Here’s a question from one of my recent posts on teaching this term, and what I did on the first day of class.
Now that Aug 11 is safely past, is there any chance that we here on the blog might be able to see the “Faux Pop Quiz”?
The question is about the pop quiz I gave on my first day of class in my First Year Seminar (i.e, the small seminar for first year students – their first semester in college!) on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.” Different instructors do different things on the first day of class. We are required to give out a syllabus that describes the course objectives, requirements, textbooks, grading policies, and sundry other things (I posted mine last week on the blog). Some instructors do that and then that’s all for the first class. I do more. I don’t believe in throwing away any class time for the entire semester, so I always take up the whole period. Hey, they’re payin’ for this class. (Well, their parents are.)
In a small class like this, I always start by having everyone introduce themselves. To do that I use an ice-breaker. This year I asked every student to talk about their “closest brush with fame,” that is, when they got close to someone who was famous. Three of my students this year, for example, saw Michael Jordan in the flesh, others had seen a singer (often someone I had never heard of!), a couple of them told about how their parent had met someone who was famous, and so on. Everyone gets a good laugh.
Then I go over the syllabus very carefully to make sure they understand exactly what the class will entail. For a course in biblical studies, that usually involves (among many other things) my explaining that the approach we take in the course is very different from what they might expect in a faith-community, for example a church, synagogue, or Sunday school. I emphasize that the kind of historical and literary approach we take in class is not necessarily *better* than other ways of studying the Bible, but it is definitely *different*, and I try to explain that their personal beliefs are not only not the point but they will not affect what we do in class. A course in a secular institution of higher learning is open to all people of every point of view. There is no advantage to being a believer, no disadvantage to not being one. The class is not about belief but about history and literature – of value to everyone, whether they believe or not.
All that takes about 1/2 or 2/3 of the class. Then I tell them I’m going to be giving them a pop quiz. They think that’s a bit odd, since I haven’t taught them anything yet. But I assure them it’s just for fun, to help me see how much they already know about the New Testament. I don’t grade them (which is why I call it a “faux” quiz).
I also use the quiz in order to teach them something by way of background information. After they take the quiz, we go over the answers. Some of them are significant for the course, others, well, less so. No one gets the final question right — even the students (half of them?) who think they know the answer. I bet most of you don’t either!
Those of you who have been on the blog for a long time will recognize that this quiz is *like* the one I normally give to my NT Introduction class, but there are some key differences as well. I’ll give and explain the answers (and why they matter) in a later post. But for now: how well do you do?
Jesus in Scholarship and Film
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