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Archive for September, 2015

How does faith affect teaching and learning?

As Christian educators we are always on the lookout for authentic ways to make it more likely that our Christian faith will be integral to our teaching and learning. We want to avoid the bookends or the icing on the cake.

As one way to address that concern, I want to explore in this and future posts an approach described anCHOC CAKEd illustrated on a site called ‘What if Learning.’ In a Powerpoint on the site, the authors use the image of “a triple chocolate cake” to illustrate “where Christianity influences the ethos, the content of the curriculum, AND the teaching and learning.” Check it out.

The site is intentionally built around concrete examples of elementary and secondary teachers connecting their Christian faith with their teaching using three great strands of Christian thought and action – faith, hope, and love (I Corinthians 13:13).

whatiflearning examples

Each example includes:

  1. A brief commentary explaining how it connects with a Christian understanding of faith, hope and love.
  2. A brief explanation of how it connects with the ‘What If Learning’ approach.
  3. Suggestions for how you could create more examples like it.
  4. Hints for digging deeper into some Christian ideas that might illuminate the example.


A glance at a few of the titles of the examples (102 in all) gives you a glimpse of the ‘What if Learning’ approach:


The ‘What if Learning’ approach uses three steps in designing teaching and learning – seeing anew, choosing engagement, and reshaping practice. The intent of the steps is to underline a “concern with how teaching and learning happen, not just with what content gets taught and when certain Christian words and ideas feature in the curriculum.” These steps are meant to serve as aids in focusing on some key points of contact between Christianity and the way we teach. More on these ‘steps’ in future posts. In the meantime, I encourage to explore a few of the examples.

elaine brouwer, director of alta vista


“Does Your Staff Have a Growth Mindset?”

Chances are you have heard the term ‘growth mindset’ floating about in educational circles. Perhaps you even use it yourself to describe an attribute of a thriving learner. And it can be – an attribute of a thriving learner, that is – or it can be one of those buzz phrases that people fill with their own meaning. Given the talk about a changing paradigm for teacher professional growth and given that many of you have goals related to professional growth in your school improvement plans, I think the information in the links below is worth considering.

Jackie Gerstein, who has facilitated several workshops on a ‘growth mindset’ for educators, says in her blog post on User-Generated Education:

The faddish or pop culture version of the growth mindset is emerging as: “Have a Growth Mindset.” This smacks of the “Just So No” campaign of the Reagan era.  Catch phrases about a growth mindset will have as much effect on actually developing a growth mindset as just saying no did on curbing drug use.

Carol Dweck’s expresses some concerns about integrating the growth mindset into educational settings: A lot of teachers are saying ‘yes I have a growth mindset’, without doing the work and without making a journey to deeply understand it and to know how to apply it. Even some teachers who genuinely have a growth mindset aren’t understanding how to apply it properly. They are just telling kids to try hard: which I call nagging, not growth mindset. Or they are just saying ‘hey kids, have a growth mindset’.(Carol Dweck)

the-educator-with-a-growth-mindset-29-1024I mirror Dweck’s concern about educators and learners needing to do the work required to develop a growth mindset. It is a deeply reflective process requiring that this process occur often and over time.

As a visual summary, Gerstein offers these diagrams to illustrate what she considers to be a true ‘growth mindset’:

growth-fixedgrowth mindset

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