How often do we focus on ‘what we need to teach’ above ‘what is actually being learnt’?
This distinction really struck a chord with me when I stumbled across this excellent resource which for me, as someone who is not a qualified teacher, has given me fresh insight.
If we want our candidates to be active learners, the learning objectives need to contain ‘active’ verbs rather than ‘passive’ ones. This supports what I wrote about in my last post – how the GDC promotes the activity of the catechised. So, for example, our Confirmation class last night had the following learning objectives:
Candidates will be able to:
1. Recall the definition of sin.
2. Distinguish between Original Sin and personal sin.
3. Recount the event of the Fall.
4. Explain why we suffer from concupiscence.
5. Analyse the different ways in which Mary and Eve used their freedom.
6. Examine the areas of sin in their own lives.
Dees makes the excellent point that as catechists and teachers we are very keen on thinking up ways to teach our key points, but less good at assessing that these objectives have actually been met. He gives some excellent and innovative ways of assessing that the candidates can do these things – rather than the typical worksheet where they answer questions or fill in the blanks.
The final step is to choose teaching strategies that will achieve these learning objectives. Dees provides a vast matrix of many different strategies which correspond to different styles of learning.
The Pedagogy of God
My final remark would be that, within this extremely helpful process for planning effective catechesis, as catechists we mustn’t lose sight that we catechise according to the pedagogy of God. We proclaim the Gospel because this is what God does. Similarly, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the interior Teacher – we are his instruments as catechists. Sometimes we might get so hung up on making a session so exciting and active, that we forget that catechesis is a work of God – not our work. If we fill a prayer time, for example, with different prayer ‘activities’ but never allow for silence, we may well be leading candidates away from God, not to Him.
This is expressed well in this video clip below. Lord, make us faithful instruments so that you may form – through our work – young people like these: