The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jul 11, 2014

Pedagogical book alert (Those Who Can, Teach, ed. by Porter) and some other academic resources

Since it looks more and more like I’ll have the privilege of finally teaching full-time, I have started giving more attention to the art of pedagogy. As a result, I am pleased to direct the reader to the fantastic book Those Who Can, Teach: Teaching as Christian Vocation, edited by Stanley Porter with contributions by various members of the faculty at McMaster Divinity College (Eugene, Oreg.: Pickwick, 2013). Click here for the Amazon link.

This book is a treasure trove of essays which cover everything from syllabus creation to lesson-planning, all within the context of Christian higher education. Here’s some of the highlights so far (I’m halfway through the book):

The first chapter by Stanley Porter covers “Developing a Philosophy of Education.” Now, as far as pure writing style, Porter is not my favorite author (though he’s essential for any student of NT Greek and linguistics), and this essay is not exactly the easiest to read in the world. Having said that, content-wise it is fantastic, and I learned a lot from it. Porter covers the various views of education (both historically and philosophically), the weaknesses and strengths of each, and how a Christian educator should go about interacting with his or her students. Especially significant is Porter’s statement near the end, drawing on the work of Gilbert Ryle, that “The ability to teach oneself and think for oneself is what distinguishes education from merely training” (p. 36).

My favorite chapter so far, however, is Mark J. Boda on “Designing and Evaluating Learning Experiences for Courses.” This essay alone is, in my humble but correct opinion, worth the price of the book. This essay is very much student-centric, in that it is designed to help teachers meet the needs of the student. Boda discusses such topics as consistency in grading (p. 68—“I have found that the more time I spend reflecting on why and how I evaluate students’ assignments and communicating clearly the evaluation I give to my students, the less problems I encounter with students over grading”), how to grade, etc. The section at the end on “Best Practices” is fantastic, especially his discussion on professor feedback on papers. One of my pet peeve is papers I received with a grade but no feedback, or unhelpful feedback. In one of my doctoral integrative seminars, I got an assignment back with the remark, “Not bad, but not great either,” at which point I wanted to scream, “Then show me how to do ‘great’!” In my opinion, feedback on assignments is part of teaching, and I hope to emulate Boda’s excellent advice.

Here’s a list of all the essays in the book, for those interested, as well as a link to the Amazon site for the book (click here):
1.    Stanley Porter, “Developing a Philosophy of Education”
2.    Michael P. Knowles, “Pedagogy and Course Objectives”
3.    Mark J. Boda, “Designing and Evaluating Learning Experiences for Courses”
4.    Cynthia Long Westfall, “Developing a Syllabus”
5.    Lee Beach, “Sculpting a Lesson: The Art of Preparing a Classroom Learning Experience”
6.    Lois K. Fuller Dow, “Teaching Introductory New Testament Greek”
7.    Paul Evans: “Teaching Biblical Hebrew; Practical Strategies for Introductory Courses”
8.    Wendy J. Porter, “Leading Intentional Theological Reflection in the Classroom: The Merging of Mind and Heart”
9.    Steven M. Studebaker, “From Doctoral Program to Classroom”
10.                  Gordon L. Heath, “The Upside-Down Professor: The Professor in a Christian Institution”
11.                  Phil C. Zylla, “Spirituality of Teaching and Theological Integration”

And while we’re discussing Christian pedagogy, let me also mention my friend Thomas Hudgins’ new book (a revision of his dissertation) Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament (click here for the Amazon.com link).

Finally, for budding young scholars, click here for an excellent discussion of how to get your papers published. Almost all of what Dr. Kirsten Bell discusses here is both common-sensical yet nonetheless excellent advice for Bible and theology doctoral students, except for the part of nominating reviewers for your article (which I don’t think is an option in any of the Biblical/theological journals I’ve ever submitted a paper to). Her discussion about the need to actually be familiar with a journal before submitting a paper is especially key. Also, for good measure, here's a great article by Dr. Joli Jensen on "The Road to Scholarly Writing Utopia," full of more sound wisdom about motivation and time management (click here for the article).