The Best Courses Always Include… (Part Two)
by Steve Huerd
Recently, while I was sitting in the dental chair, I asked my dentist and the dental hygienist, to describe for me what makes for a great professor. After some thought, they both unanimously agreed that the best professors were those who truly cared for you. As my anesthetic gradually wore off later in the day, I began reflecting on how teachers communicated their concern for me as a student over the years of my education.
In high school, my world literature teacher let me teach class one day debating the merits of secular humanism as compared to the truth of the gospel. I was the only one in my entire senior class to take him up on the offer to teach class for one day and though he was an atheist, he enabled me to teach on whatever subject I desired.
At St. Cloud State University, during Social Science 204, after listening to a homosexual couple describe their relationship, we had to write a paper stating our own views. I expressed some strong statements in that paper and though the professor disagreed with me, he still gave me an “A” based on the quality of my work.
In seminary, when I couldn’t meet the agreed upon deadline during an independent study course, my professor cut me some slack so I could graduate. Dr. Mark McCloskey, a dean at Bethel Seminary, met me with personally for mentoring, greatly encouraging me during a difficult time in my life. Then, there was Dr. John Hannah, distinguished professor of Church History at Dallas Theological Seminary, who I encountered during Campus Crusade’s summer training, who cared enough to investigate nearly every detail of his subject matter making him a true expert.
In my doctoral program, Dr. Klaus Issler cared enough to keep pushing me to give my absolute best in his Theological Research and Integration course. Dr. Kevin Lawson expressed his care through being willing to do whatever amount of work it took to help me and my fellow Talbot colleagues grasp and comprehend solid and robust educational research. The list could go on and on of teachers who found ways to express care and concern in their pedagogy.
Caring for students, though there are a thousand ways to express it, is not dependent upon the subject matter but rather upon the character and heart of the teacher. And, whether a teacher is a Christ follower or not, whether in elementary or graduate school, students can tell if they care, making this ingredient an indispensable part of the best courses.
The Best Courses Always Include… (Part One)
By Steve Huerd
It’s the most wonderful feeling as a speaker or teacher when someone comes up to you after you’ve finished speaking and says, “I felt like God was directly speaking to me through what you said. It’s like you were just talking to me.” These affirmations provide the speaker with assurance that God is using them in people’s lives through their teaching.
If our purpose as Christian educators is to teach to change lives so that we might present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28), then this dynamic interaction must occur somewhere in the teaching process. When it occurs and the light bulb comes on, a glorious thing transpires in the student’s mind and life as the Holy Spirit uses our words and life to create change in the learner.
Having sat under many Godly men and women educators during my twelve years of graduate school, I’ve noticed that the best courses always included professors making the material especially applicable to my life.
For example, while I was taking a course called Human Growth and Development at Talbot School of Theology, party of Biola University’s graduate school, I had no idea there was a scholarly area entitled “Faith Development.” At that time, I had spent roughly twenty years investing in people to help them in their faith development as a practitioner and I was shocked to learn that scholars had been researching my life’s work! I was so thrilled at this discovery, and grateful to my professor, Dr. Jonathan Kim, of Talbot School of Theology, for his teaching, that I devoted my dissertation to the subject of spiritual development in youth.
It was Dr. David Clark, now provost of Bethel University, whose unique and simple way of presenting his arguments in the apologetics course I took from him years ago enabled me to share these arguments with hundreds of students over the years. Or Dr. Walter Kaiser, Old Testament Scholar and former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose love and passion for the Old Testament inspired me to read and love the Old Testament every year in my devotions. It can even be as simple as sharing from your own life as Dr. Klaus Issler, professor of Christian Education and Theology at Talbot School of Theology, often did in our Philosophical Issues class causing me to rethink my own presuppositions and see Jesus in new ways.
While there is certainly not just one way to make material applicable to student’s lives, it seems all the best courses include professors who somehow have figured out how to make that happen. Whether through their teaching methods, their insights, personal examples, relationships, etc., they always find a way to connect their subject matter to their students’ lives.
Part 1 of a 4 Part Series on World Religions
Hinduism is an enormous faith tradition having hundreds of millions of adherents worldwide. Below, explore the essential teachings and practices of the Hindu Faith by downloading our podcast or by listening along while scrolling through the slide show provided below. Then share it with others who might want to learn more!
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Self Promotion or Sharing Knowledge?
by Dr. Sharon Short
Most people would agree that individuals who brag about themselves are obnoxious. “Showing off,” “tooting your own horn,” even “calling undue attention to yourself” are generally deemed unacceptable social behaviors. Descriptors such as “blowhard,” “loudmouth,” and “windbag” come to mind, and none of them are complimentary. This negative sentiment about “putting oneself forward” can create considerable dissonance for someone who is seeking employment and is suddenly expected to become an aggressive self-promoter.
In his book Become a Recognized Authority in your Field in 60 Days or Less, author Robert Bly (2002) describes the marketing of oneself as establishing one’s “guru status,” and in his book he outlines a strategy for positioning oneself as a “guru” in a particular field. In Bly’s words, “Gurus are not born, they are ‘manufactured’ through self-marketing and promotion.” (p. 21).
