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.

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Posted by steve at 06:07 PM


  1. Inspiring. Innovative. Love it

    Comment by Andrew — October 9, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

  2. Thanks Andrew. Your ministry of encouragement means a lot.

    Perhaps you could return to study 🙂 I’m wanting to teach “Missional Jesus” like this in Semester 2, 2014,


    Comment by steve — October 9, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

  3. In my dotage I find this really exciting. I wish I were at at a different stage in my life’s journey so that I could participate.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — October 10, 2013 @ 9:12 am

  4. Thanks Bruce. Appreciated,


    Comment by Steve — October 10, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

  5. Thanks Steve. Inspirational. I agree with Andrew and Bruce. A great way to be and become a learning community. Also reminds me of the Gospel portrayals of Jesus as the Teacher, his interactive teaching style, his ‘doing theology’ approach in a great variety of situations with a variety of methods… facilitating Christian learning. Thanks. John.

    Comment by John Littleton — October 11, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  6. Great stuff Steve – idea 4 u – colour code the methodologies into type …maybe along D’bono’s colours or Gardner’s multiple intelligences and over a 4 week period the students colour in a learning rainbow…or something like that to get diversity of learning styles…

    Comment by peter a — November 20, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  7. Thats intriguing Peter. Which colours would you put where?

    What colour is history, tradition, help desk, method, context?


    Comment by steve — November 20, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

  8. History brown – digging into the ground
    Tradition yellow – old but well used
    Help desk blue – creative shared life
    Method red – intensity
    Context green – ecological

    Off the top of my head…

    Peter A

    Comment by peter a — November 20, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

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