Learning Styles and the Greatest Teacher

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And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

- Mark 14:22-25

 

The world of education has picked up on a principle that has greatly benefitted the student population being served. Namely, the theory that the most effective teachers will use a combination of auditory, visual and kinesthetic (or “hands-on”) teaching methods. It is generally agreed upon that most students are dominant in one type of learning over the other two. For example, “Ricky” may find that he receives bad test grades when his teacher uses a lecture (auditory) style of teaching, but receives much better test grades when the incorporation of a science lab (kinesthetic) is added. Ricky is a hands-on learner and most easily absorbs lessons that are worked out in the real world with his own hands. It appears most students find themselves responding to one of the methods, while having a second dominant method and a third by which they are least likely to learn.

The most effective teachers are those who incorporate all three methods into their lessons. This ensures that their entire student population will benefit. Surely there is a good lesson here for all those that seek to excel in teaching others. How much more for those seeking to teach the truths of the Bible? Whether you are a pastor, a Sunday school teacher, a homeschooling parent or leading a small group, this is a good principle to keep in mind. 

What’s even more fascinating is that long before these insights had been “discovered” by humanity, Jesus, the Greatest Teacher, was already aware of the intrinsic value of these teaching methods. It makes sense that He would know how best to instruct us as He created us (Colossians 1:16). Just hours before Jesus was betrayed, He sat down with His 12 disciples and shared a meal. The Bible depicts Him holding up a piece of bread to represent His body. The visual learners at that table would’ve been most impacted by this. Lest the auditory learners miss this lesson that contained the central content of the Gospel, He also communicates verbally to them, “This is my body” and breaks the bread. Finally, He distributes the bread amongst the disciples and they get to hold in their own hands a tangible representation of what Jesus would do for them by going to the cross.  The kinesthetic learners are dialed in.

This is just a small sample of all He taught and did. As you read through the Gospels you can see He incorporates all three of the different methods at different times. When teaching about the importance of His crucifixion and the fact that it was done on behalf of sinners in order to rescue them from sin’s curse, the Great Teacher utilizes all three of those teaching methods. God’s common grace allowed humanity to identify and categorize these teaching methods hundreds of years later, but Jesus knew that what this lesson represented was of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) to those present, He made sure to appeal to all three types of learners. To this day, all three methods are incorporated when believers gather and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

 

Sean Nolan is husband to Hannah and father to Knox. He leads the youth ministry at Terra Nova Church, an Acts 29 Church in Troy, New York. He graduated from Baptist Bible College (BS and MA) and inconsistently blogs at Hardcore Grace. He likes reading and other activities that don't involve sweating.