In one of my earlier posts, I promised to share some brief reflections on my 2 weekend trips to Kuching teaching a course on Biblical Interpretation at our extension there. So this is my slightly "delayed" post.
One of my greatest struggles and challenges was this: How would I cover all the necessary topics in a compressed fashion to the students in Kuching, so that they would be able to have a fairly good grasp of the principles and methods of biblical interpretation?
I must confess it was not easy for me. In my lectures, I moved rapidly from one topic to another, without having the full assurance that the students had fully grasped the concepts. Unlike our on-campus full-time students, we have the luxury of teaching the course over a period of 14-weeks and there is sufficient time for the students to attempt tackling the topics covered before they start writing their exegesis paper. So technically, by the time they write an exegesis paper, they would have, theoretically, mastered the principles of exegesis. However, this was not really the case with our extension centre. All the written assignments are only due 6 months later, including the exegesis paper itself. So the problem I have is this: How certain am I that the students have a full grasp of doing a word study, cultural and historical background, etc, before they embark on attempting their exegesis paper? If they do any of these assignments wrongly, there would not be any opportunity for me to highlight their mistakes or errors. In other words, chances are that whatever errors they might commit in some of these assignments might be reflected in their exegesis paper as well. It would be too late by then for any corrections to be made.
Being a highly practical and hands on course, I am also aware of the lack of access to good theological library for our extension students. For example, I was not able to demonstrate how they could effectively use some of the theological dictionaries and lexicons available in our campus library in Seremban. However, thanks to Internet technology, much of the materials are also easily available online.
Despite the constraints, I find the enthusiasm of the students very commendable. They faithfully sat through the lectures, sacrificing their two weekends by listening to me. They raised very pertinent and relevant questions related to biblical interpretation. There was no doubt that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them, despite the punishing pace and tight schedule we had (not to mention the experience of having my flights cancelled and delayed to and back from Kuching on the second weekend). To all of you in Kuching, thanks for making the class lively and a real joy to teach.
Recognising that our TEE students may not have the luxury of doing theological studies full time, this model of having classes spread over 2 consecutive weekends seems to fit in their schedule pretty well. As such, I am still exploring various methods of how to deliver my lectures in such a concentrated and condensed format in future so that the students might benefit the most out of it. As such, I would welcome any ideas to further improve the course. Any contributions out there?