Fortress Press

Understanding Bible by Design: Create Courses with Purpose

Understanding Bible by Design

Create Courses with Purpose

G. Brooke Lester (Author), Jane S. Webster (Contributor), Christopher M. Jones (Contributor)


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Today’s seminary and religious-education instructors are expected to design and redesign their courses more nimbly than in the past. We have to adapt our courses to novel learning environments, for more diverse learners, toward more diverse vocations. At the same time, institutional rewards for time invested in course design are fewer than ever. Understanding Bible by Design introduces the reader to Understanding by Design: an approach to course design that is proven time-efficient and grounded in the instructor’s most closely-held convictions about her subject matter’s “big ideas and essential questions.” This book’s contributors (one in Old Testament, one in New Testament, and one in Jewish Studies) demonstrate the value of Understanding Bible by Design for the Biblical Studies instructor, whether at seminary or university, face-to-face or online, from the intimate seminar to the massive MOOC.
Lester’s synopsis of course design and suggested action is followed by a collaborative dialogue with Jane S. Webster and Christopher M. Jones. Webster and Jones provide practical commentary regarding the successful implementation of Lester’s proposed approaches. As a group, Lester, Webster, and Jones create a text that extends pedagogical innovation in inspiring but practical ways.

Fortress Press Live podcast:
Hear G. Brooke Lester talk about his new book, Understanding Bible by Design!

Click here to find more podcasts on Fortress Press Live!
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451488791
  • eBook ISBN 9781451489620
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 136
  • Publication Date November 1, 2014


"This book is a warm and thoughtful friend to have alongside as you design learning experiences. Brooke does an excellent and accessible job of introducing the 'understanding by design' principles, using his own context of biblical studies as the focus. Chock full of specific examples of rubrics, assignments, and key questions, this book also offers a friendly counterpoint to academe’s all-too-frequent dismissal of pedagogical reflection. The book includes not only typical classrooms, but also the challenges to be found when moving the process of teaching and learning into online or hybrid environments. The text offers numerous pragmatic ideas for engaging your students, whether you teach in an undergraduate or graduate, public university or seminary, setting."
Mary E. Hess
Luther Seminary 

"Don't worry if you are new to the notion of course design, backward design, or understanding by design. If you care about teaching and want to do more than just tweak your syllabi, this exciting volume is for you. Lester, Webster, and Jones offer practical advice on designing courses that reflect your true learning objectives. Intended specifically for biblical studies professors, Understanding Bible by Design far surpasses any one-size-fits-all workshop or professional development seminar on pedagogy. It provides clear, helpful, and user-friendly guidance on designing and implementing innovative teaching in diverse learning environments."
Nyasha Junior
Howard University School of Divinity
"This book is a must-buy for the Wabash Center's library. It’s not a tips and tricks book. Instead, it’s an entire approach to course design and assessment in quick accessible prose. The opening chapter provides a concise overview of Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design. Subsequent chapters illustrate this method at work through hands-on examples from the design of a real-life biblical studies course. This process is then repeated for an online course, a college level liberal arts course, and for courses outside of biblical studies. The book walks us through the essential questions to ask when designing a course. What is most important for students to learn? What student performance would provide evidence of this learning? And what activities or assignments would help students develop these skills? It’s easy! And a pleasure to read."
Thomas Pearson
Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion


"Lester and his colleagues explain in clear, engaging terms why professors of biblical studies should invest the time to explore backward course design. Using detailed examples grounded in their own teaching practice, they invite careful attention to focusing on what really matters to enhance student learning. With their fingers on the pulse of contemporary teaching challenges such as multiple time formats and new environments for course delivery, they serve as creative collaborators and guides for both novice and veteran teachers in the field."
—Katherine Turpin
Iliff School of Theology



Fortress Press Live podcast:
Hear G. Brooke Lester talk about his new book, Understanding Bible by Design!

Click here to find more podcasts on Fortress Press Live!