Monday, December 25, 2006

Reflections on requiring my own book in a class

Mirrored from www.pastoralepistles.com:

In the previous post, I wrote that last Spring semester, I required my undergrad Pastoral Epistles class to purchase and write book reports on my book, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle. I want to unpack my comment.

I came to KCU in fall 2003. I have taught the Pastoral Epistles to undergrads (300-level) every spring since then. I have also taught these letters in an online graduate seminar.

The graduate seminar students had few problems with my book. They understood it, were able to summarize the contents, and even offered a few helpful criticisms.

The Spring 2006 class: half the class was completely lost. One of the problems was that I had several second-semester Freshmen in the class. Freshmen should not take 300- or 400-level Bible classes. (Of course, ONE of the Freshmen actually did handle the book pretty well.)

I did not require the book in Spring 2004 or 2005, because it had not been released yet. But my impression of my students in those semesters was that they would have been able to handle the book, and would have benefitted from it even as they struggled with it.

My observations:
  1. The quality of students in a given class can fluctuate wildly from semester to semester. This is frustrating for those of us professors who really want our students to understand and benefit from the material we try to teach them.
  2. This is also one of the attendant joys of trying to teach serious Biblical studies classes in a Liberal Arts setting. In some of my Bible classes, I'll have 30-40% of the students who are ministry majors. I may teach the same class the next year, but have only 10% of the students majoring in Bible or ministry.
  3. I tried to aim the book so that educated ministers, church leaders, etc., could benefit from it. It was not just written for eggheads like me. Most semesters, my Pastoral Epistles classes would have gotten it.
  4. I should quit beating myself up for requiring the book, and just chalk it up to experience.
  5. Will I require future undergraduate classes to purchase and use my book? Yes, but I'll check the majors of preregistered students, etc., to determine ahead of time if they can handle the book.

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