The Seven Laws of the Learner

(Hardback - Jul 2005)
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Teach to Learn
You teach to make a difference. Now, revitalize your classroom by learning and mastering these seven time-tested principles being taught around the world Written for teachers, including Sunday school teachers, parents, and professionals, this book outlines scriptural principles and techniques that will revolutionize your ability to teach to change lives. From the "law of the learner" to the "law of equipping," each chapter presents hands-on, practical tools for you to employ in your own classroom.
Make a Difference
Students learn best when teachers teach best So how can you do your part? Employ "the seven laws of the learner "and unleash your students' capabilities. You'll discover how to:
Help students reach their full potential
Effect lasting life change
Rekindle your flame for teaching
Create an excitement for learning
Transform apathetic students
Whether you're a professional teacher, a parent, or teach in any setting, these principles and techniques will empower you to make a lasting impact in people's lives. Thousands of teachers have already used these principles to spur their students to new horizons of success.
"For some time I have said to myself, 'Much of what I am doing in the classroom is a waste of time. I can't continue this career unless I can make a more significant contribution in the lives of my students.' "The Seven Laws of the Learner" was the answer to my need."
Seminary professor
Portland, Oregon
"For years I filled my students with content. But since learning the seven laws, my life and teaching have not been the same. Now teaching for life change and revival are becoming second nature."
Businessman, adult Sunday school teacher
Orange, California
Story Behind the Book
Bruce Wilkinson had received thousands of requests for a book about how people learn. Having taught teachers all over the world, he developed the Seven Laws as the basis of his teaching workshops. In 1991 he sat down to put this content into book form. Published originally as a partnership between Multnomah Publishers and Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, this book is a companion to the workbook titled "Almost Every Answer for Practically Every Teacher."


  • SKU: 9781590524527
  • SKU10: 1590524527
  • Title: The Seven Laws of the Learner
  • Qty Remaining Online: 14
  • Publisher: Multnomah Books
  • Date Published: Jul 2005
  • Pages: 491
  • Weight lbs: 1.66
  • Dimensions: 9.62" L x 6.30" W x 1.55" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product, Dust Cover, Bibliography
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Subject: Christian Education - General

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

Learner Mindset, Model, and Maxims

The first time I heard him teach, I said to myself, I want to study under that man! His name was Howard G. Hendricks, and I entered seminary to learn everything I could from this master teacher. I wanted to learn not only what he taught but also how he taught.

During my four years of graduate study, I listened to Dr. Hendricks for more than 350 hours and always left his class instructed, challenged, and a step closer to God. By the time I was a senior, I began to wonder if "Prof" even understood the word boring.

After studying how he taught for four years, I discovered he followed a basic style. About three minutes before class began, his right foot began to bounce underneath the old oak desk. At the precise moment the second hand swept past twelve he raised his right forefinger into the air, announced "Ladies and gentlemen ." and delivered an opening one-liner that was so stimulating all of us couldn't help but copy it down. After three to four minutes he told his first joke. Eight to ten minutes into the class he would inevitably rise from his desk and draw a graph or chart on the whiteboard. Always the blue pen first. Then the purple. And always with that unique squiggly underline for emphasis. His rhythm was unmistakable. And it worked-just ask any of the thousands who have studied under him.

During my last year of seminary I decided to give Dr. Hendricks a test. I wanted to see what this master teacher would do if one of his students would not-no matter what-pay attention in his class. I sat in the back right-hand corner of the room, next to the only window, and decided to gaze out that window the entire class session. Since there were only thirty students in the class, he was sure to notice. I took off my watch and started timing. What would he do if he couldn't get my attention?

As expected, he started off with a bang and delivered his usual one-liner. Although my hand began to tremble, I forced myself not to record the line. From the corner of my eye I could see that he noticed immediately I wasn't paying attention. He broke tradition and in the first minute told a joke-totally out of context. If I laughed he would immediately know I was listening, so I discreetly put my hand over my mouth and continued staring out that window.

As the two-minute mark passed, he got up from his chair and started drawing on the board-much too early. He again noticed that I wasn't taking notes, and he stopped right in the middle of his chart and didn't even finish it.

He put the pen down and walked to the corner of the room in order to look down the aisle at me, trying to make eye contact. Sweat beaded on my brow, but the seconds continued ticking by. I wasn't going to pay attention.

Finally, he broke. The master teacher almost leaped down the aisle and yelled, "Wilkinson, what on earth are you looking at outside that window?!"

With a sheepish glance, I turned around and said, "Nothing, Prof. Sorry." I looked down at my watch to determine his grade. Only three minutes and thirty-seven seconds had passed! Incredible. His tolerance for one student not paying attention was limited to 217 seconds.

