Educators as Learners: Opportunities for Professional Learning

Dan BeerensThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

Given the disruptive nature of life these days and the press of the urgent at this time of year, I thought it might be a public service to aggregate professional development opportunities and resources for you to consider. My list is not all inclusive, so if you have an event or resource you wish to add, please do so in the comment section below.

The largest upcoming event focused on Christian education this coming year will be Converge, the Global Christian Schools Leadership Summit in San Diego in March 2022. Twelve Christian school associations/organizations are coming together to consider the theme “Leading Courageously, Renewing Hope.” The intent of the conference is to help schools explore how to “bridge divides, restore wholeness, act justly, embrace change, and empower students–all from the hope we find in Christ.” Participants will be led by world thought leaders via TED talks, panel discussions, and opportunity for deep dialogue and networking with educators from around the world.

If you desire to implement deeper and more distinctive ways of educating students, we invite you to come a couple of days early to San Diego for CDL (Christian Deeper Learning) 5 on March 7 & 8, 2022, our fifth annual gathering of the CDL network! We already have site visits set up to see Deeper Learning happening at some exemplary schools such as High Tech High and the San Diego Met School. The second day will feature introductory sessions on the Six Models of Christian Deeper Learning that we blogged about last year. Come and hear how any of these models might be helpful at your school. In coming weeks, the CDL network plans to share helpful teaching and learning examples from Christian school educators across the world; if you wish to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can do so here. We already have an outstanding list of contributors in place!

Evidence continues to support Deeper Learning. Recently, studies from PBL Works demonstrated that Deeper Learning approaches used in AP courses boosted student achievement.  I have personally heard excellent, anecdotal reports from the work done recently at Residency in British Columbia and the Christian Teacher Academy in Ontario. TfT implementation in the US via CACE continues to grow at a rapid pace. Schools are becoming more distinctively Christian in their practice as they consider how to more meaningfully implement their mission in ways that help students see themselves as “People of God’s story, engaged in real work that forms self and shapes the world.”

CACE is pleased to partner with the Kuyers Institute and Cardus to offer the Practicing Faith Survey. This tool helps schools assess their impact on student faith formation. We recommend schools use it with students at as low as 5th grade up to 12th grade and over time (such as it being given at 9th grade and then again at 11th or 12th grade). The survey is well researched, easy to implement, and offered at a very reasonable cost per student. Additional resource materials are offered for teachers and parents. Check out this tool at practicing.faith

For beginning teachers or teachers new to Christian education, I heartily recommend two resources–one old and one new. For the big picture of what Christian education is about, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.’s Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living is comprehensive, accessible, and foundational. If you have the option, be sure to get the brown-colored study guide version that has helpful discussion questions after each chapter. A new free resource that just came out is called Christian Faith in the Classroom: Learning from Teacher’s Questions created by Ben Tameling and Mark Vanderwerf. The subtitle says it best: “A Professional Development Resource for Teachers Seeking to Understand how Faith Informs Teaching.” Through eight case study stories, readers are invited to reflect on their practice, discuss faith and learning connections, and develop follow-up strategies. 

Podcasts have become ever more popular, and some of our best Christian educators have risen to the challenge. Here are five to consider:

  1. Digical Education. CACE Fellow Erik Ellefsen has been podcasting for several years and has produced an impressive list of talks with educators and innovators.
  2. Hallway Conversations. Dordt professors Dave Mulder, Matt Beimers, and Abby DeGroot–“three friends who have a lot of questions about education” invite you into their hallway.
  3. Every Square Centimetre. Directors of Learning Jeremy Horlings, Justin Cook, and Darren Spyksma highlight and celebrate “amazing people, places, and practices in and around Christian education across Canada.”
  4. Lighting a Fire. Bryant Russ, Director of Faith Formation at Holland (MI) Christian, seeks to “unleash our God-delighting curiosity in conversation with educators, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, authors and more, and experience the transforming power of education rooted in wonder, wisdom, and worship.”
  5. Curious Teacher Podcast. The goal of this podcast from our Australian colleagues in  Christian Education National is to provide the space for educators to share how they are “intentionally teaching in such a way that the Kingdom of Heaven is signposted in their classroom practice.” 

For those of you who still prefer to hold a book (or Kindle) in your hands, here are some good reads to consider:

  1. Heartbeat: Encouraging Biblically-Faithful Christian Education, edited by Chris Prior. This new book from the National Institute for Christian Education and Christian Education National in Australia features 11 essays focused on “schools of purpose that evidence a rhythm, a heartbeat that is faithful to the biblical story.”  
  2. Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for a Changing World by Stern, Ferraro, Duncan and Aleo. This book is loaded with concrete ideas for designing learning experiences. It provides a framework and processes for developing student conceptual understanding. 
  3. Difference Making at the Heart of Learning: Students, Schools, and Communities Alive With Possibility by VanderArk and Liebtag. See my CACE review of this fine book here.
  4. In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School by Mehta and Fine. This award-winning book examines the best ways to deeply engage high school students in the learning process. Here are my thoughts on the book.
  5. MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education, edited by Swaner, Beerens, and Ellefsen. Explore the 7 principles here.
  6. Dutch Reformed Education: Immigrant Legacies in North America, edited by Luidens, Bruggink and DeVries. Learn how Calvinist day school education developed in North America through “snapshots of the ongoing drive for a self-consciously Christian education that was embedded in the Dutch Reformed immigrant movement.” 
  7. Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools by Swaner and Wolfe. This book is scheduled for release on November 16, so pre-order now or be sure to reserve some dollars for it in your budget. I have read a draft version–it will be a great resource for Christian education!

As I said at the beginning, I am sure that my list overlooks some great people and resources, so please help out by sharing helpful resources in the comment section below. 

Happy growing and learning this school year!

Author

  • Dan Beerens is an educational consultant, author, international speaker, and educational leader. Before starting Dan Beerens Consulting in May 2010, he served as Vice President of Learning Services and Director of Instructional Improvement at Christian Schools International. Prior to that, he was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Holland Christian Schools. Dan has also worked as teacher and principal in urban and suburban public and Christian schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. He serves as a Senior Fellow at CACE (Center for the Advancement of Christian Education), represents Curriculum Trak sales and professional development and serves as co-chair of the annual Christian Deeper Learning conference. He blogs regularly for CACE and is the author of Evaluating Teachers for Professional Growth: Creating a Culture of Motivation and Learning (Corwin Press) and co-editor of the recent book MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education (ACSI).

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