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(Seventh in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)
The global/local news landscape offers up to us almost daily examples of moral and ethical failure. As Christians, we may be more disappointed than shocked because we understand the fallen nature of humanity and the fact that we cannot escape brokenness – the line dividing good and evil runs down the center of each of our hearts. Yet our faith, in the power of a risen Christ redeeming humanity and his creation, inspires us to not stay in despair over this brokenness, but to continue to work toward shalom and restoration. We remind ourselves that each human being is made in God’s likeness, and challenge our students to live lives of obedience and faithfulness, to be like Christ.
It is this challenge to students that I want to focus on. In the process of attempting to teach our students the desire to act morally and ethically we are essentially showing them what goodness looks, acts, and smells like – “a more perfect way” – and asking them to internalize and live out that goodness. It is not just about “being good,” and it is not enough to just not disobey. We need to show them that following Christ is an above and beyond/different way of living and to call them to that “foolishness” Christ asks of us (Matthew 5, I Corinthians 1:21ff).
Many students each day are taught to “be good” in schools around the world, yet only some are given spiritual foundations as to why they should “be good.” Just being “good for goodness sake” or for personal gain as in good grades-good scholarships-good college-good job-good life thinking will only be so effective when push comes to shove in life situations that students will encounter. The tests and trials of life in big and small situations will reveal what they really believe and their actions will reveal their worldview. The latter part of the saying “Time heals wounds and wounds heels” reflects how we so often see careers and reputations undone through moral and ethical failings – research tells us it is hard to end our careers well. Moral and ethical failings are often the result of pride (“It can’t happen to me because I am above it all”) or laziness (“I can cut this corner or treat someone this way and get away with it”) or magical thinking (“It won’t happen to me or I won’t get caught”). Lack of discipline, lack of courage, and lack of character development all contribute to these failings. If I do not really regard others as image-bearers worthy of my love because of my desire to show Christ’s love, it is more likely that I will not see the need for ethical and moral behavior toward them. My best behavior done through my own power, if not directed toward worship, is more likely to simply increase my pride and self-reliance. If we do not encourage our students to see their behavior as connected or disconnected to foundational spiritual belief, it is not as likely that their lives will translate into obedience, humility, kindness, love, and other fruits of the Spirit.
How can we specifically work toward this outcome of a flourishing student? The aspect of adult modeling moral and ethical behavior looms large. We create classroom and school cultures where the desire to live morally and ethically can thrive or be discouraged. We must start with our own hearts, motives and worldview – as adults are we demonstrating spiritual obedience simply out of fear of judgment or out of true love for others and a desire to love God and to do the right thing? Bill Hybels’ book: Who You Are When Nobody’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise gives us an immediate challenge just from the title and is a great resource to work through with students or your own children. We need to both share and examine difficulties in this area and encourage good choices by students. It may be helpful with middle and high school students to make use of dilemmas and case studies so that moral and ethical principles can be applied to real life situations. A book such as Rozema and VanderArk’s No Easy Answers – Making Good Decisions in an Anything Goes World or CSI’s Exploring Ethics texts are very helpful tools.
(Sixth in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)
It has been exciting to see how the concept of empathy has been getting more attention in recent years. I see it as a critical aspect of a flourishing student. After all, the world has seen many brilliant and powerful people, who seem to lack the capacity for basic empathy, make a mess out of our world. Empathy is a deeper emotional experience than sympathy: it is literally the ability “to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.” (Source: diffen.com) We might agree that the best helpers to us in difficult situations are those who are “wounded healers” – people who have experienced similar pain and also healing so that they are able to help us. In Hebrews 4:15 we are told this: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (NIV) If we wish to teach our students to be Christlike and to truly love and be compassionate toward their neighbor, we must attend to the development of their ability to empathize with others.
Surely, to live as Christ asks us to live in harmony with our neighbor demands that we teach our students how to demonstrate empathy. But it turns out that empathy, even from a non-Christian aspect, is being recognized as a critical skill. A recent Forbes article from last week asks if empathy in business is an indulgence or invaluable. The evidence suggests it is invaluable and gives examples of Fortune 500 companies trying to increase this capacity in their employees. If we turn to the arena of education we are increasingly aware of the success of Finnish schools who are based on the premise of cooperation and equity, rather than the American model of competition: “Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.” (Atlantic, December 2012) It should not be lost on us that Finland leads the world in helping its citizens to live flourishing lives – it could be argued that Finland demonstrates a higher level of empathy toward its students, seeing that helping all of them to succeed and thrive is the ultimate goal. In his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman points out how developing the skill of attunement is critical for success in life and relationships. His research shows that interpersonally sensitive teachers and clinicians get the higher job performance ratings. Attunement of salespeople and consultants leads to highest sales and satisfaction levels. About 80% (and increasing) of our jobs are in the service economy, so it appears that good listening and empathy skills are more important than ever.
How can we work on helping our students develop the capacity for empathy? Our ability to empathize is a capacity that, according to scientists, is developed in childhood. They suggest three categories of attachment – secure, which comprises about 55% of the population, anxious – 20% of the population who are overcome by their own anxiety, and 25% who are avoidant – they lack empathy or are not prone to help others. While there is some reported success with training people to attend to facial micro-expressions (emotional signals that flit across the face in less than 1/3 of a second!) we would all likely agree that empathy should be more a matter of the heart than simply a cognitive skill. Goleman, like Jesus and many before him, recommends that we all become less self focused: He states: “The more sharply attentive we are, the more keenly we will sense another’s inner state…conversely the greater our distress, the less accurately we will be able to empathize. In short, self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands…we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” (p. 54, Working with Emotional Intelligence)
Empathy in Christian education starts with the Biblical concept that all humans have been created in the image of God and therefore have inherent worth. Empathy is needed due to the fact of sin and brokenness being a part of our world. We hurt and wound each other and are called to help heal these wounds that we see others experience. We do this out of gratitude for having experienced the ultimate empathy of Jesus Christ and we seek to follow his example, walking in the shoes of others, and seeking to love them well. We are wired to experience joy in serving and helping others – there is evidence that that can be seen in children as young as one year old. (see the NY Times article linked here for more and also see the comments section for additional helpful information) We need to help our students practice doing good and being responsive to Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves. We need to help them understand how brokenness has impacted our world, and that they are called as Christ followers to be part of the healing process.
(Thanks to my friend Bryant Russ, Bible teacher at Lansing (MI) Christian School, for sharing this blog post.)
What do I teach that a YouTube video can’t?
This question has been on my mind since last week when I learned more about the universe in three days of watching educational Internet videos than I had in four years of high school science classes. No joke. I made a list of all the things I wanted to know about science—everything from what is a molecule? to Is time really relative?—and hit the web. Sites such as Coursera.com, TedEd, ITunes U, and Minute Physics on YouTube provided engaging, comprehensive, and understandable lessons that led me through each one of my questions and offered new ones to continue my online education. Oh yeah, and did I mention that all this was free?
So back to the question: What do I teach that a YouTube video can’t? This question is important to me because I’d like to know that I couldn’t be replaced by a computer. Unfortunately, after close inspection I’ve found that much of what I’m doing, and much of what most teachers are doing, can be done—and often better—by the Internet. If this is the case, why shouldn’t I be replaced by a screen?
Twenty years ago it was the job of a teacher to relay information to the students. Teach them charts, methods, dates, important people and events. But has the role of a teacher changed now that students could pass just about every quiz and test we give them if allowed to use their phones? Has the Internet altered the game? If the world has changed, and significantly, since this educational structure was conceived, shouldn’t we start considering what we teach that a Youtube video can’t before we’re all swapped out for iPads?
I’m not suggesting teachers abandon relaying information and giving instruction, but perhaps it’s time to shift the focus of education. Let me propose two things a teacher can do—and must do—to become irreplaceable.
1. Teachers can inspire interest, ignite curiosity, and kindle a love of learning in students. I would go so far as to suggest this is the primary role of a twenty-first century teacher. If your students read what they’re supposed to read, answer what they’re supposed to answer, and memorize what they’re supposed to memorize, but do not continue to learn your subject when the year is over then you have failed them—regardless of their report card grades. Your job is to get them interested. Why? Think about it. If they have an interest in your subject, whether you’re teaching literature or biology, they will continue to learn about it outside the classroom (i.e. more learning will happen) and at a significantly higher level of engagement (i.e. better learning will happen). You might not be as necessary for the relaying of information as were teachers twenty years ago, but you are just as important for sparking interest in the students so that they will seek multiple available resources for attaining the information. How can you do this?
- Demonstrate interest, curiosity, and a love of learning. If you’re not interested, curious, or in love with learning, please stop teaching. As a wise mentor teacher once told me, “You teach who you are more than you teach your subject.”
- Ask big, important questions. So often I find myself giving answers to questions that students couldn’t care less about. If they don’t care about the question, why would they care about the answer? We must be giving students questions—and big ones! Let your natural curiosity (see bullet 1) help guide what you do in class to the point that your students feel invited into a search for the answers to their important questions.
