How do we know that faith is at work in our schools?
How can we show the impact of Christian education in the faith practices of our students?
The questions above have been voiced by Christian school leaders desiring a way to evaluate and demonstrate one of their most important goals: the development of faith practices in the lives of their students. So after several years of development and research, the CACE team is excited to share that the Christian education community now has a way to gather data on students’ faith formation.
The Practicing Faith Survey (PFS) is a tool designed to help faith-based schools assess their impact on students’ faith formation. It uses a self-administered online survey tool to provide students and schools with feedback on students’ engagement with faith practices.
The PFS is now available to schools! It was designed and developed through a partnership of the Kuyers Institute for Faith and Learning at Calvin University and the educational research organization Cardus. The project was led by Kuyers Institute Director Dr. David Smith and other principal researchers including Dr. Beth Green of Cardus and Dr. Albert Cheng of the University of Arkansas. CACE will serve as the marketing/distribution arm of the PFS.
After an extensive literature review and piloting of questions, the creators of the PFS created survey questions that fall into five categories of Christian practice: 1) Intellectual, 2) Relational, 3) Introspective, 4) Beneficent, and 5) Formational. The survey asks about whether students engage in practices connected to knowing God, caring for others in the school community, seeking truth, discerning our motives, and serving the needs of the wider world. Students taking the survey will answer randomized questions that ask them to assess the degree to which they engage in a particular choice or activity.
PFS as a Benchmarking Tool
Schools are encouraged to use the PFS as a benchmarking tool with students in their faith journey. For example, a student may take this survey in 9th grade and then again in grade 11 or 12, or grade 5 or 6 and then again in grade 8. Over the span of a few years, students would learn more ways to practice their faith and should be able to recognize growth in their practices.
Teachers are provided lesson plans to help them discuss the survey with students. We want students to understand that this survey can help them live out their callings. The survey is a success if it helps students think about some areas where they can work out their faith more fully. Students should not see the survey as something with right or wrong answers like on a math test.
The PFS package includes sample communication items along with written and video step-by-step instructions for implementing the survey. Following the administration of the survey, administrators are provided with a dashboard that visually shows student aggregated results for their school and a detailed report that helps to interpret student trends. This data will help schools recognize the need for greater emphasis in a practice with a certain group, implement targeted strategies, then see if progress has been made via a follow-up survey. The Practicing Faith Survey is an affordable tool as well: student codes are only $3 (US), so it is a tool that every school can access and use. We invite you to visit the site practicing.faith to learn more! If you have further questions, you can direct them to me or my colleague and fellow CACE Fellow Steven Levy. CACE is excited to offer this tool as another way to support Christian schools as they seek to live out their missions!
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).