One of the problems facing ministries that provide Bible classes for children and teens is assessing whether or not students are actually learning anything in their classes. It’s not really an environment that is conducive to tests. Asking questions can only give you a snapshot of what a few students know (or probably already knew). What can you do to discover whether or not your curriculum and teaching methods are accomplishing what you intend for them to accomplish?
There are a few quick and easy things you can do on a regular basis to assess students’ knowledge and progress. Here are some of our favorites.
- Know/Wonder: Give students a sheet of paper with two columns. One should be labeled “What I know”, the other “What I wonder about”. Then at the beginning and end of each quarter, lesson unit or other time period, have them complete the sheet listing what they know about the person and topic and what they wonder about it. This will let you see what knowledge students have coming into the study as well as potential questions or doubts they may have. After a unit, it can help you gauge the effectiveness of it and see what questions students now have. (Be sure to address them, even if you have to tell them we don’t really know the answer. When doing so, protect the identity of the student asking the question.)
- Question Time Cards: The British Parliament has regular question hours when they can ask government ministers any questions they care to ask. Give your Bible students the same opportunity, but give yourself some time to research answers to difficult questions. Give students an index card and pen when they enter the room. Instruct them to write any questions they have about God, Christianity, the Bible, your lesson, etc. Allow them to add questions to their cards as you go through the lesson. Collect the cards and begin the next class with answers to questions from the previous class. Don’t share who asked specific questions and make sure you give answers that are theologically sound. This is a particularly great way to discover questions that could eventually prove to be stumbling blocks to their faith.
- Whiteboard Graffiti: As students enter the room, ask them to write at least one thing they learned the previous week in your class or something they know (or want to learn) about the topic of the day. To make it more fun, encourage them to be artistic. (Providing several colors of whiteboard markers can encourage creativity.)
- Sticky Note Exit Tickets: At the end of class, give each student a sticky note. Ask them to write on it one new thing they learned in class that day or one thing they are going to do differently in their lives because of the lesson. To leave class, they must give you the sticky note with an answer written on it. (It’s up to you whether or not you will allow them to write that they didn’t learn anything new during the lesson. Doing so will give you an indication if perhaps the lessons are too basic for your students.)
- Projects. While this is perhaps not so easy, it can be a great way to encourage students to dive even deeper into the person or topic you have been studying. You can group students or have them work individually. Ideally, students would work on the project at home, but that is unrealistic in most cases. Instead, try giving students one entire class period to work on their projects with additional time of a few minutes at the beginning of each class until the deadline. Make sure parents or other congregants are encouraged to view the finished projects.
Assessment takes a bit of extra effort, but it can prevent your ministry from wasting time and money on lessons that aren’t actually helping young people learn.