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Chris Heard’s
Teaching Activities

 

This section of my web site gives students, colleagues, parents, adminstrators, and anyone else who cares a look at my particular approach to collegiate teaching.

General Philosophies and Policies

All Pepperdine faculty share certain common principles and practices, such as those articulated in Pepperdine University's core affirmations. As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms

  • That God is
  • That God is revealed uniquely in Christ
  • That the educational process may not, with impunity, be divorced from the divine process
  • That the student, as a person of infinite dignity, is the heart of the educational enterprise
  • That the quality of student life is a valid concern of the University
  • That truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline
  • That spiritual commitment, tolerating no excuse for mediocrity, demands the highest standards of academic excellence
  • That freedom, whether spiritual, intellectual, or economic, is indivisible
  • That knowledge calls, ultimately, for a life of service

These core principles (quoted from the 2009–2010 Seaver College Catalog, p. 2) guide us in the “big picture” of instruction at Pepperdine, but they leave many practical considerations unstated and subject to individual professors' implementations.

My own sense of vocation as a teacher of the Bible in a Christian college can perhaps best be explained with reference to Deuteronomy 6:4–5, the beginning of the famous Jewish prayer called the Shema. This saying enjoins its hearers to love the Lord their God with, among other things, their entire intellect (often translated “heart”; in Biblical Hebrew, the “heart” is the seat of human cognition and volition). To me, teaching the academic study of the Bible is a ministry of instruction and example in loving God with one’s intellect. To love God with one’s entire intellect is not easy. It requires rigorous thinking, sometimes about very difficult or uncomfortable subjects. As a vital dimension of loving God with one’s entire intellect, critical Bible study requires (among other things) a thorough and uncompromising examination of the origins, contents, historical reception, and ongoing significance of the biblical texts. Rigorous Bible study may not always produce results that are in keeping with our preferences. Uncomfortable and disturbing questions may be raised. Indeed, uncomfortable and disturbing conclusions may be reached. Nevertheless, such study is an important facet of human relationships with God. Beyond the risks lie the rewards of a fuller and richer, if perhaps less comfortable, engagement with God.

In terms of teaching strategies, I find myself in a continual “tug-of-war” between my pedagogical and epistemological ideals and the actual logistics of teaching college courses. Idealistically, I believe that what students in a liberal arts institution need most is development of their skills in learning how to learn within the various disciplines taught in the university. That is, I think students in my Bible classes are best served when the class teaches them how to read, learn from, interact with, and think about the Bible, rather than telling them what they should expect to find in the Bible. I would always prefer to use a “mentoring” or “apprenticeship” style of pedagogy in which I as a more experienced learner guide and encourage students in their own learning by modeling ways of learning, thinking, and accessing specialized facts and resources. Conducting and assessing learning of this sort can, however, be logistically difficult in a class with varying levels of prior basic knowledge, and gets progressively harder as classes grow larger.

I am continually re-evaluating my teaching practices, investigating and evaluating recognized “best practices” and new ideas, and striving to bring my teaching strategies into line with students’ needs.

Teaching Initiatives

I am currently (Fall 2012) preparing a proposal for funding to help me “flip” my Hebrew classroom. If this project goes forward, I’ll be trying to implement those techniques in the 2013–2014 academic year. As a side benefit, I’ll also be able to more thoroughly “flip” my Religion 101 classroom.

Current Teaching Activities

Fall 2012 Courses

  • GSRE 199 First-Year Seminar: From Adam & Eve to You & Me
    Tuesdays and Fridays, 10:00–11:30 AM in Appleby 286
  • REL 101 The History and Religion of [Ancient] Israel
    Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:00–1:30 PM in Plaza 190

Fall 2012 Contact Information

  • Study: Appleby 278
  • Open-Door Hours
    • Tuesdays and Fridays, 2:30–4:00 PM
    • Wednesdays, 8:30–10:00 AM (if there’s no faculty meeting that morning) or by appointment
  • Phone: 310-506-4299
  • E-mail: cheard@pepperdine.edu
  • Twitter: @drcheard
  • Skype: My status

Spring 2013 Courses

  • REL 101 The History and Religion of Israel
    Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:00–9:30 AM, 12:00–1:30 PM, and 2:00–3:30 PM

Summer 2012 Courses

  • REL 101 The History and Religion of [Ancient] Israel
    Mondays through Thursdays, 2:30–5:20 PM