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A conversation about the benefits, possibilities, and challenges of teaching online with Dr. Roger Nam of George Fox University, Dr. Eric Barreto of Luther Seminary, and Dr. Kate Blanchard of Alma College.
Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The genesis of this book was a Learning and Teaching conference held at the Sydney College of Divinity that focused on issues and practices in theological education from the perspective of Australia and New Zealand. The aim of the book is to “generate further impetus in charting effective ways to make progress along the important journey of delivering relevant contemporary educational experiences for the learners of theology” (7). For the most part the book succeeds in doing this. It contains seven sections. Section 1, and in particular the essay “Where are We Going,” sets the stage well for the other essays and sections of the book. This essay argues that the philosophical starting point for theological education is student-centered learning and teaching. This pedagogical philosophy then answers the questions about what shall be taught (content of theological learning and teaching), how it will be taught (methods of learning and teaching), and how the curriculum is built. Section 2 gives a biblical road map, using the apostle Paul as a model of a theological educator, that centers on learning communities and their effects on the immediate context and implications for theological education today.
Section 3 constitutes a strength of the book since it brings together the philosophical, curricular, and theological theories about learning and teaching into an integrative whole connected to formational assessment. The various essays are informed by the works of David Ford and Walter Brueggemann, integrative and transformative learning theories, and multiple intelligences, to name a few.
The book transitions in Sections 4 and 5 to a more practical focus that brings theory and practice together from the medical and health science disciplines to enhance theological education, and the use of technology. The two essays in Section 4 look at lessons that theological education can learn from medical education; they challenge theological education to move from an emphasis on competencies to a focus on capabilities that adapt to contextual changes that in turn improve ministerial practice. The essays in Section 5 center on e-learning technologies and its impact on the learner from formational, instructional design, gamification, and embodiment perspectives.
The last two sections continue to emphasize practice and give creative examples of innovative practices from theological practitioners around teaching and learning methodologies. These include problem-based learning, transformative pedagogy in the context of cross-cultural experiences and traditional courses, and workplace formation. The last two essays feature teaching and learning from a non-Western context.
The editors laid out the direction of the book well in that it generally moves from a theological, philosophical, and pedagogical core to learning and teaching practices. However, in a book of this nature with multiple authors, there is an unevenness in the depths of the essays. That is, some essays give excellent theoretical depth and description, fresh analysis of data, creative accounts of practice that oftentimes challenges the theological status quo, or thoughtful theological and pedagogical integration, while other essays do not. Having said this, the book does present fresh thinking and offers innovative practices about the theological education enterprise and as a result urges continual and effective development.
Teaching and Christian Imagination
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
David I. Smith and Susan M. Felch remind their readers that they are offering “not a ‘how-to’ manual or collection of tips” but “lenses . . . opening possibilities” for effective “learning and teaching” (2). Teaching is not a transaction to dispense knowledge but a multivalent art that should not be reduced to gimmicks. As Smith and Felch conceive of it, teaching is a living process shaped by the imagination of both teacher and student – an experience directed by “visions, not just beliefs and techniques” (1). It is an organic life shaped by theological journeying, farming, and building metaphors. To bolster their argument, Smith and Felch carry their readers through a three-dimensional rubric that reimagines teaching as a biblical hermeneutic – a teaching life that undulates between “journeys and pilgrimages,” “gardens and wildernesses,” and “buildings and walls.” Reading this book as a teacher, I was drawn into the teaching world the authors invite all instructors to enter – it is a world where one hears, sees, thinks, and reimagines inexhaustible possibilities of shaping minds.
The authors draw examples from biblical characters and Christian leaders to illustrate the multifaceted and meandrous journey each of their teaching metaphors conveys. First as pilgrim, the teacher is advised to rely on God, the divine GPS, for the journey (84) – an act that includes rest but does not preclude imagination on the part of the pilgrim. Second, insights and actionable ideas are not caught in vacuum. They are caught in surprising places like gardens, deserts, and classrooms where both teacher and students, like the first humans and liberated communities (Gen 1-3; Exod 1:1-15:27), learned to rethink, develop new perceptions, and take new steps as they journeyed with God. Third, edifices and walls speak about the role and construction of space. Though both building and walls may have a positive role as a course syllabus might (168), one is reminded that spaces delineated by the twin metaphor, buildings and walls, are often vigorously contested in the Bible, as is evidenced in the Household Codes (Eph 5:11-6:11; Col 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 2:13-3:33) – a reality that did much to reduce many women to a subservient status and silence in the church to this day.