With that remarkable experience freshly imprinted on my mind, I walked down the hall into the next class with a different professor. Talk about a contrast. One side of the room was filled by students who never paid attention but did their homework for another class. This teacher, however, didn't seem bothered; he just turned and lectured to the students sitting on the other side. His mindset was, It's not my problem if you don't want to learn.

What a difference. One teacher could tolerate for only a few seconds one student not learning what he was teaching, and the other didn't seem to care for the whole semester!

How would you have fared on that quiz with one of your students looking out the window? Would you have cared? Would the clock still be ticking?

Dr. Hendricks believed that, as the teacher, he was the one responsible for my learning. By contrast, the second teacher thought he was responsible only to cover the material, regardless of whether anyone learned.

Learner Mindset

What an extraordinary example of the heart of the Law of the Learner. Dr. Hendricks believed that, as my teacher, he was the one responsible for my learning. He felt responsible, and if I wasn't learning he did whatever it took-changed his lesson plan, his style, told an irrelevant joke, even ran down the aisle and confronted me-to get my attention.

This foundational attitude lies at the very heart of The 7 Laws of the Learner. In a sense, all of the laws are like a row of dominoes-this first one ultimately controls all the dominoes that follow.

Every master teacher I know shares the mindset that it is his or her responsibility to cause the student to learn. But do you know what the prevailing mindset is in the preaching and teaching community today? A tragic divorce has occurred: Teachers have separated themselves from their students and redefined teaching as what the teacher says rather thanwhat the student learns.

Teachers have redefined teaching as "the coherent speaking of an adult located at the head of the class to a passive gathering of students." They believe their primary responsibility is to cover the material in an organized manner.

They think about teaching as what they do-their focus is upon themselves. Many teachers cover their material and leave the room thinking they have taught. But if you gave their students a pop quiz, you would find out they hardly learned a thing. The divorce between teaching and learning is tragic and is at the root of many of our educational woes.

Dr. Hendricks modeled a revolutionary mindset. He saw teaching as not what he did but what his students did. His focus was not upon himself but was upon his students. Since that student looking out the window was not learning, Dr. Hendricks realized he was therefore unable to teach. That's why he stopped delivering his content and ran down the aisle!

Can you sense what difference it would make in your life and the lives of your students if you joined the ranks of Dr. Hendricks?

We've been asking people wherever we travel how they would define the responsibilities of a teacher. Over and over again they say, "To teach the facts," or "To cover the material," or "To complete the lesson plan." The focus of all these definitions is upon anything but the student's learning!

Somehow we think teaching is talking. If I come to the class and go through my notes and get you to laugh a couple of times, and you copy down my notes and maybe ask one or two questions, then I have taught you.

No, that's not teaching. True biblical teaching doesn't take place unless the students have learned. If they haven't learned, I haven't taught.

What does the Bible mean by "teach" and what does it mean by "learn"? Does God divorce teaching from learning? Let's look at a couple of verses out of Deuteronomy that are very similar but have a different focus. One focuses on teaching, the other on learning.

And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them." (Deuteronomy 5:1)

What does it mean to learn?

"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you." (Deuteronomy 4:1)

What does it mean to teach? How are these two concepts-learning and teaching-related? Are they as divorced from each other as we have come to believe?

In order to grasp the full meaning of these words, let's investigate the terms in the original Hebrew. The word learn in 5:1 is [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and teach in 4:1 is [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. When the prefix and the suffix are taken off of learn, all that remains is the root Hebrew word [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. When the prefix and the suffix are taken off of teach, all that remains is the Hebrew root [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

It's the same word! That's right, the same Hebrew word means to learn and to teach. Do you realize the significance of that? We can't separate teaching from learning. They are married; they are one. Somehow and in some way, what the teacher does and what the student does must be inextricably related.

There is further insight into this Hebrew word for teach and learn. The root means "learn," but when you alter it and put it into another stem called the Piel, it changes the meaning to "teach."

According to Hebrew grammar, the fundamental idea of the Piel is to "busy oneself eagerly with the action indicated by the stem." What's the stem? "To learn." To teach, therefore, means to busy oneself eagerly with the student's learning. It also means "to urge," "to cause others to do," and "an eager pursuit of an action."

Do you see how the Bible's mindset is the opposite of the common mindset of today's teacher? The Bible says that teaching means "causing learning." This is the heart of the Law of the Learner. No longer can you or I consider teaching merely as something the teacher does in the front of the class. Teaching is what the teacher does in the student. How do you know if you are a great teacher? By what your students learn. That's why Dr. Hendricks stopped what he was doing and ran down that aisle to challenge me. He knew that because I wasn't learning, he wasn't teaching.

