2. We should check students’ existing knowledge
There’s another issue with the process of anchoring. When students anchor new knowledge to existing knowledge, that doesn’t mean the existing knowledge is right. A well known example of this is when certain behaviors of ethnic minorities reinforce an already present attitude of racism for instance. The new knowledge is anchored all right, but the existing knowledge is wrong.
When teaching Biblical truths, anchoring to wrong knowledge can have lasting consequences. Take the difference between linking to a pattern of ‘reward theology’ (‘good people go to heaven’) or ‘grace theology’ (‘we’re saved by the grace of God, not by works’), that’s a difference with everlasting results. It’s important therefore to not only help with anchoring, but also to check the existing knowledge and experiences.
It’s important to always be aware that existing knowledge can be wrong. Even with kids who’ve grown up in church, we can’t automatically assume they’ve got it right. Again, this can be done by asking about previous experiences or knowledge or by explicitly naming what you think the existing knowledge should be.
A big challenge here is that it’s not easy to change existing anchors and knowledge patterns. You may have to challenge well known wrong patterns several times and in different ways to get through.
Example: the Biblical viewpoint on sex before marriage runs counter to every message students hear around them. Especially when students are prone to look at rules (‘thou shalt not steal’) they’ll contend that there no such rule in the Bible (‘thou shalt not have sex before marriage’). You’re up against a deeply ingrained knowledge pattern here and you probably won’t be able to change that at first.
But keep challenging the status quo, the existing knowledge because anchors can be broken and thought processes can be changed, especially since the Holy Spirit plays a powerful role in this and He is able to do far more than we could ever imagine.