- Avoid using grades as motivation or a threat (“If you do this you’ll get an ‘A’” and “If you don’t do this your grade will suffer”). This is like putting the wrong kind of gas into a car. I get so annoyed when a student asks, “Is this going to be on the test?” or “Do I have to know this?” or “How many points is this worth?” and yet, I have to admit it’s our fault. We create these grade-obsessed creatures and almost always destroy natural interest in a subject when we use assessment for something it was never intended to be. (I can say with confidence that I am more eager and excited to learn than I have ever been in my life. I told my wife this; she said, “Too bad this didn’t happen about 15 years ago.” I replied, “15 years ago I was much too busy with school to be excited about learning.”)
2. Teachers can initiate and facilitate creativity in students. Put simply, our students shouldn’t just be learning stuff; they should be making stuff. I have never been more proud as a teacher than when my students make something (or make something happen) that they are excited about and invested in. In fact, I recently challenged my students with a project that demanded interest, investment, and hard work…then I let them go. To my surprise, not only did just about every single student get a ‘A’, but they worked so much harder (and learned so much more) than if they had simply been asked to regurgitate what they had memorized on a test. Our students are itching to do something; to make something. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to give a test than to offer and assist an opportunity to be creative. The irony is that when given the opportunity to do something significant it is often the unengaged, ADD kid who surprises you with something great. So many of our students are itching to just do something! Not only does this promote a higher level of learning (what is the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy again?) but it allows young men and women to have a purpose for coming to school. The creative person is the most valuable asset in today’s changing world, so shouldn’t we be focused on making creators?
While I am completely aware of the challenges of actually being this kind of teacher in a classroom filled with 25 rambunctious teenagers, I am totally committed to moving in this direction in order to distinguish myself from a machine that could otherwise do my job.
(Fifth in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)
Are we fogging the mirror? The statement,“We believe all children are made in the image of God,” has powerful consequences that I invite you to think about related to this aspect of flourishing. Are the ways we teach our students encouraging them to be more creative and divergent thinkers and therefore increasing their flourishing? A flourishing student is certainly one who demonstrates a developed sense of thinking divergently and creatively about problems and solutions. How can this capability be developed and enhanced over the course of a student’s educational experience? One of the things that we grieve in the process of the education of children is the loss of creativity. In his well-known video, Sir Ken Robinson alludes to the book, Breakpoints and Beyond ,and a test of creativity. The gist of this study, and his point, is that creativity diminishes each year from kindergarten forward. Robinson wryly suggests that the common denominator in life for children is that they have attended school. A sad commentary!
Robinson is not alone in his concerns. In a recent blog post entitled “My Son is 8. He is a Maker,” professor Scott McLeod, writes about his 8 year old son, lamenting that the process of “making” is getting squashed out of his son’s life by school. Others who have had a similar personal experience share their stories in the comments to this post. I especially was touched by the woman writing about her 16 year old daughter’s experiences and the comment by a teacher who is attempting to teach her AP English class creatively.
School has wounded some learners and damaged their creativity and divergent thinking. In fact, wounds of creativity are one of the several types of wounds listed by author Kirsten Olson in her book Wounded by School. This controversial book says that the way we educate millions of American children alienates students from a fundamental pleasure in learning, and that pleasure in learning is essential to real engagement, creativity, intellectual entrepreneurship, and a well-lived life.
As Christians, we believe that each person bears God’s image and that we reflect his goodness, beauty, and creativity. I have asked the question previously in this blog: “If we ‘kill creativity’ through teaching that puts kids to sleep (physically or mentally!) and don’t encourage/allow children to be creative, have we limited their opportunity to image God?” This is a very sobering thought!
We have an unprecedented array of both technological tools and global awareness/opportunities today as we work with students. In his new book, Brain Gain – Marc Prensky, best known for his “digital native, digital immigrant” language, argues that technology actually complements and frees the mind for greater creativity. It is up to us as teachers and administrators to build an encouraging environment/opportunities, give permission/encourage students, and create a culture of expectation for creative work.
A word about standards and creativity – they are not in opposition to each other – it is not an either/or scenario. In the McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning) paper Five Things That Make the Biggest Difference in Schools, Bryan Goodwin suggests: “Standards should not be the ends of education, but rather the beginning, the platform for creativity, innovation, and personalization.” As we now recognize, creativity is at the top of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy – how perfect that the highest thing we can do is to image our creator’s creativity!
Some creativity links for you to explore:
What would happen if we “Let Kids Rule the School”?
Creative cities are happy cities – towns where learning is held highly and creative work is valued.
A creative young maker demonstrating creative things kids can do: Sylvia
Curriculum of Creativity – a compilation of ideas.
What might be done to produce different learning environments that stimulate creativity?
Will Richardson blog post: “How do we help our students establish themselves as a “node” in a broad, global network of creativity and learning? Shouldn’t that be one of the fundamental questions that drives our work in schools right now?”
Video creation - by Rushton Hurley – Next Vista for Learning - five minute videos created by students about things to be learned, global study and service.
Careful – this video is just for fun, but you may recognize something you have said to stifle creativity: “Anti-creativity checklist” created by Youngme Moon, Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.
And to close, some wonderful creative student efforts happening at two of our CSI schools in Canada:
Toronto District – Unique Programs
Abbotsford Christian – Student Showcase
If one accepts the idea that our main focus in Christian education needs to be nurturing student faith in the educational context, then it is vitally important that we engage students with questions that 1) cause students to stop dead in their tracks with intrigue, and 2) cause the students to deal with a Biblical perspective on issues of life. This is easier said than done! How can we develop such questions?
If I want to drive to a destination, I put into my Google Maps the destination I am hoping to arrive at – beginning with the end in mind. So, we first must ask the question: What kind of students do we seek to produce? My answer to this question is: “A flourishing student!” and that is why I have been trying to spell out what that means in the series of blog posts that I have been writing in this space on the idea of a flourishing student (list of blog post dates).
If we accept Wolterstorff’s definition of flourishing as being in harmony with God, neighbor, creation, and self then we can begin to see how we must shape the questions we ask in our curriculum and what conceptual qualities they must possess. Our curriculum outcomes must deal with God, neighbor, creation, and self. The things we are trying to do in our teaching relate to one of these four areas. I see the connections as follows:
- Creation and wonder – this is where we begin as learners and we should never lose it! We wonder about the micro and macro aspects of creation and the magnificent design behind it all. To whom should we give the praise and glory? We continue to wonder about creation’s mysteries that we learn have not been unlocked and are intrigued by the wonder and beauty of creation as we seek to live in harmony with it and learn how to use it well. Example questions in science class: Why are trees important to God’s creation? How does the structure of a DNA molecule exemplify order and creation?
- God/Christ and knowledge and wisdom – all knowledge and truth exists because Christ brought it into existence and continues to hold it together. This is why we marvel at gravity and 2+2=4 and how our bodies work. So our essential questions can be pretty straightforward and need not be simply “God questions” that are painfully superficial, but should include a discussion of a God-centered starting point and a worship ending point. In non-Christian schools, knowledge is presented as if it can stand on its own, or praise is ascribed to man without any reference to a Divine Creator – this is a huge difference. We need to ask our students to apply knowledge in areas of study toward questions of discernment as informed by Biblical perspectives. Example question in math class: Do you think there is such a thing as ‘chance’? Why or why not? Example question in social studies: Is capitalism in America successful? Why or why not?
- Neighbor and compassion – a Christian school should motivate students toward a desire to serve and make a difference in the world. It should produce true empathy as students understand people and situations in the world, and should inspire a compassionate response out of love for other people God has created. The student understands that each person is loved and cherished by God, having been made in his image. The student understands then that life is not just about themselves, but that they have a global responsibility to respond to the needs of our world. There may not be easy answers to questions that juxtapose two competing interests and Christians may disagree about the best ways to respond. Example question in social studies: As a Christian, what is the difference between needs and wants? Example question in English: Does having a shared experience make a person better able to provide true comfort?
- Self and image-bearing/gifts – how can one be in harmony with one’s self? Harmony with one’s self might mean acceptance of how God has created you – your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual self and an ever increasing understanding through the years of how he has gifted you, wired you, and what makes you “tick.” It also means that you take seriously care of your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit: you eat well, sleep well, exercise well, develop positive habits, virtues, and a generous and gracious spirit. As you grow in Christ, you more and more are able to let the light of Christ shine through you, and to truly bring joy and hope into the world, into the lives of others. Example question in music: Why do we respond to God with music? Example question in art: How can art be used to redeem culture?
This model may help us in our thinking about producing effective “take-away” Essential Questions. As we engage students with questions and help them construct good questions, we may find these categories helpful as a way to balance areas of focus within a classroom setting.
(Third in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)
If you were to interview teachers and ask them why they went into education as a profession, a fairly common answer might be “to see the light bulb go on in a student’s mind.” What the teacher is really speaking about is that they live for the moment when understanding occurs. In educational terms, we might say that this is when the student connects the new information to their existing framework of understanding. It is a joyous moment – it is the closest we can come to visibly seeing growth happen in students right before our eyes!