Many job seekers might find such strategies odious. We do not want to be the kind of people who boast about themselves! Fortunately, in this situation a subtle shift in perspective can make a world of difference. Bly explains that what he means by a “guru” is someone who has gained significant mastery over a specific discipline, and is able to communicate this knowledge “in a clear, understandable, and useful manner to a well-defined target audience” (p. 9). Bly goes on, “You build your reputation as an expert in your field by giving your knowledge away [emphasis added] in a variety of forums—articles, books, seminars, speeches, newsletters, e-zines, Web sites, and information products” (p. 41). If building a professional reputation in order to gain a desirable position can be redefined as sharing one’s useful knowledge with others, then the odium of “marketing oneself” is greatly diminished.
I can enthusiastically endorse the premise of becoming an expert in a well-defined niche and then sharing that knowledge in many different ways. If that is what a guru is, then bring it on! What I can not get excited about “selling,” “marketing,” or “promoting” myself. I am not a commodity to be bought and sold, nor do I want to be regarded and treated as such. Sharing my knowledge, though, is an altogether different and more positive mission. That sounds like something I would be glad to do.
Line of Research
By Dr. Sharon Short
In the course of my doctoral studies, I observed a variety of attitudes toward their dissertations among professors, authors, and colleagues. One of my instructors, for example, commented that after she finally finished her dissertation she wanted to take it outside and bury it. The author of a book I read remarked that she wished the library copy of her dissertation could have been bound on all four sides. Some—perhaps many—doctoral graduates set their finished manuscripts on a shelf with a grateful sigh of relief and move on with their lives.
For others, however, dissertation studies produce a more profitable outcome: for these scholars, the monumental amount of work that they poured into literature reviews, investigations, and analyses endures in an ongoing journey of learning, writing, and teaching about their area of research. Another professor I know, for example, regularly uses data from her research in the master’s courses that she teaches, and she involves her students in collecting new data using the interview protocol that she designed for her investigation. Similarly, the instructor of my qualitative research methods class described how she continued to build on the research that began with her dissertation. This professor encouraged us to establish a “line of research” based on our dissertation work to which we intended to continue contributing all our lives.
A great deal depends, of course, upon what subject one chooses to research. I am blessed to still be fascinated by the topic of my research, and to still enjoy working with this subject matter. My dissertation has already provided me with meaningful content to present in the form of papers at two different conferences, in addition to a research report already published in a journal and a chapter in a newly-published book. I look forward to developing and extending my findings into a book that will benefit a larger audience than the small sphere of scholars who currently have access to it.
Not that the journey so far has been completely straightforward and linear! The dissertation topic that I finally investigated was my third attempt. I entered my Ph.D. program with one research issue in mind, which I continued to pursue for most of the first year. In my second year I jettisoned that idea completely and took off in another direction, for which I wrote a 75-page dissertation proposal before concluding that that topic was not tenable either. The third try, finally, had that proverbial “charm” that has kept me engaged and intrigued ever since.
In short, doctoral student, follow your heart, keep looking for something that excites you for the long haul, and don’t be afraid to change direction if necessary. Certainly it is important to get that dissertation done, but it is even better if its completion inaugurates a lifetime of fruitful scholarship.
Educational Technology in Teaching
by David Odom
Using cell phones in the classroom to engage and motivate your students
Do you own a cell phone? Of course you do! The educational technology of choice for most Americans is the cell phone. According research, seventy-five percent of adolescents and eighty-eight percent of adults in the United States own a cell phone (Pew Internet Project, 2012). These stats clearly indicate cell phones have become an integral part of how Americans communicate with family and friends.
However, today’s mobile phones are used for much more than simply making calls. Educational technology using smartphones with Internet access such as the iPhone, Blackberry devices, and Android phones, has increased the ease of access to learning content. Smartphones are becoming more portable and affordable. At the same time, these devices are becoming invaluable tools for their users. Some experts believe that the availability and use of smartphones will only increase in the years to come.
Research also indicates that students would like to have cell phones integrated into the learning process (Domitrek and Raby). However, in many learning institutions, students are discouraged or banned from using cell phones as educational tools (Pachler, Bachmair, and Cook; Attewell and Savil-Smith). Nevertheless, because cell phone use is becoming ubiquitous, mobile learning is an emerging and expanding field of educational research.
Mobile learning in educational technology can be defined as using handheld devices in the process of “coming to know and being able to operate successfully in, and across, new and ever changing contexts and learning spaces” (Pachler, Bachmair, and Cook ).
Researchers in the field of mobile learning believe that if the home and leisure life of students is integrated into their learning environments via mobile devices, learners will be more academically successful (Rosen; Attwell; Clough). With this in mind, here are a few ways in which today’s educators can use cell phones as learning tools in the classroom:
- Poll Eveywhere – This free online resource enables educators to create multiple choice and open-ended live polls that allow for real-time text-message student responses. Poll Everywhere has academic features that allow for test taking and attendance tracking.
- Socrative – Socrative is another type of student response system that enables teachers to engage students through educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
- StudyBlue – StudyBlue allows users to create digital flashcards to assist with learning. Teachers can also create flashcards for students to study both online and on-the-go with Apple and Android apps.
Check out these sites for research and more information on mobile learning: