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Story Problems for Exegetes
As I developed the practice activities for Into the New Testament, I borrowed heavily from theories of Problem-Based Learning (PBL).
You can read lots more about PBL on the web site of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.
In PBL, you learn by working with others to understand and address an "ill-structured problem." Here, ill-structured means that the problem itself is not all that clearly spelled out at the start, and sometimes it changes part way through, as you get more information. Moreover, the problem does not have just one right answer or a single obvious process toward resolution built into it (sort of like real life).
Teamwork is a hallmark of PBL, yet this site is built to be useful to you whether you are part of a group of people learning exegesis or not. As a compromise, sometimes you will be introduced to imaginary team members who will collaborate with you on a project. Other times, I will ask you to find someone to consult with: a teacher, friend, housemate. Or I will ask you to compare your work with the work of someone who has published on the topic. Of course, if you find friends to read the Bible with you, or if you are in a class and the teacher approves of teamwork on these problems, that would be even better!
When used in NT1210, my synoptic gospels class, class members will work in their MyLutherNet discussion groups. Into the New Testament will also make teamwork possible through an activity bulletin board where you can collaborate with others working on the same problem. (This feature is under development.)
You Make the Call
In PBL, a messy situation—a.k.a. the problem—focuses learning. Learners define the problem, gather background on it, chart paths toward a solution, test them, choose one, and reflect on the whole process. The teacher acts as a coach and consultant throughout the process. I'll coach and consult with web content dispersed throughout the problem-solving process.
For each of its exegetical problems, Into the New Testament will prompt you through these intersections of problem-based learning. Of course, you may need to trace your way back to earlier stops along the road as your thinking about the problem develops.
Define the Problem
Meet the problem. A one-page scenario gives you a situation, a role, and something that requires your attention and your Bible.
State the problem. What is going on? You define the problem in your own words.
Address the Problem
Gather and share information. Here you are digging deeply into the Bible itself. Into the New Testament's background pages on exegesis and New Testament literature support your research.
Generate possible solutions. Since the exegesis problems you will be working on are also problems set in real life, more than one solution is always possible. In this part of the process, you generate a few.
Evaluate the fit of solutions & choose one. Sometimes when disagreements arise in class or in Bible studies, someone will say, "The Bible means something different to everyone, so we can't really judge." Are all solutions to exegetical questions created equal? In this step, you judge between your possible solutions, finding the one that best fits the scenario you are in and the information you have gathered.
Reflect on the Process
Assess performance. How did you do? If you were in a class, this would be the point at you and your team members—and maybe someone with a grade book—assessed how well you stated, researched and addressed the problem. Into the New Testament prompts you to assess your own performance by asking you to evaluate the PBL experience and your work to engage the problem. You also compare what you learned with the objectives for the learning unit you're working in.
Debrief the problem-based learning experience. Reflect on the experience in on online journal entry that you can send to me if you choose. With permission, we'll post comments from others who tackled the same problem on a debrief page.
Have we ever got problems!
Find all your problems on the Activity Grid! (Well, maybe not all your problems....) You can find links to introductory pages on each skill there too.
Into the New Testament by Mary Hinkle Shore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.