As students mature, we seek to help students ask good questions, to teach them the habits and attitudes that help them to discover the connections between what is known and what is unknown. We want students to increasingly be able to see these connections on their own. I believe that this quality is one of the outcomes that we work toward as we seek to develop flourishing students.
This quality is very important in the big picture of life. People who are able to see connections understand the relationships between things and devise creative solutions. People who are able to see connections between people and situations are people who can effectively make positive change happen. People who see connections between things are able to be effective visionaries because they see the big picture, can anticipate potential problems, and develop effective action steps.
From Colossians we know that in Christ all things cohere. Shouldn’t we try to emulate this coherence and connection in the educational experiences that we provide for our students? When we keep knowledge in separate boxes we make it more challenging for students to build effective schemas, or frameworks of understanding. I am confident that the more we help students see the connectedness that Christ has designed in creation, the more we will make significant gains in helping them become flourishing individuals.
Wow – it’s the end of the year already – 2012 has flown by! It is time for a number of hopefully helpful, inspirational, or intriguing goodies that I like to share with you. Enjoy the collection and in the spirit of Christmas pass on to others what you think they may find helpful!
Let’s start out with some science:
One of David Mulder’s science education students at Dordt College – Amber VanderVeen – has put together an online resource website. Thanks, Amber and Dave!
One of the science teachers at Lansing (MI) Christian, Omar Bjarki, made me aware recently of a YouTube channel called Minute Physics. Here you will find fascinating topics relating to physics explained in a matter of minutes. Great for your class or your own learning! Thanks, Omar!
I recently overheard a middle school science teacher raving about the Forensic Science Unit on this middle school teacher science site.
I am always on the lookout for new ways to encourage reading. This caught my eye – 8 Free IPad Apps for Young Learners.
I have mentioned Bloom’s Taxonomy so many more times than I thought ever likely when I first learned it! Here is a nicely explained version of the latest taxonomy including the creating aspect.
I am seeing a lot more blogging activity by principals, teachers and students, which is encouraging! See what the best bloggers are doing – here are the latest Edublog 2012 awards for various types of blogs that have been deemed to be the very best!
What could we learn from Finland? I blogged about this in September 2012 and here is an interesting selection of some of the differences: 26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System.
Provocative Dept.#1: Are we paying attention to what our students are saying? Are we asking them what they think about how they are learning? They may be saying: “I hate school, but I love learning!” Check out what the kids are saying in these videos.
Provocative Dept. #2: What would schools look like if we were organized around the idea of students as empowered, passionate, interested, self-directed learners? Here is a quick summary and current critique by a high school sophomore at a Tedx youth event.
Blended learning – want to know more? Here is a very helpful report from FSG (a non-profit consulting and research company) entitled: Blended Learning in Practice: Case Studies from Leading Schools.
Are any of your teachers using Learnist.com? “It’s like a Pinterest for education, as it allows users to collect web resources and add them to “Learnboards” to educate an audience about a particular subject.” – Hauna Zaich, Edutopia.
The end of higher education as we know it? Here’s a good short article on the impact of the rise of MOOC’s!
Are badges a better way for kids to show what they know? Here are six frames to help us understand badges’ potential for showing student learning inside and outside of school. Also – Learn “Why a Badge is Better than an A+”.
40 Predictions for the Future – an excellent list by Tom Vander Ark.
If Pinterest is new to you, you should check out the neat way resources are organized. Here is a really helpful Pinterest site by New Tech that is dealing with educational topics.
What is the correlation between socio-economic status and achievement? An oft debated topic thoughtfully dealt with by Grant Wiggins.
I got a kick out of this picture of the technology available in the 1980’s (see right) that is now all contained in our smartphones – amazing!
If you enjoyed my blog post on World Class Learners by Yong Zhao or would like to know more, here is a link to a 9 minute audio entitled World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.
Great info about the value of education and teachers in this report A Dozen Economic Facts by The Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institution.
Dr. Todd Hall has been doing some amazing research on the spiritual lives of Christian college students – here is an overview. I encouraged schools to consider using his Spiritual Transformation Inventory in 2007- – if any of you are using it I would love to hear from you!
I leave you with some good humor: “O Fortuna – bring more tuna” – this is what happens when we don’t understand the words – you will not ever hear this piece of music again without these images popping into your head – have a wonderful Christmas break!
I have been amazed by the amount of progress that has been made during the last thirty plus years in our approaches with special needs students. I feel I can make that statement because, as a student seeking a special education degree those many years ago, I remember when laws such as Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), also known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), had just been passed. We were in the beginning stages of learning how to best educate students in a “least restrictive environment.” I believe that in the Christian education community we are making significant progress with both educating students in inclusive settings and building understanding and appreciation for inclusive students with our entire student populations.
I am delighted to pass along a gift to you and your schools from a former colleague of mine, Dr. Kathleen VanTol, education professor at Dordt College in the areas of Special Education and Teaching English Language Learners. Her students have put together a 24 page Disability Awareness Unit suitable for use in K-8 schools. Each grade will study a different disability and there are devotionals and a 15 minutes a day lessons that include teaching ideas, video links, and interactive activities.
This unit is very timely – below is the introduction the students included with the unit:
Inclusive Schools Week is the first week of December. Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event that celebrates students who have disabilities while encouraging all students to acknowledge that students are more alike than different! Making our students more aware of disabilities is one way that they can see things from others’ perspectives. Working to make our schools more inclusive is a constant goal. Knowing more about different disabilities will help students become more prepared to be inclusive of children with disabilities within their own classrooms as well as through daily interactions outside of the classroom.
Many thanks to Dr. VanTol and Dordt students for sharing this great resource!
(This is the first in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)
I believe we are made by God to be learners and to have a passion for learning. One of the main tasks in the garden for Adam and Eve was learning – caring for and subduing the earth. The separation from God interrupted this perfect state of learning and the need to work (work as sweat and toil) entered into Adam and Eve’s reality. Today our work still interrupts our opportunities for learning. We help students experience Eden and give them a glimpse of heaven (among other things – a state of uninterrupted learning in my view!) when we bring as much true, joy-filled learning as possible into the lives of those we are entrusted to serve in our schools.
To produce a flourishing student, we must seriously attend to increasing their passion for learning. If we are not increasing a student’s passion for learning I believe we are failing in our work. A student who is a passionate learner reflects the creativity and mind of Christ. But what is the purpose of this passion for learning? Why have we been created with this passion and why do we find so much joy in learning? John Milton said, “The end of all learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love and imitate Him.” In other words our learning is a seeking after God – to understand the deep mysteries God has put into the world – and then to not only have knowledge for it’s own sake, but to use it to better love him, to worship him, and to serve him.
One of our favorite sayings in education that we often repeat is from Socrates: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” And yet we turn around and engage at times in learning processes that move students at early ages from an intrinsic, God-given joy to focus children on extrinsic rewards . . . and then continue that through high school, college, and beyond. John Holt describes this process well: “We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.”
Contrast this with the kind of learning we do as adults. When we get engaged in doing some kind of learning, we move into what Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of “flow”, when we lose track of all time and it seems somehow suspended. Schlecty, an educator/author/researcher on student engagement marvels at how school dropouts in a bar can be so mesmerized and engaged for long periods of time with an online game of Trivial Pursuit – he goes on to wonder why we can’t achieve that level of engagement in school. How can we change schools to encourage a greater passion for learning – or to not dampen down what is already there?
In a remarkable experiment, researchers at the Hole-in-the-Wall Project led by Dr. Sugata Mitra placed a computer into the wall of a building in the slums of New Delhi and let it sit there, with no explanation. Within hours, and with no outside help, the children had learned to use it on their own! The passion to learn is no doubt God-given, but we must take great care as educators to not dampen, but to enhance this passion.
We know that this passion for learning is a key 21st century skill. Those who can direct their passion and develop further learning will be the leaders as suggested by Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” If we are serious about helping kids to flourish, fanning the flame of passion for learning is one of the very best things we can do to prepare them for the future. One of the most important feedback questions we might ask of our students and their parents at the end of a school year is: “Did my teaching and this school create a greater passion for learning than you came with at the beginning of the year?” Do you have the humility and the courage to ask such a question? And then act upon the data, as needed, to make changes in your school’s learning environment?
As Christian educators, increasing a student’s passion is never only self-focused – it is not just about increasing that student’s personal satisfaction or economic gain. It is about helping them to learn to live a hopeful, joy-filled life that spills over into the lives of others and reflects back joy to the Creator. In his book, Flowers for Algernon, author Daniel Keyes captures this joy:
“I’m living at a peak of clarity and beauty I never knew existed. Every part of me is attuned to the work. I soak it up into my pores during the day, and at night—in the moments before I pass off into sleep—ideas explode into my head like fireworks. There is no greater joy than the burst of solution to a problem. Incredible that anything could happen to take away this bubbling energy, the zest that fills everything I do. It’s as if all the knowledge I’ve soaked in during the past months has coalesced and lifted me to a peak of light and understanding. This is beauty, love, and truth all rolled into one. This is joy.”
