PREACHING & TEACHING: Researchers have found that framing is important; human memory doesn’t seem to fully engage in the absence of meaning and relevance. Explain how the biblical story is relevant to the listener, before telling the story.

Michelle D. Miller. (2014). Minds Online : Teaching Effectively with Technology. Harvard University Press.

Take a moment to read over the following set of instructions:

The first thing you want to do is decide how many items you want to incorporate. Take t hem out of t he container — it doesn’t matter which ones, as long as there aren’t any obvious signs of damage. Place them somewhere secure, as they tend to move without warning and this can be disastrous. Take the first one you want to deal with, and grasp it lightly along the short axis, then make contact between this and a fi rm but not sharp object. Be sure you also have an adequate container for the material inside. You can repeat this pro cess up to two times, but after three, you should probably start over. With practice, you will end up with a clean separation, but even experts find that it’s diffi cult to keep the various components totally under control. Remember, this is a skill that gets better with practice, and physical strength is less important than dexterity and fi nesse.45

If you read this paragraph in an online course, do you think you could accurately remember many of the key points? Or would it simply go past you in a swirl of confusing, disjointed details? But what if I told you that this “mystery process” was a description of cracking an egg? Look back at the paragraph— it probably seems far more memorable with that key piece of context. Framing is important; human memory doesn’t seem to fully engage in the absence of meaning and relevance. Thinking back to the “function-alist agenda,” this makes a lot of sense— why should we invest scarce cognitive resources on information that doesn’t complement what we already know about the world?

45 This “myster y pro cess” description is adapted from the experimental materials in J. D. Bransford and M. K. Johnson (1972), Contextual prerequi-sites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 11(6): 717– 726.