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Monologue vs. Dialogue

This past weekend, I was speaking at a church and one of the staff members was talking about small groups. He made a great point that I want to pass along to you. And that's this. Dialogue is more effective than monologue when it comes to learning, understanding and communicating. From children to adults, people are more engaged when you use dialogue to help them discover the truth you are trying to communicate with them. Many of us grew up in a monologue format. We sat quietly (some of the time) while a teacher verbally taught the lesson. The problem with using a monologue format is this - it's not the way kids (and adults) learn best. In fact, studies show that it is the least effective way to learn. So why do we keep using a subpar learning method? I think one reason is because it takes more work to create a good dialogue experience. You have to get kids to open up and talk about the subject. This means knowing how to ask the right questions and facilitating a good flow of discussion. It's much easier to just plan for something you do by yourself while the kids watch and listen to it. But we should be more concerned with being effective than we are with things being easy. Another reason is teachers are afraid they will "lose control" of the class if they let kids talk. You have to get comfortable with a noisy classroom. But done correctly, a noisy classroom is what you want. When kids are engaged and learning, it is going to be noisy. We see ourselves as a teacher rather than a facilitator. There's a big difference between the two. A teacher gives out information. A facilitator guides kids to discover the truth in ways they learn best. We miss opportunities to get kids talking. Every activity should have discussion questions tied to it. Every game should be used to jump start conversation. Every lesson should have as much, if not more, questions to prompt discussion. Take a look at these stats. It measures the effectiveness of teaching methods. Average Learning Retention Rates:

  • Monologue (5%) - worst method

  • Reading (10%)

  • Audio visual (20%)

  • Demonstration (30%)

  • Dialogue (50%) - 10 times more effective than monologue

  • Practice doing (75%)

  • Teaching others (90%)