Isn’t this the kind of passion for learning that we desire for all of our students?
One of the best new books that I have been recommending to others recently is Yong Zhao’s book: World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. Why do I like this book so much? Here are five reasons.
1. Our current state – Zhao makes a compelling case for our loss of creativity among students (it gets worse the more we educate students!) and points to curriculum narrowing and the latest school reform efforts. He demonstrates that there is an inverse relationship between entrepreneurship scores and international test scores – in other words some of the countries scoring best on the PISA tests are showing a low level of entrepreneurship among students. He argues that, due to curriculum narrowing with NCLB, time for the arts, music physical education, and even science has been decreased, resulting in a marginalized curriculum. With a global job shift underway, entrepreneurial skills are more needed than ever – and we are not preparing students for this changed world.
2. The myth of superior Chinese education – Zhao points out that while we have been trying to learn how countries such as Singapore, Korea, and China get superior international test scores, they have been trying to learn how the United States remains the hotbed of innovation. He asks: “Why does the United States remain the world’s innovation hub despite its long history of poor standing in international education assessments? Where did all the creative entrepreneurs come from?’ His answer is that China has been even better than the U.S. at killing the creative spirit. For example, the preeminence, and I would add, idolatry of, the national college entrance exams in Far Eastern countries, locks and dooms students to limited life opportunities and are one of the major factors behind the despair, depression, and high suicide rates of youth in these countries.
3. Changing the paradigm – simply put, is schooling about narrowing down human diversity into a set of desirable skills for employment or about celebrating human diversity (individual, cultural, and economic differences) toward enhancing and expanding talents? Traditional education will only get us so far – we need to be paying attention to education that is child centered, that recognizes the gifts and needs of each learner, capitalizes on their strengths, and gives them the freedom to sharpen their talents and expand their opportunities.
4. Product oriented learning – citing past examples of student oriented learning and recent engagement (or should I say student disengagement) data, Zhao believes that “freedom to learn and authentic student leadership” constitute the first fundamental principle of the new education paradigm we need for the 21st century.” Therefore, school must have environments that have a broad range of experiences for students, promote personalized learning, are flexible, and involve students as decision makers. He goes on to examine various product oriented learning environments and shows how project based learning is making a difference for students and exemplifies the design principles he suggests.
5. Global, world-class education – in order for schools to develop entrepreneurs, they must move beyond their physical boundaries and engage with others around the world to network and solve problems. I appreciated his specific examples of schools doing this. In order for students to be global entrepreneurs they must develop their cultural intelligence in order to effectively network. Zhao closes by giving us this helpful summary – we must pay attention to the “what” (student passions, interests, creativity); the “how” (problems, products, caring about people’s needs); and the “where” (global perspectives, partners, and competencies.)
The ideas expressed in this book would fit well with a transformational and Christian approach to education. I highly recommend that our schools (teachers, administrators, and boards) read and discuss this book and then consider what it means for their school’s mission and vision moving into the future.
For those of you new to reading this blog, at the end of last year I proposed that Christian schools consider adopting a Flourishing Index – a list of outcomes that we desire for our students. I also think that this index could provide helpful targets that we could measure ourselves against. For more information, you may wish to read the two blog posts that were written last year as a way of gaining familiarity with what I am suggesting.
While I did not consciously realize it at the time I was creating a Flourishing Index, I have since discovered two wonderful resources: one from a Christian perspective and one from a secular perspective. I would like to start with renowned Christian philosopher and Christian education thinker Nicholas Wolterstorff this month and discuss the other author next month in this blog.
As someone who has thought a lot about developing distinctively Christian curriculum, I was encouraged to read that Wolterstorff had also puzzled about what makes a curriculum distinctively Christian, and this led him to the idea of flourishing as a unifying concept:
“It became important for me to figure out what holds a curriculum together. You’ve got sciences and arts and my own passion, justice. What holds it all together? It eventually became clear to me that there is a biblical category of flourishing, of shalom. [It is] “peace” in the New Testament, but eirene in Greek is a pretty weak translation of what the Old Testament means by shalom. It means flourishing. That’s what a Christian college should be about. Not just planting thoughts in people’s heads and getting them into professional positions but flourishing, in all its dimensions. Source: Faith and Leadership, 2012
He defines flourishing and elaborates upon the idea of flourishing as shalom in this video:
In a review of Wolterstorff’s book, Educating for Life, reviewer John Shortt highlights this definition of flourishing, which I believe captures the essence of flourishing: “Shalom is not merely the absence of hostility for, as he memorably puts it, ‘to dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in one’s physical surroundings, to enjoy living with one’s fellows, to enjoy living with oneself’ (p. 101).” I am particularly struck with the Joy aspect of living in harmony with God, neighbor, and self – a deep sense of happiness and contentment.
As we spend the next months unpacking the concept of flourishing through discussion of the elements of The Flourishing Index, I invite you to consider how flourishing is really the ultimate outcome of a truly distinctive Christian education.
Last month I introduced a new set of student outcomes to aim for with our students in my post, Proposing a “Flourishing Index”. I suggested that flourishing, not merely meeting minimum standards, should be our goal in Christian education. What are the qualities or key components of a Christian education that have the best possibility of helping students to flourish?
- Connection – Our first need as human beings is to belong. Our identity comes from the fact that we are God’s children and heirs of the kingdom. Our kids need to understand this from the time they enter our doors. Helping all kids to feel like they belong is fundamental. Kids need to be taught to see all others in the world as image-bearers of God, created in his image (Galatians 4:6-8).
- Competency – When we can do something well, our confidence increases. We know in our hearts whether any praise is deserved. Our students need to master the basics to feel confident so that they can take on new and larger challenges.
- Coherence – When we understand how things fit together, we develop a schema or framework that helps us to understand present situations and be confident in new situations. Whenever possible we should be working toward demonstrating coherence and connection in Christian schools if we desire to image Christ, in whom all things cohere (Colossians 1:16, 17).
- Contribution – Who are you as a person? As a learner? As a producer? How have you been wired and what is your unique contribution? Why were you born in this time and place and how might God advance his kingdom through you and the gifts and talents he has given you?
- Community – One of the first things we learn in kindergarten is that community is important. Students learn that each individual has a contribution to offer to the larger community.
- Creativity – from my April 23, 2011 post: “Creativity is today considered to be the highest level of thinking, as evidenced by the fact that it is now placed at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking. As Christians we understand that we are made in the image of God. Likewise our own creativity is a reflection, in a small way, of the Creator of All.”
- Christlikeness – this is our ultimate goal for our students. To be like him – “in whom are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”- Colossians 2:2b. To be like him – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7.
I believe these seven aspects are critical for an education that equips students to be both faithful presence (being Christ) to others and (living Christ) as transformational impacters of culture.
Aristotle – “All men by nature desire to know.” Isn’t that what got Adam and Eve into trouble? They wanted to know what it was like to be God. Didn’t curiosity kill the cat after all?
In reading the work of the most learned people of our day, we discover that the more honest ones admit they know very little about the one aspect that they have spent their lifetimes studying. While our information is doubling at tremendous speeds, we still know very little about our earth and space.
Daniel Boorstin – “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” We know from I Corinthians 8:1b that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” When we feel inflated about what we know, it not only has idolatrous power, but it also shuts down our desire to continue to be curious, to discover, to wonder, to be the sense makers, the inquirers, the delighters that God intended us to be.
Better to share honest questions as educators with our students and reflect, inquire, and wonder together, than to act as if we have it all figured out. Isn’t this a more truly God-honoring approach?
The inspiration for this blog post was drawn from a wonderful article by Peter Huidekoper, Jr. entitled “The Age of Wonder” that appeared in the October 12, 2011 Education Week.
From time to time I get the question – should we use “Christian” or secular textbooks? I am careful how I answer because there may be a presumed “right” answer by the questioner. Frankly, I have potential issues with both approaches – let me explain further.
I start from the premise that all truth is God’s truth and that we see his truth, design, beauty, goodness, and handiwork in all created things. That said, a text (whether Christian or secular) reveals God’s truth, but in the case of a secular textbook may not point to it explicitly. There is no such thing as sacred and secular truth – all things cohere in Christ – truth is truth whether we acknowledge the source or not. 2+2=4 is what it is, however the difference is whether I point to man as having discovered it or whether this is a fact about how God has put together the universe. The best scientific findings, for example, simply point to the truth that God has embedded in creation. Science will continue to reveal God’s truth, whether it is acknowledged by man as having its origin in God or not. The condition of the human heart as we study it in literature and social studies, the reason for actions and decisions, etc. simply reveals the brokenness of man and his need for a Savior.
A key component, of course, is the teacher who is using the text. I could use a secular text in ways that point kids to God’s truth and also use that opportunity to discuss/critique a non-Christian view that is espoused and commonly held in the world’s thinking. Of course I could do the same with a Christian text. It would depend though on whether the Christian text thoughtfully examined and taught all viewpoints on a subject or was more of a “propaganda” tool. Unfortunately, there are poor quality Christian texts that fall into that category.
