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Move Beyond the Facts: Encouraging Questions in the Church

Bloom's Taxonomy - Brain Function

I love teens because they aren’t afraid to ask inspiring and mind-blowing questions. I am always encouraged by these queries because that shows me that they are willing to learn and grow. It shows they are humble enough to admit they don’t understand everything. Asking questions is one of the biggest ways to show how we are spiritual creatures, capable of choice.

This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide began with an introduction to this quarter’s theme: The Great Controversy. Monday’s reading described Lucifer’s deception as well as God creating beings with free choice. There was a particular line that stood out to me: “When God created humanity, He embedded deep within our brains the ability to think, to reason, and to choose.” This reminded me of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a method teachers use to measure how a student learns as well as the level of learning they are at. To be a good teacher means to encourage your students to be constantly growing. Here is what Bloom’s Taxonomy looks like:

The first level of thinking is about knowing basic information and remembering facts. The second level describes how those facts make sense. The third level measures whether the individual can apply what they have learned and relate it to daily life. These lower levels of thinking are important when encountering a new subject. The next three are considered higher levels of thinking. Number four relates with the individual being able to “analyze” or compare and contrast information with other materials. Number five is “evaluating,” taking the subject matter, defending it, critiquing it, and justifying it. The highest level of thinking is to “create,” to be able to take all the knowledge you have gained and put it into a product of your own making. It is the highest level of thinking because it uses all the faculties of the brain to not only take information and apply it, but to express that creativity to the world.

Parts of the great controversy relate to the components of wrestling, wondering, and proving, similar to Bloom’s Taxonomy. If God gave His children the ability to think, reason, and choose, and those aspects are important to experience love, how are we doing as a church to provide spaces for that? Is the church afraid of asking questions?

The lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy are very important. But I believe we are stuck in those three levels when we think about the church, spirituality, and religion. The church encourages people to understand the truth and even apply it to our lives. So, we focus on what we know, decide whether or not it’s true, and memorize those facts. Rinse and repeat. It appears that some people get nervous when the upper three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy take place within the church.

Some members get scared when others begin to question. Others will let people create if they stay within the confines of the community’s agenda. This begs the question: are they really creating? Growth happens when we reach the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Allowing for that kind of growth breeds healthy churches.

All of us were made to take what we have and create something better. It’s high time we encouraged this line of thinking. If we don’t, the church will become stagnant. Throughout this quarter’s Sabbath school lesson on the great controversy, may we go beyond the proof text and move toward higher levels of thinking to analyze, evaluate, and create something better.

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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