John Shortt. Bible-shaped Teaching

Reviewed by L. Brunt (Emmanuel Christian School, Oxford)

Bible-shaped teaching is a well-written, short introduction to holistic Bible-based curriculum development. It has an emphasis on stories and metaphors; talking about the “story of the Bible” and the metaphors we use to describe both the Bible and the world around us. After discussing some of the metaphors for the Bible commonly used, the author expresses a desire for us to consider another – the Bible as an environment in which we live and explore.

The book describes the Bible as fundamental to our development of a curriculum without giving too many details on what this might/should look like in practice – it will require more reflection and reading than this book alone. “Bible-shaped Teaching” is, however, a good springboard into discussions on this topic, and the author does pose some helpful questions and gives some examples to steer us the right way.

As stated, one of the main parts of the book relates to stories; telling them and using them in teaching. These should always relate to the wider story of God as told in the Bible. It refers to Jesus as “the great teacher” and draws examples of how He taught. We can use this to reflect on our own teaching: are we asking insightful and challenging questions; are we teaching using relatable and meaningful stories; are we helping our students to better understand who they are?

There is some useful practical advice on how to protect ourselves against inappropriate uses of the Bible in our teaching (e.g. avoiding, as he puts it, “Holy decoration”). There is also a very good chapter on how to reflect as a Christian Teacher (not just being a nice person, but living out Biblical principles).

Overall, this book is a useful read to start engaging with the concepts of Bible-based teaching, with some good tools for reflection. It should help to align (or realign, depending on current practice) certain perspectives and start the journey toward Bible-shaped Teaching.