Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hey, NT Profs: A Question for You

Having returned from both Thailand and Alabama, both of which require visas, I'll be returning to the neglected passages list before long. For now, though, I'd like to follow up on a discussion I had with a friend. He related something he recently learned that he does not remember from seminary, and I replied.

There's a huge gap between what I learned in seminary and how I teach today.

Thus, my question to other biblical studies instructors: How does your classroom teaching compare with what you received as an undergraduate or (if applicable) seminarian?

If you don't teach, a different question: Looking back at your education, how do you wish you'd been taught?

9 comments:

bimshire68 said...

Greg,

Great question! Both the content I teach and the pedagogy I use are radically different than those under which I learned.

At some point 2-3 years ago, I started asking whether there was any real point to teaching the traditional 27 books class, since that was simply a repetition of the content of most NT textbooks. I moved to teaching in 3 themes over the course of the semester and evaluating students' understanding of those themes through papers rather than exams.

Further, I have started reading pedagogy theorists like hooks, Brookfield and Vella and using their suggestions when I teach. From hooks, I bring to the question the role of my autobiography in the classroom and the willingness to take risks in front of the students. From Brookfield, thinking critically about how students learn and using the Critical Incident Questionaire every class. From Vella, the four-pronged approach to adult learning--Inductive, Input, Implementation, and Integration as a way of structuring my class assignments.

Rather than assign 1 text book, I now randomly assign one of three and have students compare notes. I also assign a lot of articles.

A huge change, this semester, is that I will be teaching Intro asynchronously and on-line. So now, I'm really thinking in terms of learning objectives and how I can evaluate that students have learned a particular method of research without seeing or speaking directly to them.

How have you changed?

Margaret A

Joel Green said...

Good question, Greg. I would have to say that my seminary education in biblical studies focused more on learning "about" biblical studies, and particularly about critical issues in biblical studies. The focus often seemed to be on learning what others, contemporary experts especially, had to say about such-and-such a text.

I have worked harder, then, on inducting my students into an engagement with the text, on habituating my students in methodological sensibilities, and encouraging them to find conversation partners for engaging texts from among their peers and from among both contemporary and premodern experts... My mantra has been "a close reading of the text, a close reading of the text," and, stealing a proverb from my former colleague, Francis Ian Andersen, I have urged them to imagine that "the text sometimes sheds a lot of light on the commentary."

Sarah said...

Sadly, most of my seminary schooling was based less on the scripture and our analysis of it and more on what will "play" from the pulpit. Discussions that were particularly interesting, deep, insightful, sometimes heretical, etc. got little play because there was the general assumption that no one in the pew wants to hear this/needs to hear this/would believe you if you told them - so it's a waste of your time and your putting your job on the line.

I was also sad to realize that most of my professors made assumptions about all of the students before we even started - we were there to jump through the hoops to get ordained and had little interest in real learning/discussion. Since I didn't fit into the one category of student they expected to see, there was a general sense of "why are you here?" which seems exceptionally sad.

I can pinpoint when I learned the most (and was most developed both academically and spiritually) - it was in undergrad and I did a honor's thesis on Melchizedek. The targeted study allowed me to explore the various lines of thought, other religions that intersected, Hebrew scriptures vs New Testament theories and thoughts, etc. The point - a survey course of the entire New Testament is perhaps a necessary evil but not where the real learning will take place, in my opinion.

Also, there has to be a mix of traditional theories of "how to read the bible" with newer ideas, with a critical eye to what that highlights and leaves out when brought to the text. Had a wonderful service learning class which included reading the bible with the damned, and we all
read with other populations to experience how reading is changed by day, location, socio-political locations. I was at a homeless men's shelter and we read through Job together. Others were in the women's prison, drop in center, and a safehouse for GLBT teens. Amazing to me how many people graduated with me with no concept of "the way I read and understand scripture is perhaps largely determined by who I am."

For what that's worth. Thanks for asking/thinking critically about this.

Reverend Ref + said...

All in all, seminary was pretty good; however, it was a little more "academic" at times than I wished it were, if that makes any sense.

We spent time researching, thinking, breaking down, writing, studying, etc. All of that has helped in my vocation, certainly. But I do wish we had been given the opportunity to learn how to teach.

I think a class on how to put together an adult study class, bible study, catechism, etc. would have been immensely helpful.

Yes, we know lots of stuff . . . now how do we teach that stuff to our parishioners in order to help make better disciples?

pgmccullough said...

Thanks for asking the question, Greg. I have posted a (probably too lengthy) response on my blog.

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