Another issue to consider with either scenario is whether you have teachers who are equipped to teach thoughtfully – they may not know how to teach a Christian worldview. They may then just use a poor, “propagandistic” Christian text or use a “secular” text and not be able to lead students in a thoughtful critique in either situation. In either scenario, the desire is that the teacher is well equipped theologically and philosophically to reveal and guide students into God’s truth. If the teacher is well equipped, the secular text may do a more complete job of revealing the secular bias that can then be thoughtfully critiqued through an avenue such as a thoughtful, faith-learning integrated essential question with a follow up assessment asking students to show thoughtful reflection.
Whether we use a “Christian” text or a secular text, two things are paramount to keep in mind:
First we must hire and train teachers who are passionate about their faith and are eager to learn more about how to help kids wrestle with the issues of life. We want teachers to thoughtfully and prayerfully share their own Christian perspective related to the subject matter. This perspective will be demonstrated within their curriculum by the kinds of unit/essential/driving questions that they ask of students and what kinds of things they ask students on assessments. If there is no written evidence of this in in curriculum maps or student assessments, one can rightfully question what worldview is being advanced.
Second, schools are sometimes careless about designing and constructing a quality curriculum that links mission and content and getting it in written form. It is not helpful to invest in teacher and curriculum development if what is developed is not recorded for later use. The assets of a school community, in terms of well developed learning experiences for students, may be walking out the door as experienced and gifted veteran teachers leave an institution without articulating what and how they taught. New teachers need these foundations to stand on and build from as they learn how to interpret the school mission through quality curriculum that demonstrates God’s timeless truth.
“Simplicity, clarity, and priority would be a dream scenario for our school!” a teacher told me. “How can we start to get there?” asked another. I could tell from the passion in their voices that they had been deeply frustrated by years of initiatives, lack of clarity, and failed improvement efforts. They almost didn’t dare believe that simplicity, clarity, and priority were possible, but were still willing to strive for those elusive goals.
Simplicity, clarity, and priority are addressed in chapter one of Mike Schmoker’s new book, Focus: Elevating the Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning, and I think that through this book he has put an elbow into the sore spot of the backs of most North America educators – “it hurts so good that I know I need to do something about it!” His premise simply is that we have not taken the time to identify what we really need to be doing in terms of what we teach and how we teach. How can we gain clarity if we have not truly identified a “guaranteed and viable” curriculum? How do we set priority when looking at hundreds of standards in a content area? Why do we ignore things that are proven to work, such as the development and implementation of common assessments?
In the first chapters, Schmoker accurately describes educator frustrations and examines what we teach and how we teach. He makes an argument for simplification and focus on reading, writing, and authentic literacy skills. In the succeeding chapters he goes subject by subject and boldly suggests, according to research, what we should be emphasizing in each of the subject areas. This is not a “back to the basics” book, but a valuable book that identifies best practice that is advantageous in any instructional setting.
If you only could choose one book to read and discuss with your staff this year, this one would be a worthy choice. There is a lot of practical stuff in this book to push up against and have lively and productive discussion around. Schmoker has moved the discussion off the dime – I recommend you give it a read.
We have reached the finish line for this year! I hope you have enjoyed reading Nurturing Faith. I keep a number of files of ideas to use when writing this blog and I still have a variety of interesting things that I would like to share with you below. Enjoy!
15 provocative things to read
Grand Rapids Christian High did an “old fashioned social network” and found it had unexpected results! Read about their “sharing wall.”
Want better student engagement in your class? See 7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In.
The limits of standardized testing are well articulated by this AP student.
With increasing technology use, what is the role of the teacher – are they a dispensable algorithm or indispensable artist?
Helpful summary of how technology impacts the brain.
Can you get kids to talk about what you want them to discuss using backchanneling?
Take this 10 question quiz to see if you are a tech savvy teacher.
McREL says there are 5 things that make the biggest difference in schools.
A great resource site for new teachers divided by levels.
Best sites to check out how to use iPads in education.
Three reports that you should take a look at:
The-Rise-of-K-12-Blended-Learning – produced by Innosight Institute – it has very helpful explanations of blended learning models and gives 40 profiles of schools implementing new models.
The 2011-Horizon-Report-K12 “examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.surface significant trends and challenges and to identify a wide array of potential technologies for the report. “
The Story is a unique chronological version of the Bible written by Max Lucado and produced by Zondervan with a focus on God’s story to his people throughout history. CSI will be making this resource and accompanying materials available to schools – contact Bible specialist Kent Ezell (email@example.com) at CSI for more info. He has been blogging on this resource here and here.
RADCAB: Your Vehicle for Information Evaluation is a book written by Calvin Christian (Minnesota) teacher Karen Christensson that is designed to help upper elementary and middle school kids think critically about information online. The acronym RADCAB stands for six important concepts for evaluating information.
Book: 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn – eds. Bellanca and Brandt, Solution Tree, 2010.
Book: 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers: The Truth on Raising Teenagers from Parents Who Have Been There - the latest from Walt Mueller.
Your continued learning
In my speaking lately I have been encouraging schools to consider the power of PLN’s – Personal Learning Networks. If you are not familiar with the term or want to learn more, I suggest that you start here and here.
If you haven’t checked out Twitter, read why I am excited about it here and then get started!
Have a wonderful summer!
Yours for continued learning,
“What makes young people catch fire, work hard, and persist despite difficulties?” This compelling question and succeeding answers are spelled out in a new book, Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery, by Kathleen Cushman. Cushman suggests it is helpful to consider the differences between student experiences and what their elders report. She does this by citing evidence from the 2009 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.
Cushman reports: “Four out of five teachers and principals in our 2009 survey told us that they believe connecting classroom instruction to the real world would have a major impact on student achievement. They also held that addressing the individual needs of diverse students is necessary to student success. A school culture where students feel responsible and accountable for their own education, they said, would greatly affect student achievement.”
Cushman goes on to say: “In that same survey, however, a majority of students reported that their teachers very rarely – or never – speak to them personally about things that matter to the students. Over a quarter of secondary school students said their teachers do not connect the school curriculum to its applications in the outside world. And only one in four students felt strongly that school let them use their abilities and their creativity.”
Cushman wonders: “What should we conclude from such disparate perspectives?” Hmm…great question!
As I have pondered this question, it appears that in this time of educational change there are three principles with which we should be concerning ourselves as Christian educators as we engage students in the learning process.
Principle #1: Competence – we are responsible for ensuring that students grow in understanding and wisdom that allows them to thrive as adults. Simply put, what should kids learn?
Principle #2: Coherence – we must help students make connections between what they are learning and how things fit together in a bigger picture. In Christian education we desire for our students to image Christ, in whom all things cohere. (Col. 1:15-20)
Principle #3: Creativity – there are many ways that we can learn something and express our understanding. Creativity is today considered to be the highest level of thinking, as evidenced by the fact that it is now placed at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking. As Christians we understand that we are made in the image of God. Likewise our own creativity is a reflection, in a small way, of the Creator of All.
My suggestion is that we value all of these areas equally in our educational process. It is easiest to get overbalanced in the competence area. As teachers, it is fun to tell others what we know; even though there is plenty of evidence today that telling is not the best way for students to learn. Consider how much fun it is for us to personally discover something instead of being told, yet we often persist in taking the easier “telling” route with our students. Here is one example of what could happen when we turn over some control.
Our greatest joys in the learning process come when things “connect” with our students and they “get it!” It is the joy of coherence that we are experiencing – helping others to see how it all fits together. Why settle for kids getting bits and pieces when we can help them to see how learning impacts their lives?
If we “kill creativity” through teaching that puts kids to sleep (physically or mentally!) and don’t encourage/allow children to be creative, have we limited their opportunity to image God?
(Thanks to Mark Eckel for giving permission to share this post of March 25, 2011 from his blog, Warp and Woof.)
“I’m not a math person.” For years this had been my response to any question involving numbers, equations, or solutions. But I had wrongly given up responsibility for a crucial characteristic of God’s creation. I began to realize my answer was a wrong approach to math or, for that matter, anything else in life.
In the summer of 2003 I was asked to do a Christian school in-service on biblical integration including three hours on elementary math. I asked for and received the table of contents along with sample lessons from each textbook. As I pondered God’s natural revelation of arithmetic The Spirit began to open my eyes to at least twelve major concepts directly dependent upon Scriptural truth.
I used to believe that math was the most difficult subject for biblical integration. Indeed, it seems immediately plain that math is the essential core of God’s world. As I understand it now, math could well be described as “God’s language.” For instance, John D. Barrow’s book The Constants of Nature: From Alpha to Omega–the Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe seems to mirror Scriptural injunctions concerning “the works of God’s hands” that endure “from age to age.” The stability of creation is consistently used as the measuring rod for God’s interaction with people. Why? The Creator’s truthful rule over this world and this life marks his dependability for the next world and afterlife (see examples in Psalms 35, 71, 73, 80, 88, 92, 95, 103, 118, 120, 146, and 148). Numerical order is essential for life and central to “the whole truth” of God’s creation.