Can you imagine what would happen in classrooms across the country if teachers returned to their rightful heritage? If they walked down the aisles, not with their outlines and notes, but with their students? If they vowed to be fully obedient to the biblical mandate ofcausing them to learn? It would start a revolution. Learning would once again soar, discipline would return, and students would start to love learning instead of hating school.

The Law of the Learner is illustrated by this diagram. The left box represents the "speaker" or "communicator." The center box is the "subject" or "content." And the right box represents the "student" or "class."

The two small arrows in this model represent the actions of the teacher or the student. Normally, the teacher focuses on the subject-"lectures" and speaks the "words," whereas the student "listens" and "writes" those words. Notice both of their points of attention: It's on the process of covering the material. And what often occurs is a thorough lack of learning. Students are free to move their minds into neutral with only their pencils in gear and all too often slide into thepit of passivity.

The preferred mindset requires the teacher to refocus attention from the subject to the student. This is represented by the lower arrow pointing from the teacher to the student with the words "causes to learn."

One of the most striking quotes I have ever read was from a frustrated inner-city father speaking of the school system's dramatic failure to cause his daughter to learn:

You people operate a monopoly like the telephone company. I got no choice where I send my child to school. I can only go where it's free. And she's not learning.

That's your responsibility. It's the principal's responsibility. It's the teacher's responsibility that she's not learning. And when you fail, when everybody fails my child, what happens? Nothing. Nobody gets fired. Nothing happens to nobody except my child.

How tragic, but how true! The 7 Laws of the Learner is written to enable you to turn this situation around-to teach so effectively that no one would ever consider looking out that window.

Learner Maxims

This second section, introducing the maxims, continues to develop the main concept introduced in the mindset and model. In order to clarify and expand your understanding, the "big idea" under consideration is investigated from a number of different angles and perspectives. A maxim is a brief statement of a general principle or truth, and therefore each of the maxims that follow reflects a different facet of "cause to learn." By the end of this section, you should much more fully grasp the greater meaning and significance of what it really means to "cause to learn." The deeper and fuller your understanding, the easier it will be for you to use this truth in your own teaching.

Maxim 1: Teachers are responsible for causing students to learn.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conduct an experiment. It was my first class on my first day of my first year of teaching college. My slate was clean and my reputation as yet unformed. My students had no way to know what to expect.

Class started and I began teaching the way I had been taught by most of my teachers. You know, the traditional outline with main points and subpoints. The students dutifully took notes. After about twenty-five minutes, I said to my trusting class, "Please put away your papers. It's time for a test." You could almost hear their hearts stop in unison. They were freshmen, and this was their first class. When I announced a test-on the first day-their world almost came to an end.

Finally the deafening silence was broken by a courageous girl in the back row: "But sir, we haven't even had a chance to study this yet."

"I know, but let's see how you do," I said.

I offered no explanation. (It would have ruined my experiment.) There was a rattling of notebooks as they dug for paper. Then it got real quiet. I asked a few questions from the twenty-five minutes of "teaching" I had just completed.

All but a couple of students failed. Royally. Tension was heavy, and I could read the glances that shot across the room: I'm transferring out of this guy's class!

Then the girl in the back row raised her hand again. It was obvious she was used to getting As. "You can't count that!" she protested.

"Why not?"

"It's not fair. We didn't have a chance to learn it!"

"So how did you do on the test?"

She looked down and said, "Sixty percent."

"What am I?" I asked.

"The teacher."

"And what's the teacher supposed to do? Teach the class, right?" I paused and smiled. "If I'm the teacher and I'm the one who is supposed to teach you the material, then how did I do so far? What grade would you give me?"

Their faces said they were bursting to tell me.

"Young lady, if your test score revealed how effectively I taught you today, what grade would you give me?"

By now, no one was breathing. Everything in this young lady wanted to tell me, but she didn't know if she should. So I told her.

"Your grade is my grade," I said. "What you did or did not learn is dependent upon how I did as your teacher. So your grade of 60 percent designates me as a teacher who failed in his job. I failed to cause you to learn. Give me an F!"

The class was stunned.

I took off my coat, loosened my tie, and continued. "Now, why are you paying this college all this tuition and not expecting me to do my job? How come I can teach for thirty minutes and have the whole class not learn anything? I thought my job was to lead you to learn!"

They wanted to nod. Some wanted to cheer-this was starting to make sense. "From now on, when you come to this class, I'll take the responsibility for your learning. If you'll come with an open mind-and an open heart-then I'll do my part as your teacher to fill it."

For the next twenty minutes I taught them. I taught them until they knew the material. Then I tested them on the material and all but two got As. With a twinkle in my eye I told them we couldn't count the first test because I wouldn't want such incriminating evidence of my poor teaching recorded. Ah, the joys of college teaching!



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