Bible studies in a secular school : a case study.
This study describesB ible studies in one autonomousju nior high school (pupils aged 13
to 15) through an examination of the teaching/learning process, pupil achievement and
the implementation of the Bible curriculum. Though Bible teaching in Israel has been
the object of intensive discussion, the influence of teaching methods on pupils' attitudes
and achievements has not, to date, been examined.
The study reviews the changes in curriculum development in Israel, including the trend
to autonomous schools and the way Bible studies have been taught, from before the
establishment of the State of Israel and in the first three formative decades of statehood.
The evolution of the various curricula are described, and the objectives of Bible
teaching as they adapted to a changing student population and the different types of
schools are discussed.
The research questions which drove this study deal with the environment of Bible
instruction, the statuso f instruction, pupils' achievementsin Bible studies and the
relations betweent he conditions of instruction, the characteristicso f the teaching
process and the learning products. The starting point of the study was the desire for
change that stemmed from the unhappiness of pupils, teachers and external bodies (the
educational authorities, parents, supervisors) with the level of Bible studies in one
school. The study records events which took place when introducing change in modes of
Bible instruction in ninth grade classes and teaching some classes frontally, some
through CRA (Change, Reinforcement, Advancement) and some through the inquiry
mode. The study was conducted using naturalistic research methods (observations and
interviews) combined with quantitative instruments (tests and attitude questionnaires)
that were statistically analysed.
A nation-wide achievement test was given to all twelve classes studied, and the scores
of pupils in the inquiry mode were found to be consistently higher than those of pupils
in the other modes of instruction. The attitude of CRA pupils was more positive perhaps
becausele arning was made easier for them by providing gradedt asks on three levels.
In general, pupils expressed'a very negative attitude toward learning skills needed for
Bible studies, and they felt that they were more beneficial than enjoyable. The teachers
were generally optimistic in their assessment of the benefit of the learning strategies in
the pupils' eyes, and in their beliefs on how much pupils enjoyed the strategies. The
large gap that was found between pupils' reports and teachers' estimates shows that the
teachers do not really know how their pupils feel about Bible studies.
The major conclusion of the research is that the three modes of instruction should be
combined in Bible teaching, not only for the sake of diversity but also because together
they address the full range of skills needed by pupils studying the Bible. No single mode
of instruction was shown to be the best. Teachers suggested that some topics are better
taught in the inquiry or CRA modes and others are more suited to the frontal mode. It is
hoped that the combination of modes will provide diversity for teachers and pupils alike,
and make Bible studies more creative and motivating.