Teaching in any Setting: Participation Project Environment

Participation is an important part of the educational experience. It increases the chance that information is correctly disseminated and received by teacher and student. This research project explores adult participation in the Laveen Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Elders’ Quorum class to put into action a plan that increases the participation level to reflect the Church Education System standard to help adults to rely on the teachings of Jesus Christ and bless themselves, their families and others. The research project studies class participation—its application to adults and how to improve it and is not a discussion of religion though the research is completed in such a context.

Problem Statement

The problem is that students in the Elders Quorum for the Laveen Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not participate enough in discussion or preparation for the lesson portion of the priesthood meeting

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to determine whether the application of specific solution strategy improves the weekly classroom participation and preparedness. The more a student participates in class the more likely that student will be able to retain the information learned and find an applicable use for the information. Classroom participation helps students to retain the knowledge gained. This research project provides an opportunity to assist students in the research group to find value in the education provided through the Church Education System.


Perspective

Many times adults who use the CES take for granted that the subjects covered are knowledge that they already possess and have little value in taking a fully vested interest in the classes.

This research study is to assist students in noticing the value of the curriculum through a combination of actions that help the adults focus on the value of being in the class and helping the class become a successful place of learning.

The instructor presented a survey to the students on the first day about the merit of participation; and, how participation can affect the class.

The first function of the research plan focuses on attendance.

Instructors should keep a record of who attends their classes and have contact information to contact class members when or if necessary. A student who provides contact information is more likely to take the class more seriously than if the class is one where attending class is the end of what the instructor requires.

This also gives the instructor a chance to learn the students’ names and call them by name when participating in class. This helps to build a relationship of trust giving the student one more area of attachment to the class psychologically.

The way the culture of the institution behind the CES exists appears to promote the idea of accountability and duty to participate in the education classes it offers to its local members. Taking attendance in the class builds on the idea of the social phenomena to create a stronger desire for the students to belong in the class.

Students also have homework to complete during the week and have specific assignments for the following class. Setting the expectation that when class begins the instructor demanded something more than to sit and listen prepared the students to participate.

Students know the nature of the topics at each class beforehand so that more discussion can occur than instruction. Discussion brings with it inclusion, participation, and preparedness.

The students knew that having all materials for class helps to enhance participation and result in a reward for students that have all materials for the eight weeks of class. Adults just like juveniles need incentives to help them remember to prepare all needful things for class, whether the incentive requires negative reinforcement by taking away a privilege or positive reinforcement by presenting a reward.

Description of the Community

The community is located in Western Phoenix in an area designated Laveen and consists of a diverse socio-economic mix of gentlemen from different locations in West Phoenix and Laveen and is a part of a larger community of people called Latter-day Saints.

The body of the Latter-day Saints church is a connection of geographical groups called Stakes and further divided into congregations called Wards. The wards consist of several leadership organizations that conduct the affairs of the local congregation all of which are volunteer positions. Of those leadership groups, the Elders’ Quorum is one of two groups directly chosen at the stake level leadership and functions subordinate to the other group called Bishopric.

The Elders Quorum is a group of men with the title of elder whose responsibilities lie with teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and blessing the sick and afflicted (Priesthood and auxiliary leaders' guidebook, 2001). According to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2009), the elders of the church are responsible for holding church meetings when a high priest (another designation for an office within the priesthood organization with higher responsibilities than elders) is not available to preside for said meetings. This group is exclusively male, as are all priesthood offices of the Church are, and has a long history of evolution that stands as the socio-religious result today.

The term elder in the Church has several meanings within the organization. One meaning is a title for general leadership of the church such as The Council of The Twelve Apostles and the Quorums of the Seventy. These Elder serve for a period of years to a lifetime and retain the title of elder for the duration of said time.

Another use for the title of elder is for a force of young adult missionaries that pair off in two’s or three’s and travel the world teaching about the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ inviting all to listen and join with the organization. This group of missionaries also uses the title of elder for the duration of two years or so until the service is finished. (Women are also in this force of missionaries, but not given the title of elder but sister.)

Another group within the realm of elder consists of all men above the age of 18 years who are not high priests. This group of men lack a specific title save one man in the group called the president.

From this last group is the study for which this research project exists. It takes 96 Elders to make a quorum of elders though local units generally have far less than that number (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009). According to the first president and leader of the church Joseph Smith Jr., the organization of the priesthood is such that each office within it progressively grows in number. The first group is Deacons Quorum, which consist of 12 members. Following is Teachers Quorum, which consists of 24 members. Then there are 48 priests and 98 elders. The progression doubles until there are high priests of which group there exists no limit.

The number of quorums of elders vary from stake to stake and ward to ward. Usually one ward of elders meets under the direction of an Elders Quorum president chosen by the president of the High Priest, also known as a stake president (Priesthood and auxiliary leaders' guidebook. (2001).

The president of the Elders Quorum is responsible to make sure that the elders are organized to meet often and perform the duties within the church and at home that each elder covenanted to perform. The president authorizes what the elders will be instructed and by whom the elders will receive instruction. The Elders Quorum president is an office that the church uses in conjunction with the bishop to watch over the members of the Church. The term elder is an office within a priesthood body referred to as Melchizedek (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009).

The members of the Elders Quorum share a responsibility to care for and support the members of the quorum (Neider, 2009). Active elders participate in a program labeled home teaching (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009) designed to watch over the members under the care of the quorum. In unity with all of LDS Christian tradition, the elders receive no compensation for service and local leadership has independent occupations (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009). The goal of this community of elders is to fulfill its obligation to members and community through service within and without the organization. The quorum presidency wants to visit all members of its quorum once monthly and the leadership encourages getting to know neighbors.

Description of Work Setting As of December 2011

The project takes place at the Laveen building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The student population is approximately 12 attending elders out of an approximate 30 to 40 listed on the records of the church. The cultural composition of the research group is mostly Caucasian members with two Hispanic brethren and one Black brother, which fall in line with the international mixture of the church population, which is predominantly Caucasian. The group of elders is all middle income or higher economically and most of the students speak a second language and served as missionaries for the church.

The Elders quorum has utilized assigned teachers. The class is a supplement to home education and other church courses. The elders in the class participate at the end of an assigned church three-hour block of meetings separated from family and spouses to be instructed how to be better husbands and men. The women have a similar class, as do the children. All the students will participate in the research program willingly with leadership approval.

Writer's Role

The writer holds a B.S. in psychology, a master in adult education training and has taught for over 15 years in the church educational system as gospel doctrine teacher and a youth gospel instructor. This experience has allowed the writer to observe multiple classroom settings and collaborate with several counterparts regarding adult participation in classroom settings. The writer also has taken part in a graduate level degree that focuses on adult education providing further insight in how to focus adult learning and provide a curriculum that will stimulate and engage adults.

The writer’s involvement in the graduate program directly related to this research project has afforded him the application of the techniques gained throughout the program instructing adults. The experience the writer has teaching adults over the course of 15 years contributed to the development of strategy to help increase participation based on what effectively worked for previous class experiences. The writer’s role at the time of the study was the Elders quorum teacher. The writer’s duties consisted of preparing lessons for the class from predetermined resource manuals adapting the curriculum to the students’ needs and delivering the instruction to all elders whether in class or not.

© 2012 Rodric Johnson

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