The Seven Laws of the Learner

Bruce Wilkinson wrote The Seven Laws of the Learner to give his perspective on teaching. In the book, Wilkinson explains his understanding of teaching and what he feels is the Biblical way to teach. The main understanding he wants to share with the readers is that learning, not just teaching is the responsibility of the teacher. As the title suggests there are seven main laws he uses to explain and illustrate the responsibility of the teacher.[1]

The first law Wilkinson established is the Law of the Learner. This law gives the reader a Biblical foundation for the rest of the book. He points out that according to James teachers will be held accountable for those whom they teach.[2] Understanding the responsibility teachers have in the eyes of God, Wilkinson shares insights how to not simply cover enough material, but to communicate in a way that grows real learning.

The second law is the Law of Expectation; this law focuses around the understanding that students will live up to the standards the teacher has set for them. In addition, the teacher needs to try to communicate in a way that relates to the students. In doing this teacher is able to connect with the students and build expectation for the lesson. If the teacher expects the best from the students and the expectation for the lesson is built up with in the students, they will connect with the information in a deeper way.[3]

The Law of Application is when the teacher connects the lesson to the personal lives of the students. This is a very important part of the lesson and preparation for the lesson. This is when the teacher must impart wisdom for life change and not simply knowledge and that is the main goal of the Bible.[4]

The fourth law Wilkinson writes is The Law of Retention. In this law, the teacher learns to help the students learn more in less time. The way this is achieved is through focusing on the facts and creating ways to make it easier for the students to recognize the information.[5] This could be through music, drama, or pictures, however the teacher presents the lesson it is in a way that connects and stays with the students longer.

The Law of Need is also a very important law. This law, Wilkinson explains, is teaching principles that meet the needs of the students. His example is a married couple asking for help with their struggling marriage; then the pastor goes to great lengths to explain how wonderful the Temple in the Old Testament is and what we can learn from it.[6] It is important that teachers understand the need their students have and connect the Biblical principles to their situation for life change.

Law number six is the Law of Equipping. Equipping is the teacher’s responsibility. The teacher needs to be equipped with knowledge, skill, and commitment. In this way, the teacher will be able to make the most of every opportunity that comes along to teach. God will equip the teacher to speak His Word, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to seek God to gain the knowledge to be a servant to the students.[7]

The last law is the Law of Revival. This law focuses around the foundation of the teacher as a person. It is important for the teacher to take responsibility for his or her own actions and life. When there is, a revival happening within the teacher’s personal life revival will start to take root into the lives of the students that he or she teaches.[8] In using these seven laws, the teacher is fully equipped to teach as God has called them to teach.

Critique

There is a lot I agree with in Wilkinson’s The Seven Laws of the Learner. The concept of the teacher being responsible for the learning within the student was a new concept to me and I did not agree with that idea at first. As Wilkinson continued his explanation and cited James 3:1, which says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”[9] This verse stood out to me, because I had studied this verse in the past in reference to the call God placed on my life. I knew that it was important for a teacher and pastor to not lead people into false teaching, but that is as far as I understood that verse to mean.

Wilkinson helped me to realize this verse also puts the responsibility of teaching true concepts and principles on the shoulder of the teacher. In contrast, I believed learning was the responsibility of the students, because this was my experience as a student. I was homeschooled up until high school and now attending LUO I am accustom to the idea of “self-education”[10] This philosophy of education was taught in Methods of Effective Bible Teaching. However, Wilkinson points out that if a teacher shares information and the student have not learned any of it there has not been any teaching that has taken place. When this happened the teacher would still be held accountable to James 3:1.

Wilkinson goes on with the hermeneutics of the word for teach and learn and discovered they are from the same root, thus they are the same word.[11] I was still hesitant to believe that it was completely the responsibility of the teacher that the student learns. He finished his explanation of this concept; by writing, the student must come with an open mind and a willingness to absorb the information and teaching.[12] This is what he calls the Law of the Student: “The student is responsible to learn, regardless of the quality of the teacher.”[13] After he laid this foundation that, the teacher is Biblically responsible to cause learning in the students; I came to the realization that he was correct and there have simply been a great number of teachers who misunderstand their role in the lives of their students and their learning.

I agree with the other six laws for the most part. The emphasis on the application of the message is the only I fully agree with. Wilkinson stresses the importance application is to the lesson in the third Law. “The Bible wasn’t given for our information but for our transformation.”[14] This  idea is also seen through the letter Paul wrote to Timothy,

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”[15]

Wilkinson explains that without application for transformation, the teaching of the Bible is worthless and this is something I strongly agree with.

Application

There are many ways the Seven Laws of the Learner can be applied to my life and teaching. I will strive to break down the main ways I will be able to use what I have learned from this book in my life in my life at home and work. In each of the areas there are many ways I can apply the laws of the learner to help me better lead and teach the people I meets.

In my home life, I am a father of two young children. I attempt to teach them the Word of God its principles. With the knowledge, I have learned from Wilkinson’s book; I will be able to help them understand those principles. The laws that are currently most important in my home life are the Laws of Need and Retention. In the Law of Need Wilkinson teaches, as teachers, we need to help the students understand their need for the information as Jesus did.[16] It is important for my children that I instill the great need for the Word of God in their lives. In addition, in this same law, it is important for me to meet their needs through teaching the Word of God in a manor they can understand and relates to their life stage. The simplest way to describe this is reading Bible stories written in language easy enough for them to understand and explaining how those characters and stories relate to their lives. Instead of explaining the Greek and Hebrew roots of words from the Bible passages to them, simply reading the basic stories will be able to meet their need at their level. The Law of Retention is also important for my children because of their young age. Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I believe teaching the Word of God to them at a young age will help them to stay in the will of God for their lives. The Law of Retention also has different techniques to teach for retention; some of these methods will help me to keep their attention and interest while teaching them.

This is easy to use in my work, because I work with youth who are going through crisis. I often have chances to share about the Word of God in their lives. The most important law I can use at work in the Law of Application. This is important, because the Bible is for life change. The youths who I work with need a life change. Many of them have tried to kill themselves or others. They need the principles from the Bible in their lives to help them change for the better and I can be the teacher to cause them to learn new hope in life. While at work I, as the teacher, need to learn to apply the hope found in the Word of God to their situations often times without using Scripture. An example of this is I lead the group of residents in an activity discussing the importance of gratitude and then made a gratitude journal with them. Being thankful for the things we have is a Biblical principle and will help use to have hope for better things. I was not able to quote passages from the Bible that support this idea, but I simply shared with them that no matter how many terrible things have happened in the past there is always something to be grateful for, even if its only air to breath. In both my home and work life, the Seven Laws of the Learner is a helpful guide to understanding how God has called all Christians to teach to others.

 

Bibliography

Wilkinson, Bruce. The 7 Laws Of The Learner. Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992.

Ryken, Leland, and Jim Wilhoit. Effective Bible Teaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012.

 

[1] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992).

[2] James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (NIV).

[3] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992) 105.

[4] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992) 161.

[5] Ibid (228).

[6] Ibid (305).

[7] Ibid (375).

[8] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992) 445.

[9] James 3:1 (NIV).

[10] Leland Ryken and Jim Wilhoit, Effective Bible Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012) Kindle location 609.

[11] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992) 17.

[12] Ibid (22).

[13] Ibid (24).

[14] Ibid (146).

[15] 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT).

[16] Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws Of The Learner (Atlanta, Ga.: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1992) 275.

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