As a Senegalese transnational biblical scholar shaped by African, Islamic, and Christian faith traditions, I find the journeying, farming, and building metaphors that Smith and Felch apply to teaching in not just Christian, but in every faith tradition. In spite of my reservations about limiting such powerful metaphors to only the Christian imagination, this book makes an invaluable contribution for educators. I agree with Smith and Felch, that Teaching and Christian Imagination is indeed an invitation to focus on what kind of person (and therefore what kind of teacher) we are gradually becoming and the place our vision of the world plays in the process . . . to wonder what teaching and learning might look like by those who know that they live in a world created by God who has filled it with beauty and story and song and who talks with us through the vale of tears and draws us toward future glory. (206)
Put differently, Christian educators, and I would add all instructors of any discipline, are invited to take seriously their function as learners and teachers whose growth is inextricably bound to the growth of those they teach. In spite of my minor objection, this book should be in the library or office of any serious teacher, educator, or leader committed to the future of humanity.
The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God's New Creation
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
In The Grace of Playing, Courtney Goto offers a project in practical theology for Christian religious education that uses the notion of playing to better understand teaching and learning. Goto distinguishes her project from a formal practical theology of play, where play could be explored as a universal category of human existence. Instead, she works in the line of Paulo Freire’s search to move beyond a traditional schooling model of education towards learning that is more integrated, experiential, and creative. Specifically, Goto reflects critically on the notion of revelatory experiencing through the language and pedagogies of playing. Her focus is on playing as it relates to adult learning, and her investigation demonstrates – both conceptually and through case studies – how playing cultivates faith formation.
Goto is an Assistant Professor of Religious Education at the Boston University School of Theology and a co-Director of the Center for Practical Theology. She writes as a third generation Japanese American United Methodist primarily for an audience of theorists, students, and practitioners who are liberal mainline Protestants. She invites Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Charismatic Christians into the conversation as well, but notes that her advocacy of revelatory experiencing is to be understood in terms of the contextualized perspectives encountered in mainline Protestant churches. This is an important caveat. Theologically conservative readers will take issue with her concept of revelatory experiencing, whereby revelation happens in between persons as they relate to one another (as opposed to approaching Christian revelation as a totalizing meta-narrative). That Goto makes her theological liberalism so clear and defined, particularly in terms of her understanding of revelation, is a great service to readers.
The Grace of Playing investigates playing from social scientific, theological, and historical perspectives and offers two case studies for application. After a preface and introduction, Chapter 2 explores psychoanalytical and psychological concepts of playing, relying particularly on D. W. Winnicott to articulate sociologically what occurs in revelatory experiencing. In Chapter 3, Goto turns to theology to build a theory and constructive proposal of play by appropriating insights from Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Play. Chapter 4 is a historical accounting of medieval practices of play, including the use of devotional dolls by fourteenth century nuns in the Rheinland, Germany and the practice of holy foolery by those in both Western and Eastern Church traditions. The final two chapters contain case studies of grace-filled play. The first describes the creation of a pretend garden at a Japanese American church for the purpose of congregational reconciliation, and the second briefly recounts a practice of playing with inmates in a juvenile detention center.To conclude, Goto demonstrates that the grace of playing leads a world in need towards God’s new creation.
The Grace of Playing skillfully navigates insights from sociology, theology, and history to make a compelling case for the theological practice of play as a mediating, revelatory experience within Christian religious education. The book is readily accessible for students and practitioners, without neglecting the more technical needs of theorists. For the case studies, Goto deliberately refrains from providing much, if any, direct data; this effectively condenses the reading, but also leaves a sense of wanting to know more about how the grace of playing works itself into and through these unique settings. Overall, the book is a warm invitation for all to play in the fullness of God’s grace.
Theological school deans are not just theological leaders for their institution, they must be EDUCATIONAL leaders. That is, they must implement sound educational practices related to curriculum, instruction, supervision, assessment, and administration. There is a variety of ways to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, and there are several levels ...