Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brief Teaching Tips

Having recently finished his MDiv, my brother Garrett shared three teaching tips—for current as well as hopeful professors—that I thought were worth re-posting over here. The second one in particular is at once basic common sense and, naturally, the exact opposite of undergraduate and seminary practice in theological studies:
1. Do not orient a course to the student in the class with the least knowledge of the subject matter. Only one person learns when you do that. Rather, aim to challenge your most advanced students. That way, everyone should learn something.

2. Giving a theology student a book about how to think theologically or how to do theology is like giving 7th grade students a book about how to read fiction novels instead of putting To Kill a Mockingbird in their hands. To learn to read fiction, 7th graders need to read fiction. To learn to do theology, graduate students need to read and engage substantive theological proposals.

3. Give choices for reading assignments. I love when a professor offers three books on a subject and lets you decide which one to read depending on your personal interests. If students pick their books themselves (within your parameters), they are more likely to read and enjoy them. One idea I have thought about pertains to teaching a course on Church History. Instead of trying to give even treatment to Latin American, African, North American, European, and Asian Christianity in a general introductory textbook, let students select the geographic region that they are most interested in and read extensively on Christianity in that region. Of course, students will need some general introductory textbooks to read together and class lectures should give each region a fair shake, but allowing students to choose one of their textbooks will likely lead to deeper engagement of the readings.

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