Monthly Archives: May 2011

Are we measuring the right things?

by Steven Harris, via Flickr/Creative Commons:

At the end of school years, we spend a lot of time tallying up. Our awards reflect our focus on what kinds of things we are measuring.  We give awards for years of service, scholarships for academic performance, and seat time requirements fulfilled. In Christian institutions how can we get closer to measuring the right things?

As we seek Biblical direction on this issue we encounter a different expectation as shown in the ministry of Jesus. Length of service doesn’t seem to matter in the end – Jesus told the thief who repented that he would be with him in Paradise that day. Knowledge and biblical understanding, as demonstrated by the spiritual leaders of Jesus day didn’t cut it – he wanted their hearts. Power and prestige was rejected and broken by Jesus – he made it clear his kingdom was not about such things, even though his disciples expected Jesus to use power to the very end.

So what should we be concerned about, focus on, expect and measure? As we think of students let’s consider the phrases “works of art” and “fruit on the journey.”

Len Stob makes these observations in the draft of his upcoming book:

Whereas most businesses know how to measure the quality of their product or service, the Christian school doesn’t really know what society and culture will look like in fifteen years.  No one is sure where God may call the student to serve or what future opportunities may appear for which the student must be prepared.  As a result, the actual educational needs for the student may be imprecise.   The school strives to prepare students to serve in the unpredictable future.

What should the school measure?  When should it conduct its measurements?  There is no clear agreement on when the product of the school should be measured and considered complete.  The risk is that the board may not understand the long-range contribution the school makes until a significant time after graduation.  The effectiveness of programs is not always immediately perceived or understood.  Perhaps the relationship is more like a one-of-a-kind piece of art rather than a mass-produced souvenir. 

I really resonate with the “one-of-a-kind” piece of art when we think of students and our desired outcomes for them – Len’s last sentence is much more reflective of Ephesians 2:10 than what our current mass production schooling model demonstrates – we are God’s workmanship, his creation, especially and individually designed to do the things he has laid out in advance for us to do.

So what should we be encouraging in our “works of art”? What kinds of growth can and should we be expecting on the way?  We must look at students as individuals and expect fruit that is appropriate to how “formed” this student is at a particular time. George Barna, in a recent blog post entitled “Measuring the Fruit of Wholeness” makes this observation:

My research revealed that certain outcomes – behaviors, attitudes, desires – do not emerge until a person reaches a particular level of growth. For instance, those who are struggling with implications of sin and have not yet asked Jesus to forgive them (stop 3) bear overtly different fruit than those who have been broken of sin, self, and society, and have fully surrendered and submitted their life to God (stop 8). Knowing where a person is on the journey helps us to know what fruit to look for or expect. After all, you can’t naturally produce stop 8 fruit if you’re a stop 3 person.

Barna goes on to suggest:

Although I’ve been conducting surveys for 30-plus years, I think the best way to assess one’s transformational standing is through observations borne out of relational engagement… The people who know me best can capably discern whether I’m making progress in my journey to Christ-likeness, and what kind of fruit I’m really producing. Those same people are most likely to address my reality with a bluntness and compassion that I need in order to grow.

Isn’t that our opportunity with students?  We have the time in a daily setting to address their reality, to engage with them in the big and small matters of life, and to have honest conversations about the things that really matter.

How can we continue to get closer to measuring the most relevant things – the kind of things that our school missions so idealistically proclaim?


Filed under Biblical worldview, distinctively Christian, mission measurement, student outcomes

Learning for coherence and living

One of the most powerful things we can have students do in a Christian school is to ask them to think deeply about how their faith connects with their life and the real world. It is also one of the most authentic and integrative experiences. I am encouraged by the number of schools who have developed culminating projects and require them as part of  either /both the 8th and 12th grade years.

I previously wrote about culminating experiences in this blog back in December 2007. I believe that culminating experiences are one of the best practices to enhance and encourage faith development and that is why I list it as one of my 12 Faith Enhancing Practices. For those of you who may be interested in developing culminating experiences, let me share a source for more details in setting up this kind of assignment.

Teachers and administrators at the Christian Academy of Japan have been developing and refining their process and have posted their information on their website.  They call this assignment “Senior Comprehensives” and list four assessment components of the work:

1.     Research portfolio

2.     Writing portfolio

3.     Hands on project

4.     Oral presentation

Examples of each of the elements are on the site, including video examples of student presentations. A timeline of expectations and assessment rubrics are also shown.

I encourage all schools to have these kind of learning experiences in place for students. They are engaging, demanding, and rewarding for students and teachers. Culminating experiences are the kind of teaching and learning that we need to do more of in order to effectively prepare our students and meet our missions.

If your school does this kind of experience, would you please consider sharing a link to your information in the comments below so that we can better learn from each other?

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical worldview, classroom, discernment, distinctively Christian, mission development, resources, student assessments, student outcomes

End of the year learning roundup

from Flickr via Creative Commons -

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?

Why persistence and grit matter so much.

What TV and movies are doing to our girls.

Is your kindergarten teacher worth $320,000?

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.

What contributes most to an effective middle school?

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. ”

Draft of Technology in Early Childhood Programs 4-29-2011 – final report to be published this fall – bookmark the NAEYC website.


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 ( 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,

Dan Beerens


Filed under curriculum, kids/culture, leadership, parenting, resources, staff development