The Sharon Bible School Teaching Method

There are many sources of Bible study on the Internet, many of them providing accredited online degrees. But many indigenous pastors, evangelists, or other Christian workers in "third world" countries cannot afford a computer, or even cybercafe fees, to access these sources. Sharon Bible School is developing a new method of teaching that aims to reduce these costs and limitations of computer access, while using the Internet as the main method of access. Here we explain the basic concepts of the method.

Basic Concepts

Lesson Format

(1) We use lessons that have a format similar to this:

This pattern (Bible passage, question, answer, question, answer, question, answer, etc.) is repeated throughout each lesson. Occasionally, there may be introductory text, definitions of terms, an outline of a book of the Bible, or other auxiliary text, but the lesson primarily follows this pattern.

(2) Each lesson is published on the Internet as a PDF Forms document. The PDF format provides a predictable format of the printed document, independent of the computer and operating system, because a free PDF Reader program is available for all computer systems. But the PDF Forms format goes a step further. The lesson can be printed and the answers written in 'by hand', OR the blanks can be filled in on the computer, using the same free PDF Reader. Here is a sample lesson page.

(3) We use a mixture of two methods of scoring (grading) lessons. (This involves some fancy mathematics, but we won't try to explain that part.) This innovative approach enables us to reduce the amount of computer usage, and thus, to reduce the cost.

Home Scoring

(3a) For each lesson, only 20% of the students enter their answers into the PDF lesson form on a computer, from where it is emailed back to for scoring by home administrators. We call this home scoring. A different 20% (one-fifth) of the students is 'randomly' chosen (by computer) for each lesson, so that in every sequence of five consecutive lessons, each student has returned the answers for one lesson this way.

Peer Scoring

(3b) For each lesson, the other 80% of the students score the lessons of four other students anonymously. (The scoring is anonymous because the lessons are identified only by a four-digit Student ID number, and each student knows only his (meaning his/her) own number. Also, the choice of who scores whom is chosen 'randomly' by computer so that it will be a long time before the same choice is made again.)

We call this peer scoring, and it is done at the end of the teaching process (described later), so that the student at this time should know and understand the difference between good and complete answers, and poor or incomplete answers. His scores will be compared with those of other students and with the home scores.

Here is what it does:

This is how it works:

Multiple Learning Phases

The student goes through these five phases of learning for each lesson, and the varied repetition helps the student retain what he has learned:

Details of the Method

We will explain next each of these learning phases in more detail.

Working at Home:

Discussion Groups:

Lecture Period:

Returning Answers:

Sorting the Lessons:

Peer Scoring:

In Case of Absences

Absences will seriously degrade the learning experience of the other students, and create additional administrative work, so all students must be committed to be faithful and timely. However, sickness and accidents may happen, and we must be prepared to deal with this as best we can.

If there is an absence, the student or a member of his family must promptly report this beforehand to the school if possible; and in any case must report the reason for the absence. If lessons have been done, arrangements should be made to bring these to the school for the days of attendance so that they will be available for peer scoring, and if so scheduled, to be entered into the computer by the director or a volunteer for email return. Lessons must not be skipped, but must be done even if late.

If a student that is scheduled to return his answers is absent, the director, will designate another student to return his own answers instead, based on the peer group schedule (which only the director has).

If there is an absence and no one brought the lessons from the absent student, a few peer scoring forms with have a column with no data, The director will scan these incomplete forms along with the others, but will set them aside so that they can be completed and scanned again later.

Day Schedules

The director will prepare a schedule of activities for each day of meeting. Each day-schedule will include a "morning session" and an "afternoon session", and sometimes an "evening session", which are times allotted for the Bible study activities as described above. Before, in-between, and after these sessions will be times for other activities such as a time for sharing about blessings and needs, a time for prayer, a meal time, and time for worship and/or music. There will be 10-minute breaks between all of these activities for personal use.

The Bible study activities occur during the "session" periods, but without specified starting or ending times. For example, suppose that 3 hours, from 9am to 12noon, are assigned to the morning session, and lesson 1 is done in 2 hours. The lesson 2 is started and interrupted at the end of the morning session, and continued in the afternoon session. If lesson 3 is not done by the end of the day, then it is resumed the next day of meeting. This is done because some lessons take longer than others, and the lessons should not be hurried to fit a schedule.

There should be no more than three meeting days each week, to allow students time to do the home Bible study, and time for other responsibilities that they may have. If there are accommodations for overnight sleeping, meetings on consecutive days provides the advantage of reducing travel. In such a case, the first day will start later than the others, and the last day will not have an evening session.