Here is a sample of biblically integrative lesson plan goals from the first of twelve mathematical concepts entitled “systems and roles.” Each aim is premised upon observations from Genesis one and two. [I have created 12 lesson plans which include goals, objectives, anticipatory sets, readings, discussion, methods, and questions.]
- To prove God’s world is interrelated—each part working within the whole.
- To express how God brought various systems together in complementary equilibrium.
- To state that creation’s organization is based on the plans and decrees of God.
- To explain how something is “unique”—each thing assigned its place, given a role by God.
- To appreciate math as a system by which God runs His world.
After describing God’s numerical ordering of His creation Job cries, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works!” (26:14). Never again will I say, “I’m not a math person.” Since The Personal Eternal Creator binds His world with numbers, I am bound to discover more about math. Discovering more of God’s world helps us to know more of our God.
“They are so close to the Real Truth” is what I have thought on several occasions recently after reading some of the books written by the people I most respect in education today. Let me illustrate what I mean.
One of the best thinkers in education today, David Perkins, in his latest book, Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education (that I recommend to you to read by the way), ponders the question of selecting what is worth learning. He starts by considering Neil Postman’s thoughts from his book, “The End of Education,” where Postman urges that “meaningful education needs to be organized around the right ‘gods’ or ‘grand narratives’ that tie everything together.” Postman sees today’s gods of economic utility, consumerism, or technology as inadequate. Perkins states: “It’s not that these gods fail to offer grand narratives, they just do not provide very rich ones. They don’t tell us enough about who we are, supply strong and fruitful guidance around moral questions, and explain enough about the deep mysteries of the world…” Perkins goes on to suggest that Postman’s grand narrative themes of “Spaceship Earth” or “Fallen Angel” in his book do a better job of providing a narrative that potentially can link things together.
Perkins continues by discussing Howard Gardner’s suggestion of using three overarching themes: the true, the good, and the beautiful. He believes that these overarching concepts could “speak deeply and honestly both to the intricacies of today’s world and to academic disciplines.”
Perkin’s own synthesis and thinking leads him to this conclusion: “Looking across Postman, Gardner, and other sources, I’m struck by how his vision of meaningful education seems to speak to three basic agendas: enlightenment, empowerment, and responsibility.” He continues: “If much of what we taught highlighted understandings of wide scope, with enlightenment, empowerment, and responsibility in the foreground, there is every reason to think that youngsters would retain more, understand more, and use more of what they learned…our most important choice is what we try to teach.”
In Howard Gardner’s book, Five Minds for the Future, (I blogged about this earlier) he suggests that we need to work toward developing minds and hearts that are disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical. When pressed by an interviewer in a podcast, he acknowledged respectful and ethical minds as most important. Hitler after all had a disciplined and creative mind – however it was devoid of respect and ethics!
Learning can be most powerful in Christian schools because we have the best master narrative that we can give to kids to link together the purpose of life and what our purpose is for existence. To Gardner I would ask: How can we know what is good, true and beautiful if we don’t acknowledge a source of authority? Can man alone determine what is good, true and beautiful? To Perkins I ask – Haven’t we been down the enlightenment and empowerment path many times? History is littered with ruinous revolutions using these words as justifications. For his word ‘responsibility,’ we again are left adrift – responsible to whom? Doesn’t this word beg for acknowledgment of a Higher Power, namely God, to whom we are accountable and responsible? Yes, David, I deeply believe youngsters do retain more when there is an undergirding scope and narrative – that is why I am so passionate about Christian education! And that is why our discussions about what our curriculums contain, and what is worth learning, are of such critical and ongoing importance.
(As we consider the issue of integrating faith and learning by teachers – so that students may be equipped to be impact culture in transformational ways – I suggest that the following blog post addresses the kind of thinking we need for, as our author suggests, “the long game of cultural apologetics.” Thanks to Mark Eckel, Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, IN for his permission to share this article from his blog Warp and Woof .)
Christians are in a house holding off an incursion of gatecrashers: nudity, sex, profanity, and violence. Shotguns blast away through open windows, a couch is pushed up against the front door, defenders stand in opposition to attackers coming up the drive. While we are focused intently on the crassness of a vulgar society capturing our attention street-side, the back door screen is flapping in the breeze. With little attention or ballyhoo, individualism, materialism, pragmatism, and naturalism assault our unprotected flank. The home invasion metaphor stands as a general portrait of Christian response to culture today. Obsessed by obvious lasciviousness, any focus on the insidious, clandestine plan of our adversary attracts little notice. Why?
We like to categorize problems but do not understand what it means to consider categories of thought. Seeing life as a series of issues is easy. The fight against gambling is clear, for instance. We know what gaming is and, if we do our homework, what casinos may do to a population of people. Fronting a spokesperson, fundraising, formulating an action plan are all employed to defeat any proposition that allows games of chance in our area. We know the effects upon money and morals in our community and we do not want any part of them. Poker addictions and casino lifestyles are objective: I can point to a deck of cards or the latest gaming show on ESPN.
Categories of thought, on the other hand, are not often found on our radar screens. The spirits of our age are nothing new. Since the flashing sword barred the path to Eden, we have encountered all the mindsets present today. From where and at what time, as a case in point, did our insatiable thirst for individualism arise? What ideas fostered the “no one tells me what to do” mentality? How are the schemes of self-centered thinking represented in our culture? Why should we respond Christianly to the “go-it-alone” philosophy? Answers to questions such as these, demand more than the work of organizing a boycott. We must be committed to reading history and philosophy while critiquing the framework of individualism from a biblical worldview perspective.
Addressing cultural concerns as they show themselves through popular culture is also necessary. “Have it your way” or “no rules, just right” are advertising slogans which feed beliefs embedded in our behavior. Perhaps most onerous is the realization that our attitudes and actions must change as we face up to individualism within ourselves. Confronted by the words of prophets and apostles in Holy Writ and the niggling of The Spirit on our conscience, we Christians must first be transformed individuals against individualism before any letters to the editor may be written.
Why is it that we believers are dedicated to closing the local adult bookstore yet ignorant of the debilitating effects of pragmatism as seen through the latest illegal download of our favorite song artist’s CD? I suggest that we are averse to playing the long game of cultural apologetics. Thoughtful engagement takes time. A lawn sign takes one minute to erect. Digestion of ideas may take months…or years. Pickets and protests—which take little time or thought—might be set aside in pursuit of practicing Christian persuasion. In The Church as a whole and Christian schools—kindergarten through graduate—in particular, we must further the hard work of preparation for an enemy which uses more covert than overt tactics. While battles against what we know to be wrong are important at times, a visionary strategy to engage the battle for the Christian mind must be drawn.
A plan to create discerning Christians is important. I might suggest a preliminary five-fold outline which could summarize this competency from a Christian worldview perspective: (1) identification of erroneous powers, premises, and practices; (2) interpretation of pagan belief from a Christian perspective; (3) inductive study of Scripture as a basis for assessment; (4) interaction with current issues and icons; (5) investment in necessary tools for students to make cultural apologetics a lifelong practice.
Becoming a cultural apologist is a pursuit which others have developed in detail. Denis Haack has been critiquing culture with a Christian lens for over two decades. Ransom Fellowship interacts with books, magazines, and movies from a Christian point of view. Denis has focused a keen eye on popular culture through discussion questions that make people think about their beliefs. Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio addresses more of what some would call “high culture.” Interviews with artists, poets, professors, and authors examine how our world has come to think as it does. Direct questions for each guest interview help the listener to formulate a perspective on how and why our civilization has developed. Both Denis and Ken set examples for the process of cultural apologetics.
Understanding that visual images are often the first attack on 21st century minds it is fitting to acknowledge a film every Christian must see to appreciate a Christian approach to the new millennium. From the opening scene, Crash tells the tale of a seeming random intersection of lives. Relationships are crucial to understanding. Consequences of our actions do happen. Rather than a fortuitous accident, life is us. How we act toward others does matter. What we think and believe is worn on our shirt sleeve. Humans bear responsibility for their dealings with others. We do what is “good” and “bad.” Most importantly, Crash more than any other recent movie suggests our rapport with each other matters. Racial profiling is simply a slice of our humanity. Crash insists we look at ourselves in the mirror of humankind, seeing ourselves in the characters, stepping onto the stage of life.
Herein is cultural apologetics. We listen to others who speak in our time and place of history. We hear what they intend for us to hear. We obey the internal compulsion to honestly interact with their ideas and the precepts of the God who made us both. May we not be offended before we understand our own offense. May we not renounce another’s point of view before we announce our own. May we not walk out on a movie before we walk with another who behaves as those on the screen. May we not center only on disapproval before we discover where we can approve another’s perspective. May we not simply assert our position before we assent to what others have said. May we reject not the person but the roots of their belief, in love. And may many believers be found who will defend The Faith not just against the obvious front door attacks of Satan, but bolt the back door infiltration of mindsets that corrupt Christian thought.
