Here is an exercise to try with your team that will make you a better RCIA catechist. If your team is small, grab a few other parishioners to help. Or even better, get some folks who have gone through your initiation process in past years. Try to have at least six people involved in this exercise.
Three steps to remember great learning
After you have gathered everyone, hand them three sticky notes and some markers. Ask them to do three things:
- Recall an educational event they experienced that was powerful and effective.
Let them think about that for a while. Give the introverts some time to catch up.
- Write down three elements or strategies that made the event they recalled effective. (One element per sticky note.)
You just want the elements or strategies. You don’t necessarily need to know what the event was or what they learned. Again, give everyone enough time to think about these and get them written down. Once everyone is ready, ask them to stand.
- Tell them to find a partner and interview their partner about the three strategies they listed. Their goal is to remember something interesting their partner said. Tell them they have 30 seconds each for the interview (one minute per pair). Then, you ring a bell or yell “Switch” or something. Everyone has to find a new partner and interview that person for 30 seconds (one minute per pair). Try for at least three pairings. If your group is large, you can add on a couple more switches.
Explore what makes learning effective
Once everyone has had a chance to interview at least three people, ask them to put their stickies on a wall or whiteboard. Then ask them to share what they learned. They should share some interesting strategies they heard and not what they said about their own learning experience. Ask those who respond why they found those strategies interesting and what makes them effective.
Then, as a group, review some of the strategies posted on the wall. Ask yourselves if there are any that seem to appear frequently. As an RCIA team, ask yourselves if you are making use of those strategies in your initiation process. Also, ask yourselves if the strategies you are currently using appear among the sticky notes. If not, should you consider giving up what you are currently doing in favor of something more effective?
What I like about this exercise is that it helps teams realize that we all have experiences of effective learning. Sometimes, however, we don’t apply those experiences to the catechetical process with catechumens and candidates. Usually, the elements that made up our most powerful learning don’t look like what we often think of as “teaching.” This exercise can help you and your team break free from a limited idea of what teaching is and expand your repertoire of strategies for effective catechesis.
Do try this at home
Let me know if you try this exercise and what you learn from it. It would be terrific if you could share some thoughts in the comments box for others to learn from also.