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Revitalizing Teaching and Learning at Friends Theological College

By Lon Fendall, Friends Theological College academic consultant

“Unfortunately, teaching is too often like putting money in the bank,” said our workshop leader, Dr. Chip Kingsbury. The workshop participants actually thought putting money in the bank was quite a good thing to do. But Kingsbury went on to explain why the banking model did not fit well with the goal of transforming leaders for present and future ministry. “Yes,” Kingsbury said, “saving money is a good thing,” but he challenged us to break away from the banking model of teaching that is so common in many parts of the world.

He explained that the first step in this inadequate process was depositing information in students’ heads, or at least on the pages of their notebooks. In preparing for exams, students memorize class notes and carefully reproduce them on their test papers. In this process, the exam is equivalent to withdrawing money deposited in the bank. In fact, just like the bank account might be empty after a withdrawal, the students’ minds might be almost empty after their exams, and little transformation would have taken place.

Kingsbury’s time at Friends Theological College in February 2012 is part of an ongoing effort to develop transformative teaching and learning at FTC. Two previous workshops on this general subject preceded the event, as well as the participation of one of the FTC faculty members in a two-week workshop titled, “Helping Learners to Think.” Dr. Chip Kingsbury directs the Collaboration for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the Christian Higher Education Faculty Development Network, both based at Daystar University near Nairobi. Kingsbury agreed to come to the FTC campus to present some of the concepts from the two-week workshop for the FTC faculty, faculty from another nearby theological college and two Friends leaders from Rwanda (who are hard at work organizing their own ministry training college).

Early in the workshop Kingsbury expressed puzzlement that teaching at the primary and secondary level requires extensive training in teaching methods, but no such thing is required to teach in college. If college teachers have only been taught with the “banking” method, carefully taking notes from lectures and drawing the information out of their “bank” to pass the test, then these teachers are probably going to teach the way they were taught. Kingsbury challenged workshop participants to teach in a way that students have to engage in “deep thinking” and enter into a discovery process with the teacher to produce “critical reflective thought.”

Dr. Kingsbury has already agreed to come back to lead another workshop in the future, and again it will be open to teachers in other theological colleges in western Kenya. FTC would like to be known as a place where transformative learning is experienced in every class session and the graduates are ready to be transformative teachers in their pastoral ministry and other areas of ministry work.