Wednesday, October 09, 2013
doing theology: teaching by induction and the flipped classroom
This semester I am experimenting with teaching theology by doing theology rather than by lecturing theology. Class readings and notes are placed online and students are invited to access their content in their own time. Class time is then spent interacting, engaging, doing. (I’ve described how I introduced this to the class here).
Each week I try to offer different ways to engage. Sometimes it is simply discuss the readings in groups, other days I offer some artistic and creative engagement, other days I use the Socratic method and pick on students whom I ask to explain to the class what they’ve read. This week the topic was Jesus. I decided to structure it as a set of challenges, different tasks, with students choosing what they did; how many they did; how long for; whether they did them alone or together.
Here are the challenges –
a) Tradition challenge – Read through some readings of early theological writings (8 readings selected from Alister McGrath, The Christian Theology Reader). They are actual words from theologians wrestling with Who is Jesus? . Make your own written dot point notes of any connections you make between these readings and the class lecture notes (ie page 3 of your notes).
b) History challenge – Consider Jesus morph.
Connect the dates of the Jesus morph with the timeline from an earlier class reading, Ellen Charry, Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings). What do you already know about any of these dates, that might help you understand the Jesus Morph? Make dot point notes on the provided timeline.
c) Method challenge – Take the class reading. (Clive Pearson and Jione Havea, Faith in a Hyphen: Cross-Cultural Theologies Down Under). Choose one of the three Christologies (one Samoan, two Korean). Read it, looking for examples of the use of Scripture, tradition, experience, reason. List your examples on the whiteboard.
d) Context challenge – Take a walk outside. Reflect on what, in Australian contexts today, might help you, and your friends, make connections with Jesus the Christ.
e) Moodle challenge – If you have internet access (through your 3G cell phone or ipad), then log onto the class moodle site and complete the exercises there in relation to this lecture.
f) Help desk challenge – Chat with Steve about any questions you have from notes, readings or life.
At around 3:15 pm, we will all gather for any reflection and general learning.
If I had more time (ie next time I teach it), I would try and add in some immediate feedback. I would offer some multi-choice options in relation to the history challenge, I would ask them to see me for a model answer to the method challenge. Nevertheless it was a good start and I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the degree of engagement and energy and the connections being made in our interaction.
I’ve also discovered that this approach, which I had intuitively decided to try, actually has a technical name -”flipped classroom” – and is at the forefront of contemporary learning innovation. I simply thought it was an idea that made sense of basic adult education principles.
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