Part of the way through Eric Reender’s wonderful book, Rooftop Perspectives, a character states: “A story is not about answers, but making you think.” Reenders succeeds in doing this in his book by taking us into not one but two stories – using the technique of a story within a story, and of all things, set in China upon two different rooftops! The subtitle of the book, “disciple your students toward faith, develop their love for wisdom, and cut the puppet’s strings,” intrigued me enough to purchase it. After only the first chapter I realized it was like no other book I had ever read on teaching and learning – a fictional story revealing professional ideas.
Through the use of story and the confusion, doubts, and mental wrestling of his main character, Reenders helps us consider contrasts between knowledge and wisdom, the ways that students learn, and how students might best be encouraged to become seekers of truth and wisdom. He points out the pitfalls of educational models not built on a Biblical worldview – what I would call an “incomplete education” – an educational experience that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the source of all truth, the one “in whom all things cohere” (Colossians 1).
In this book, I appreciated the wrestling through of the big ideas involved in teaching and learning in a way that honors the learner throughout. Without giving away the story or stating specifically Reender’s implications for practice in the latter part of the book, the balance that he arrives at in terms of a model of, and rationale for, guided student exploration is very helpful. He gives specific examples of how schools and classrooms might be more focused and intentional in delivering a distinctively Christian, disciple forming approach. This book would be excellent for both college students and as a study/discussion book for Christian school faculties. It would also be very helpful to share with teachers new to teaching in a Christian school, and would be an encouragement to Christian teachers teaching in public schools.
More information can be found about the book at Eric Reender’s website. Next month, I hope to share some questions and answers related to the book via an interview with the author.
Deeper Learning Update
For those of you who attended and enjoyed our January Florida Christian Deeper Learning conference (a summary here in case you missed it!) For those of you who wished you could have attended and those who would like to attend again, stay tuned! Our Planning Team is considering a January 2019 event but have not made final decisions yet about location and type of event.
In the meantime, here are a number of events related to the deeper learning approach for you to consider attending (a special thanks to Kristyn Kamps for compiling this information):
Summer PD Offerings
- PBL World (June 19-21): BIE’s premier conference for Project Based Learning. Each year, we bring together dedicated K-12 teachers, instructional coaches, and school and district leaders who want to connect with each other and learn more about PBL. Click here for additional information and registration.
- Deeper Learning in Boston (June 25-29): Steven and Joanna Levy are hosting their fourth annual week-long institute in North Andover, MA (just outside of Boston). This year’s theme is Finding our role in the adventure of God’s story: deeper in and further out. Details about the conference can be found here.
- Restorative Practices in Christian Schools (July 16-20): Diane Stronks of Edudeo Ministries will be teaching a 2-credit graduate class at Calvin College on using restorative practices as a tool of reconciliation. Registration for summer courses opened in February. Read more about Diane’s work here.
- Project Zero Classroom 2018 (July 16-20): The Project Zero Classroom features various frameworks and tools that enable you to look at teaching analytically, develop new approaches to planning and make informed decisions about instruction. More information and a link to register can be found here.
- PBL Residency (August 20-24): At the 4th annual PBL Residency in Abbotsford, British Columbia, we work hard to provide teachers with the opportunity to experience Deeper Learning through the framework of Project-Based Learning. We have found that teachers who want to change need to experience what that change looks like as a student. This helps them make connections to the experiences their students will be having. Things like revision and reflection, and collaboration are hard things for teachers to wrap their head around until they have experienced it. It’s not always something experienced by many educators. More information and a link to register can be found here.
- The Christian Teachers Academy (August 20-24): For participants, The Academy held in Hamilton, Ontario is an intensive, challenging, and rewarding professional development experience. The Academy is a one-week summer session for educators and school leaders who desire to further their understanding of Project Based Learning. Come and discover more about Project Based Learning by experiencing Project Based Learning, from entry event to presentation! Participants design and develop projects that allow students to engage in real work and answer real questions. The Academy offers experiences for the new PBL educator and the experienced PBL educator; this year there are six different Odysseys. For more details please visit Christian Teachers Academy.
- Odyssey 101 – PBL Essentials – A comprehensive exploration of the essentials of Project Based Learning. Participants will leave with a project that is ready to use with their students.
- Odyssey 102 (New this year) – PBL and MakerSpaces – A comprehensive exploration of the essentials of Project Based Learning through a MakerSpace lens.
- Odyssey 201 – Digging Deeper – A time to provide experienced PBL educators an opportunity to further develop and refine projects with a Design Thinking focus.
- Odyssey 202 – Study Hall (2 days) – The atmosphere, the resources, and the people for the experienced PBL educator to work on and improve their projects.
- Odyssey 203 (New this year) – Cross Curricular PBL Design – Design, create, and develop learning blocks that cross multiple subjects, disciplines, and grades. Consider attending with a partner.
- Odyssey 302 (New this year) – PBL Coaching (4 Days) – Discover, use, and develop tools and resources to support teachers and colleagues on their PBL journey.
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).