We can talk about Christian education all day, but unless we teach in distinctively Christian ways, we might as well close our doors! My work with schools involves helping them bridge the gap from philosophy/mission to classroom teaching practice and it usually is the area of greatest need in all Christian schools. I would like to share with you some very specific examples of teaching that, I believe, make a real difference in shaping the minds, hearts, and hands of students. I have been given permission by two excellent teachers, Mark Kauk and Janie VanDyke, from Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa to share the ways they integrate faith and learning in their classrooms. They exemplify the kind of teachers I described in Part 1 of this series. I am grateful to both of them for allowing their work to be shared in this post and I am hopeful that these examples may also be an inspiration to you!
Mark uses questions to focus on four key concepts associated with the aspect of Creation in his high school science units. He states that these questions “really force students to think and get at ideas about God’s world that they never have really thought about much.”
Here are his belief statements and questions in a unit on waves/sound/light that link general revelation and a Biblical perspective:
Creation. God created everything through the Word. That Word is Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who is the perfect image of the Creator.
Summarize the main thought of each passage:
Purpose In Creation. God created everything with purpose and meaning, ultimately to bring glory to himself.
List five examples from the study of waves, light, and sound. Describe their purposeful function.
Class Discussion: Why are waves, light, and sound important in a world that functions with God created purpose?
Patterns in Creation. We see evidence of design, order, and patterns in all that God created.
Explain five observable examples of the design, order, and patterns found in the study of waves, light, and sound.
Class Discussion: How do these examples of waves, light, and sound show evidence of the wisdom of a grand design?
Providence in Creation. God sustains and upholds his creation by his Word.
List and explain any natural laws that describe the behavior of waves, light, and sound. Include any mathematical descriptions.
What are some of the miracles in the OT and NT of the Bible which are reminders of God’s sustaining power in the physical creation? Must be specific to waves, light, and sound.
Potential in Creation. God created the universe with the potential for man to investigate and develop through scientific study and technological development.
Research the historical timeline for the discovery of the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Include our understanding of at least 7 different categories of waves.
List ten technological developments associated with the electromagnetic spectrum.
Class Discussion: How have these developments contributed to the benefit or demise of man’s created purpose to glorify God?
Mark mentions that the big picture concepts of Purpose, Pattern, Providence, and Potential work equally well in other units of science that he teaches to assist faith learning integration. In the process I believe he is teaching students a “habit of mind” to consider all four of these aspects as they look at creation. Additionally, and of perhaps even more lasting importance, he has given them a framework for future thinking, so that they can identify Biblical thinking related to conceptual understandings.
Janie VanDyke uses what I would call faith-enhancing practices such as faith stories and reflective writing in her English class to encourage faith development in students. In an assignment for the online Distinctive class that I teach, Mark listed these ways that Janie integrates faith and learning in her class. (Janie was kind enough to allow sharing of these examples – thank you!)
In Freshman English Janie uses the stories, “Things We Couldn’t Say” by Diet Eman with James Schaap and “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom to teach about faith stories. These people lived out their faith in the context of challenging circumstances. One of the themes she discusses is sacrifice, of how people help others even when they are very different from themselves. She also shares her own faith story. The strategies she uses for this unit are reading the books, discussion in class, writing an assignment of their own story, and also journaling. The journaling is interesting because she will ask them to write about various personal things such as a struggle they may have had or a circumstance where their faith affected their actions.
Another project she does is a genealogy research project where each student researches aspects of their ancestors. The faith of many generations is seen and the faithfulness of God is demonstrated. The strategies include discussion, sharing, and assignments involving writing, composing a poem about themselves, creating a dictionary of terms about common phrases used at home, doing an essay, and conducting an interview of a grandparent.
In Communications class, where students give speeches, they first read a book by Quentin Schultze, a professor at Calvin College, who has written a book on public speaking. In it he emphasizes the idea of being a servant speaker, not an ego speaker. One of his chapters also deals with the fruits of the spirit in public speaking. Her strategy is to have students read this and then discuss it before students even begin composing speeches.
In a senior literature class she has the students read “Night” by Elie Wiesel, about a Holocaust experience. She then assigns a paper on injustice where students must write about some global or national injustice. She also uses information from a former student who is a lawyer and has become involved with International Justice Mission.
Resources: She has collected her ideas and curriculum content over the years from books she reads, people she knows, other teachers, articles she has read, and her own interests. One example is how she read an essay once of Lewis Smedes called “How I Found God at Calvin College” and she took that idea and now has students write an essay on where they have found God.
I think these are some helpful ideas and specific examples of how master teachers who are passionate about their faith are revealing truth, unfolding creation, and integrating faith and learning in their classrooms. Any ideas you would like to share?
They found some musty old books, dusted them off, read them, and saved a generation! In the story of Joash, we find the Spirit of the Lord leading him as a young person to read and re-institute the law of the Lord – see 2 Kings 23:2. We are told that the reading of the law led to a spiritual revival among the people and God’s blessing on the land. Even though oral tradition was foremost (writing was more the exception than the rule in those days), we see how God used the written word to preserve and instruct his people.
It is interesting that today in our age of every kind of communication, we still need to make sure that we get written down what it is we are doing in order to integrate teaching and learning. We have moved from oral to print in Christian schools in our attempts to articulate what we know about a Biblically infused curriculum. This has been an important part of our history as Christian schools – I clearly remember saving all those coins for Christian School’s International Foundation Day textbook drives in the 60’s. We now have reached the point where we must move increasingly from print to digital/electronic means for cost containment and for ease of sharing.
My concern is that we articulate in writing what it is we are doing – as I mentioned last month it takes veteran teachers who possess passion and astuteness in order to communicate in engaging ways with students about the unity of all truth through Christ.
- I challenge you, veteran teacher, to share those ideas for integrating faith and learning that you have gained through reading, reflection, and practice and write them down to share with the next generation. Step up to the plate – it is part of your legacy!
- I challenge you, young teacher, to observe, ask questions, press your veteran colleagues to not only orally share, but to record in the context of units of study, how they integrate faith and learning, how they bring biblical truth to bear on their subject matter, and what works most effectively with students. Do not be ashamed of what you don’t know, but have the humility to ask and learn.
- I challenge you, administrator, to make sure your teachers not only write down what they are doing in integrating faith and learning, but to make sure that it is of good quality. Give your teachers time to work together to discuss how the mission and philosophy of your school actually turns into reality in the teaching and assessing of your students. Don’t let the vibrancy and distinctiveness of your school be watered down on your watch! Remember that Christian teaching and learning is the core business of your school, even though there are so many other daily distractions. Be a Joash for your school!
The blank looks are what really scare me. As I conduct workshops across North America, I inquire what my audiences know about how to integrate faith and learning in curriculum. I probably could sort responses into three categories: 1) know what I am talking about and have thought about it and are doing it to some degree, 2) know what I am talking and know they should be doing it, but aren’t or are doing it very superficially, and 3) teachers who have little or no training, and really don’t know how to proceed. The disturbing trend over the last five years is that I am seeing the numbers in the first category decrease and the numbers in categories 2 and 3 increase. One of my next questions is if teachers have received any training in integrating faith and learning in curriculum, and again, I am seeing that teachers in Christian schools are coming from a wider variety of college settings and lack the background and foundational understandings needed.
I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but if we lose our ability to reveal God’s truth effectively through our teaching and learning, we are, as I state in the post below this, “one short generation” away from just becoming good Christian people who bring a pietistic, but not world transforming learning experience to our students. We must continue to articulate the master story of Jesus Christ and his creation in engaging ways that leads to personal transformation of our students’ lives and challenges them to a life of discipleship and engagement with God’s world! What does it take to do this effectively?
As I have observed master Christian teachers who do the best job of integrating faith and learning, I see several “astutenesses” and passions in their thinking and behavior.
- Spiritual passion – they are alive spiritually and their passion for Jesus Christ “oozes” out of them. Their students have no doubts about their commitment.
- Theological understanding – they demonstrate a deep understanding of Scripture and have personally worked through their own big picture understandings of how the master story works in our world.
- A student of their students – they know well the age of the student they are working with, what matters to them, how they think, what they believe, and what motivates them.
- Culturally aware – they understand what is going on in the world, are keen observers of how worldviews are lived out, offer a prophetic voice to challenge students about their passions and idols, and help students to not only interpret and translate culture, but to create alternative culture that reflects Biblical values.
- Masters of their discipline – they know their subject area well, are driven to learn more, know the controversies and issues connected with current thinking in the discipline, have reflected how this subject comes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and know how to demonstrate and help students connect a Biblical perspective to the field of study.
What are you doing to articulate the master story? What are you doing to challenge others to become this kind of master teacher?
Public education cannot and will not point children to God. Simply put, all education is religious in nature – it is either man centered or God centered. Public education cannot legally acknowledge God as creator and sustainer of life. Who can be thanked in a public school curriculum? Where is praise to be directed?
- Do you believe Sunday School and youth group alone can adequately provide a solid foundation for the faith formation of youth?
- Can kids truly be expected to be effective “salt and light” in public K – 12 education? (see my blog post of 4.28.08)
- When your church recognizes and prays for those adults who are nurturing faith of kids in your church, do you also recognize and pray for those “missionary teachers” in Christian day school and encourage them in their work?
