I have been thinking about the student outcomes of Christian school graduates recently. Certainly we measure academic achievement. But if we are “equipping minds” and “nurturing hearts” so that our students can be world transformers, it seems to me that we over-measure the first, do not measure the second aspect (faith nurture) well, and may really want to consider a third aspect to help us describe how academics and faith development come together in our desired student outcomes.
I believe that nurturing faith, in and through the educational process, is the distinctive characteristic of why Christian schools exist. Yet there is resistance when I bring up the idea of some measurement of whether a child’s faith was nurtured or not. What is ironic to me is that our parents are judging this all the time. We ourselves also have a strong sense of how well our educator colleagues nurture, and certainly our students have a strong sense of how different teachers nurture their faith, yet we rarely ask for their feedback. We need to discuss this aspect more – it is such a critical part of our missions – but that is not the purpose of this post today.
Given how education is changing, we are in a process of “re-valuing,” and it seems appropriate to consider the following as we think about what we wish to measure: 1) new information has recently emerged about the significance of student engagement in learning, 2) an alarming number of our students become more disengaged in learning as they go up the grades, 3) research has shown that divergent thinking decreases from kindergarten forward, 4) a Gallup Poll from last summer indicated that only 1/3 of all U.S. students could be described as “hopeful, engaged, and thriving.” As Christian educators, we seek to 1) show our students the connectedness of this world through Christ, 2) demonstrate to them the importance of a lifelong learning passion, and 3) help them recognize and use their gifts and talents in a vocation that God calls them to in the world.
I propose that an additional set of indicators focus around the concept of student flourishing and be called the “Flourishing Index.” Below are some initial aspects that might considered criteria or demonstration of what it means to flourish:
• passion for learning
• desire to serve and make a difference
• ability to see connections
• blooming where planted
• thinking divergently and creatively about problems/solutions
• ability to demonstrate empathy for others
• desire to act morally and ethically across all aspects of life
• understanding of how God has gifted and called them
• demonstration of effective life habits and spiritual disciplines
• determination to bring joy and hope into the lives of others
What else would you add to the “Flourishing Index”? At the end of the day and at the end of 12 plus years of education aren’t these the kinds of outcomes we are really hoping for?