Walfish, Ruth A., and David L. Brody. “‘Students get bogged down’: How Religious Israeli Elementary Teachers View Problems and Solutions in Bible Teaching.” British Journal of Religious Education (early view; online first).
Bible teachers in contemporary society confront serious problems related to the nature of the biblical text and the socio-cultural context of their teaching. This study, based on semi-structured interviews, examines the problems that five expert religious Israeli elementary school teachers encounter in their teaching and the solutions they employ. Our findings show two major domains of pedagogic issues: unfamiliar biblical linguistics and problematic content. Teachers reported student difficulties in understanding biblical Hebrew. Problematic content includes irrelevant topics, emotionally laden material, and age inappropriate issues. Linguistic solutions relied on reading comprehension techniques and use of features specific to Bible reading such as diacritical marks. Regarding content issues, teachers were motivated by faith in the sanctity of the text to find effective solutions. These include selectivity, reinterpretation using homiletic tools, a holistic understanding and contextualising the narrative. Though teachers felt ill-prepared by their pre-service training in dealing with these challenges, they demonstrated resilience in their solution-oriented pedagogy. These findings suggest attention to mentoring and professional development, and to the creation of a community of practice to support teachers’ dealing with the ongoing challenges in their teaching.