- Kids are having less conversations about faith today according to Barna research. Where can kids best have conversations about faith on a daily basis and begin to understand how faith relates to all of life?
- Our first mission field is our own kids – what good is it to “save the world and lose our own soul”? (our kids as flesh of our flesh)
- A prime strategy in use in world mission outreach is to begin a Christian school right after establishing a church. It works – why do we not believe it to work in North America?
- Why do some of us pledge in our baptismal forms to do all in our power to raise children to love and serve the Lord and then not help provide Christian day school education for all families?
- Ask your pastor if he/she would have been better equipped for their work if he/she had been trained at a “public school” seminary or a Christian seminary and if not, ask them why any different approach should be used for kids and their spiritual training and development.
- Christian education and advocating for missions/evangelism are not antithetical – each of our children is a “mission project.” If faith is more caught than taught, don’t we want kids to have the most contact with adults who are living out their faith and showing how God is revealed through all of learning?
“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
In these past few months, something remarkable happened across the United States: many states adopted a set of national standards called the Common Core State Standards. (Those states are shown in yellow in the graphic to the right.) The adoption of the standards was sped along by the fact that any states applying for Race to the Top monies were required to have previously adopted the standards.
It is also remarkable that there has been a lot of praise for the content of the standards. Experts have even stated that the standards are stronger and more helpful than the current standards of 80% of the states. The standards are currently completed in language arts and math, with other areas still in the works.
As a “curriculum person,” I am always excited to have greater clarity around what we view as important for students to know and do. Yet, this set of standards lacks the kind of perspective toward wisdom that we are seeking to achieve with our students in Christian schools. I am not arguing with the content of the standards, just their completeness, as they are not wholistic in their current form, nor do they recognize the source all truth.
Would it be beneficial to have an amended Common Core standards for Christian schools that include an articulation of the kind of student outcomes we are working toward with our students?
I read a lot of stuff over the course of a year and here are some of the more interesting things I found that hopefully are thought provoking, engaging, and just plain fun! I leave you this pile to sort through at the end of the year – a potpourri sort of like those tables of lost and found items we have in our hallways, but hopefully of some value to you.
National standards for the U.S. (for those of you in the States and those who care about such things in Canada!) were released last week for English language arts and math. They have been getting some good press in general, but also some expected critique. It will be interesting what happens from here. Here is one thoughtful Christian teacher’s thoughts about them.
Here is a great video by Dan Meyer about engaging kids in thinking about math from the TED Talks people:
Who are the Ted Talks people, you may ask? They are a bunch of “crazed learners” (my words) – people who get together to be stimulated by ideas – my kind of people! 596 talks of less than 20 minutes each are available from TED’s annual California and England conferences. Believe me, as a speaker it is tough to boil it all down to 20 minutes or less, but here are the best speakers in the world doing it. Also available in podcasts via ITunes. See the video below of Sir Ken Robinson speaking about educational change as an example.
Sir Ken Robinson gave a popular TED talk entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” and here is the follow-up video entitled “Bring on the learning revolution”:
Living in denial – why is it so hard for us to grasp that our kids may be having sex?
Does going to Sunday School as a child make a difference? David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group states: “…the study shows that most American adults recall frequent faith activity when they were growing up. Moreover, it provides clarity that the odds of one sticking with faith over a lifetime are enhanced in a positive direction by spiritual activity under the age of 18. And it raises the intriguing possibility that being involved at least a few times a month is correlated with nearly the same sticking power as weekly involvement – especially among teenagers.” Read more here.
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? I’d encourage you to read the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck, to learn more about yourself and how our teachers may or may not view kids – tremendous implications for education.
A very helpful Slideshare (Slideshare is an online, open source Powerpoint that you can download) on CyberBullying –that includes the latest online stats related to teens.
Twittering is not Frittering! Want to do a lot of up to the minute learning? Sign up for Twitter and read what people are reading, thinking, re-tweeting (that’s when they recommend you look at something they found interesting – be it website, article, movie, etc.). Here are a few educators I find interesting to follow: Tom VanderArk, Gary Stager, Wesley Fryer, Scott McLeod, and Dan Pink.
Here is a very useful website by a principal for principals that has lots of forms, surveys, handbooks, etc. that could make your life easier!
A very helpful and well written review of Avatar from a Christian perspective in the March 2010 Christianity Today.
Good stuff from Wired magazine – my new favorite! Articles: Do You Speak Statistics? and Instant Karma – How Twitter + Dopamine = Better Humans.
I live in a happy town (here is the article and video) and right on the heels of that happy announcement came this- “Holland, Mich., Metro Area Best at Meeting Basic Needs”. Come and join us – it is a great place to live!
Why soda should have no place in a Christian school.
Are incentives a good thing? Maybe you have read Dan Pink’s book, Drive by now (see earlier post) – if not, read it! Here is another recent article on the topic from Fast Company: The Curse of Incentives.
I find this shocking – 40% of our food is wasted everyday!
And hopefully this will leave you laughing! Is immigration just a south of the border issue? This one is for our Canadian brothers and sisters – enjoy!
Thanks for reading Nurturing Faith and recommend it to a friend!
I share this post with you for two purposes – for the content that can help us better discuss a Biblical perspective with students and a new piece of technology that pretty easily be used by you or others at your school. You may be more familiar with the content my friend Michael Essenburg is talking about than the web tool he has used to produce it. The tool is Screencast and there are similar tools such as Screenr and ScreenToaster that allow you to do the same thing. Check out this video and the tools – you may find both helpful in your setting.
“What the leader focuses on gets done.” As I go about the continent speaking and doing accreditation site visits, I get to see many schools in action and gain a sense of how leadership happens in each place. Since my job often focuses on helping others with change, I have been thinking about what motivates people to change and the role of leadership, formal or informal, in making change happen and as change relates to what makes Christian education distinctive.
I recently read Dan Pink’s newest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He describes management in the last 100 years as a version called Motivation 2.0, that relies heavily on control and extrinsic rewards. Pink contends that this style is out of sync with human nature itself, particularly in jobs of knowledge workers – the kinds of right-brain, creative, complex-thinking jobs that we see today. We are created to be curious and self-directed in our learning, but that somehow this desire gets “controlled” out of us – education being one culprit. Pink cites a Cornell study of 320 small businesses, in which half of the workers were granted autonomy and the other half relied on top-down direction, and states: “Businesses that offered autonomy grew at four times the rate of the control-oriented firms and had one-third the turnover.” Leaders lead out of their assumptions about the nature of human beings. Whether it is kids or teachers, if you assume the worst or the best about them, you will likely have people living up to those expectations. Do you as a leader bring out the best or the worst in your followers?
What Pink says about money and extrinsic motivation resonates with me as a Christian. In his proposed Motivation 3.0 model he sees purpose maximization as a key to long-term job satisfaction. We desire to work for higher purposes in life beyond ourselves. Christian education is, in the end, not about the money, but the highest purpose of helping student to know and live for Jesus Christ.
In a recent survey (Gates Foundation/Scholastic) of more than 40,000 public school teachers, supportive leadership was once again shown to trump financial incentives, such as merit pay. In order to retain good teachers, 68% said supportive leadership was absolutely essential, while 71% said monetary rewards for teacher performance would have moderate or no impact on student achievement. Teachers also highly desired “relevant” professional development, clean and safe working conditions, and time to collaborate with access to high-quality curriculum.
My friend Mark Eckel recently completed his doctoral work on the implementation of faith-learning integration and discovered that the key variable in terms of effect was leadership. He reports that the variable of administrative encouragement around faith learning integration happening in the classroom caused the largest shift in the total score for how teachers were integrating faith and learning! He states: “Learning how one teaches all things from a biblical point of view is the cornerstone of what it means to teach in a Christian school.” Amen!
As a leader (whether you are an administrator or teacher) I leave you with these questions:
- How do you know that faith-learning integration is being practiced in your classroom(s)? What evidence could you show me?
- If teachers/students are dependent on you as a leader to emphasize this area, then what are you doing to strengthen faith-learning integration?
Take a look at this link (webpage should look like the graphic on the left) – once you get to the webpage, use the slider at the bottom to move from a coffee bean down to a carbon atom with no microscope needed! You will want to pass this on to anyone who teaches science. Thanks to Paul Brinkerhoff for sharing this link.
Helping students to see how all things in this world cohere through Christ is one of the most important tasks of a Christian teacher. In these three short and helpful videos, my friend Michael Essenburg from the Christian Academy in Japan suggests three practical strategies that all Christian teachers can use. Maybe you could use them to provoke some good discussion at your next faculty meeting that could lead to deeper “truth-revealing” teaching – which in turn could better enable your school to meet its mission!
Help your students connect God’s world, God’s Word, and their lives:
Ask questions to DRAW others out: Your fellow teachers want to help their students better connect what they study and what the Bible teaches. You can help your fellow teachers by asking questions to DRAW them out.
Asking open-ended questions works: Help your students connect what they study and what the Bible teaches. Ask open-ended questions.