Roger S. Nam
I’m a bit annoyed at the professorial mantra of “teaching, scholarship, and service.” I understand that categories are needed for the various steps of promotion, but I think that this grouping unnecessarily promotes an adversarial relationship between “teaching and scholarship.” The pairing feels analogous to such opposites as “Democrats and Republicans,” “urban and rural,” or “Taylor Swift and Def Leppard.”
This unfortunate rivalry of “teaching v. scholarship” plays out in multiple ways. There are heavy teaching positions with minimal scholarship requirements and research positions with little regard to teaching, as if one cannot excel at both. Many of us organize our schedules adhering to this division, as we set distinct times for writing and distinct times for course prep. Minimally, you probably understand that you shouldn’t finish those rewrites for JAAR in the middle of your own lecture.
But I’d like to encourage us to see teaching and scholarship as complementary rather than adversarial. I’m specifically referring to scholarship in the form of peer-reviewed journals and books, both of which require extensive literature review and advancing a conversation. In my own experience, I find that engagement in scholarship deeply enhances teaching. If you write a peer-reviewed article on Jeremiah, you need to become a mini-expert on Jeremiah, and that expertise will benefit your students much more than a perfunctory reading solely for course prep. Scholarship also puts you in the place of learner, as you need to listen first before you present an argument.
And our classes should be fresh. Based on what I hear, there are plenty of Hebrew Bible intro classes that have not been revised since the Reagan administration. The peer-review process allows professors to keep current on their classroom content. If I teach Wellhausen’s articulation of JEDP as the main understanding of the Penteteuch’s origins, the students will take notes. If I do the same thing before a group of scholars, there will be blood.
So perhaps we should replace the binary view of teaching v. scholarship with a more complementary relationship like “chips and salsa."
Better yet, you can consider how Taylor Swift and Def Leppard collaborated for a stunning live show via CMT’s Crossroads. Not convinced? Maybe you should just watch my conversation with Kate Blanchard and Eric Barreto.
Eric D. Barreto
When I was prepping my first online class, all I wanted was for someone to show me how to teach online. I wanted techniques. I wanted examples of best practices. I wanted a template upon which I could build. But I quickly learned that the hardest part of teaching online is not technique but design and purpose.
Online teaching drew me to ask in a refreshing way why I teach and how a classroom might form around the calls of my students. How might my expertise and passions meet the vocations my students are pursuing and how can a classroom be designed around both? I learned that the temptation in teaching is to flip those priorities: to start with the content that I think is most important along with the particular passions of my discipline and the physical constraints of my classroom. That is, I, the teacher, was the orienting point of my pedagogy.
Online teaching has helped me reverse those expectations and frustrations. As I've noted elsewhere, online teaching is not a magical cure all for that which ails theological education and higher education more broadly. There is no messianic pedagogy to be found in the digital realm. In my experience, online teaching and learning compels us to ask vital pedagogical questions, with answers that are necessarily tentative and in need of constant assessment and commensurate renovation. I find that these steps are transforming my traditional classrooms as well.
That is, my experience teaching online has led me to question not so much how I might teach online but why I teach in the first place.