then get together with the teacher for reinforcement of useful information. Observing experiences via video or from personal sharing are other research forums.

Class Laboratory. One practical method of experiential learning is that of the laboratory. The laboratory offers a place for individuals to simulate an aspect of life in a formal educational setting. Because of the limitations of time and space for the other methods of experiential learning, the class as laboratory is most practical for Sabbath School.

In experiential learning, the Sabbath School class becomes the place where members talk out their experience, relate to the experience of other Christians, and apply the Bible to their daily lives.

Ellen G. White stated: “All have not the same experience in their religious life. But those of diverse exercises come together and with simplicity and humbleness of mind talk out their experience. All who are pursuing the onward Christian course should have, and will have, an experience that is living, that is new and interesting” (In Heavenly Places, p. 91).

The facilitator (teacher, discussion leader) facilitates growth in experience by helping class members:

  • Talk about their Christian experience in a positive way.
  • Help one another in their Christian experience.
  • Develop a good understanding of Bible information.
  • Apply the Bible to daily life.
  • Pray for one another.

Little real spiritual education takes place if practical application is neglected in the teaching process. Ellen White wrote: “It is easy for them [professed Christians] to talk of the truth, and the importance of keeping the commandments of God, when they have never made a practical application of the principles of truth in their everyday life. They have not made a success of serving God, and so have lost the precious comfort and support which is derived from communion with Him” (Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1885).

“The Bible is the most precious of books; and reading and understanding its truths, making a practical application of them to the daily life, will be of the highest benefit, elevating and ennobling the character” (Ellen G. White in Review and Herald, Dec. 2, 1884).

How does the teacher or discussion leader make the class a laboratory for life?

The basic method to teach spiritual experiential learning is to relate personal experience to the Bible. There are six essential requirements:

  • Understand how minds operate.
  • Have a living relationship with Jesus.
  • Know what constitutes Christian experience.
  • Be skilled in biblical interpretation.
  • Be skilled in facilitating group discussion of biblical principles in reference to experience.
  • Model application of biblical principles to one’s personal life.

The mode of study for spiritual experiential learning is a conversational study of the Bible. Find seven key points explaining conversational Bible study noted in the following quotation. “If instead of preaching to them, the speaker would try to teach them, asking them questions, and speaking in a conversational tone, their minds would be aroused to activity, and they would be able more clearly to comprehend the truths opened before them. . . As he goes over his discourse, point by point, allowing his hearers to ask questions and make suggestions, he will himself obtain a better idea of his subject” (Ellen G. White in Manuscript 41, 1903).

There are a number of different formats for questions: essay, multiple choice, fill in the blanks, matching, true and false, yes or no, etc. I have used two forms of questions for the most part, lists and an attitude scale. The attitude scale is the best format for evaluating beliefs, attitudes, spiritual insights, and degree of practice. Some of the other evaluation formats tend to be less dynamic. However, for the sake of variety, I will from time to time include other types of questions, including essay topics that participants are encouraged to complete and discuss their responses with a church officer or other interested church member for feedback. The resulting discussion will be a good exercise in itself.

Seminar Evaluation

The following evaluation is for teachers to measure their own understanding and practice concerning experiential teaching. It may also be helpful to ask class members to evaluate the teacher using this form.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

1.  Teacher can explain what it means to make the class a laboratory for life.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

2.   Members edify one another by sharing experiences in relation to the lesson.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

3.  Teacher encourages class members to ask or formulate questions for the class.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

4.  Teacher and members build up one another in love.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

5.  Teacher can explain the key points of conversational study of the Bible.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

6.  Teacher testifies about a personal experience that is new, living, and interesting.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

7.  List four methods for teaching Christian experience besides the laboratory method.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

Total Possible: 100       Your Score:              
(Add circled numbers plus 10 points for each correct answer in question 7.)

Assignment: Write a paragraph explaining how the Sabbath School is a laboratory for life. Discuss your opinions with another church member.

James Kilmer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists