It has taken me longer than I would have liked to blog about the classes I have taken at Princeton Theological Seminary thus far, but it is still my intention to do just that.
The last class I took in Fall 2009 was Teaching the Bible in Church with Dr. Gordon Mikoski. I took the class in the Fall short term (also referred to as the Jan or J term) so the class met Monday through Friday 9am – 12pm for three weeks. The syllabus described the course this way:
Pastors and teachers in congregational settings require dynamic conceptions of the theory and practice of teaching scripture in order to carry out the church’s ministry of education and formation in effective ways. This course will explore the dynamic intersections between biblical knowledge, needs of various learners in congregations, and creative pedagogies. This course fulfills the education and formation requirement.
The books used were:
- Martin, Dale. Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
- Pelikan, Jeroslav. Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages. New York, NY: Viking, 2005.
- Gunter, Mary Alice, Thomas H. Estes, and Susan L. Mintz. Instruction: A Models Approach. 5th edition. Boston: Pearson, 2007.
Each morning started with lecture and was followed by precepts (small groups intended for further discuss of lecture topics and reading assignments) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays left room for discussion of teaching the Bible through art (i.e., music, paintings, etc.) and “bizarre” or shall we say very creative ways to teach the Bible (one example that was shown used bats [the animals] to teach the Bible). The second half of the class period was devoted to teaching demonstrations (more on that later).
The first two books listed were covered first and the lecture was designed to establish a baseline for broadening our perspective on the Bible, its history, and the way we think about and use the Bible. As I had learned much of this information prior to attending this class it was rather redundant, but the information covered was good. The first assignment, a 5 page reflective essay, covered this information and was worth 20% of the final grade. I will post my essay as a separate post.
The last book is a more traditional “text book” and covered various models of teaching. Each precept was split in half and assigned a teaching model and scheduled to present this model to the class. This is where the teaching demos came into play.
Each precept subgroup developed and taught a 45 minute lesson that demonstrated their model. Each teaching team selected a biblical subject matter (e.g. book, genre, section, theme, character, theological point, application, or history of interpretation, etc.) for use in a teaching session for a particular group of learners (e.g. children, youth, adults, etc.) in a specific learning setting (e.g. church school class, retreat, youth group, camp or conference, academic class, etc.). Lesson plans were distributed to the class and assessment for the teaching demonstration was based on a combination of written lesson plan and team teaching performance. This teaching demo was 20% of the final grade. My group was assigned Synectics and our chosen topic was evangelism. I may post some thoughts about this project separately.
The final course requirement was a final project worth the remaining 60% of the final grade. There were four options given and I chose the first one listed:
- Develop a piece of Bible-oriented curriculum of four to six (4-6) sessions for use in an ecclesial setting. This project should include a prefatory analysis of key assumptions about the aims, content, learners, and teaching methods that inform the development of the curriculum.
- Develop an online resource for teaching the Bible in the church. This project should include a written analysis of key assumptions about the aims, content, learners, and teaching methods that inform the development of the curriculum.
- Write an in-depth critical essay analyzing a major Bible-oriented curriculum currently in use by a denomination or by a particular congregation within that denomination.
- Write a research paper on some significant dimension of the challenge of bridging the gap between study of the Bible in the academy and in the church.
This project had to be 15-20 pages long but could not be longer than 35-40 pages. As curriculum writing can get rather involved, the page limit was intended for the student’s benefit. My project was a curriculum based on using art to teach the Bible. While I cannot post the entire project due to copyright restrictions on the artwork I used, I will post what I can in a separate post so you can get an idea of what I did.
There were 3 optional field trips that were a part of this class. During the first week of class, there was a field trip to the Princeton University Art Museum. Two docents from the museum conducted the tour of displayed art work relevant to the course. During the second week, students had the option to sign up for a visit to the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University. The third field trip was a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where a docent provided a guided tour of selected, relevant items in the museum collection.
I definitely learned a great deal in this course. It was very practical and broadened my horizons for the resources available and techniques currently in use for helping people learn. Unfortunately I also felt that there was too much covered in this course when the assignments were factored in. Going over a new teaching method every day in addition to preparing for a group presentation and a final project ended up sending my brain into overload about midway through the class. I wished some of the information in the beginning about the Bible itself was omitted but for lack of importance, but in light of the fact that this information is covered in required first year classes I feel it would have made a better use of time to jump right into the teaching methods themselves and potentially leave more time for discussion. I am glad I took this course but do not intend on taking this type of class during a short term again.