12 The Role of the Student

Teaching The Gospel A CES Resource for Teaching Improvement, (2000), 44

Principles to Emphasize

The Student’s Responsibility

“Each person has a responsibility for his or her own gospel learning and living, and each will ultimately be judged by how they fulfill that responsibility” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders [1994], 13).

Focus on the Learner

One way teachers can help students accept their responsibility for gospel learning is to “stay focused on the learner and not just on teaching” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 13).

Suggested Training Activities: The Student’s Responsibility (15 minutes)


Invite teachers to carefully read the first two paragraphs under “The Role of the Student in Gospel Learning” (handbook, 13). Ask teachers:

  1. In the plan of our Heavenly Father, why do you think “one person cannot learn a gospel principle for another”?

  2. Who has the responsibility for learning? (see handbook, 13).

  3. Why do you think participation is so crucial for learning? (see handbook, 13).

  4. How could knowing about this need for student participation have an impact on the way you teach?

  5. When a student mistakenly thinks his or her learning is primarily the responsibility of the teacher, what happens to the student’s gospel learning experience?

  6. How can teachers help their students understand the statement in the gray box on page 13 of the handbook?

Scripture Activity

Read 1 Nephi 15:1–11, 25 and look for reasons Laman and Lemuel did not understand the meaning of their father’s words. Ask teachers:

  1. Why couldn’t the righteousness of Lehi or Nephi qualify Laman and Lemuel for such understanding?

  2. What was Laman and Lemuel’s level of readiness in verses 3 and 10?

  3. What responsibilities did Nephi remind Laman and Lemuel of in verses 8 and 11?

  4. In verse 25, how did Nephi attempt to help Laman and Lemuel understand their personal responsibility for gospel learning and living?

Nephi and his brothers


Show segment 1 of presentation 14, “The Role of the Student in Gospel Learning” (6:40). Invite teachers to watch how Brother Howell instructs his students about their role in gospel learning. Ask them to consider how they might adapt Brother Howell’s presentation to their own classes this year. Following the video presentation, allow them to share their responses with the in-service group.

Suggested Training Activities: Focus on the Learner (35 minutes)

Object Lesson

Display a magnifying glass and a mirror and ask teachers how each influences perspective and focus.


Invite teachers to carefully read the third paragraph under “The Role of the Student in Gospel Learning” (handbook, 13). Ask them to look for two things teachers can focus on. Draw a magnifying glass and a mirror on the board and label them according to the teachers’ answers (“Teaching Focus” and “Learner Focus”). Ask teachers to look for the two sets of questions that illustrate the difference between focusing on the learner and focusing on teaching. Write the two sets of questions mentioned by the teachers next to the drawings on the board, as follows:

Teaching vs. Learner Focus

Ask teachers: In your experience, what happens when a teacher focuses on the learner, rather than just on teaching?


Read together the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Concentrate on Those Being Taught

“A gospel teacher, like the Master we serve, will concentrate entirely on those being taught. His or her total concentration will be on the needs of the sheep—the good of the students. A gospel teacher does not focus on himself or herself. One who understands that principle will not look upon his or her calling as ‘giving or presenting a lesson,’ because that definition views teaching from the standpoint of the teacher, not the student” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 79).

Ask teachers:

  1. When the Savior taught, how did He focus on the learners?

  2. How did the Savior’s focusing on the learners affect them?


Show presentation 9, “The Woman at the Well” (7:18). (You may have already shown this presentation as part of lesson 2 or lesson 8). Ask teachers to watch the presentation looking for answers to the three questions found on handout 12. Following the video, ask teachers:

  1. How did the Savior focus on the Samaritan woman?

  2. How did this affect her?

  3. How could you apply this to your teaching?

Writing Exercise

Distribute handout 12. Ask teachers to read the scriptures in the left-hand column of the chart and fill in the other columns with their answers. Invite them to share their answers with the in-service group.