Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Is there such a thing as Christian Pedagogy?

In my soon to be released book - 'Pedagogy and Education for Life' (Wipf & Stock) - I explore what a 'Christian' pedagogy might look like. One of my key arguments is that any education claiming to be Christian should be shaped by biblical wisdom and understanding. Christian pedagogy isn't simply a specific methodology, a defined worldview, or unique curriculum content and methods assessed through varied 'Christian' lenses. Instead, I offer a simple definition of what Christian education might be:

Education is the whole of life of a community, and the experience of its members learning to live this life, from the standpoint of a specific end goal.

A central premise of the definition and the book, is that Education is about the “whole of life” of a community, not simply curriculum or method. The students and teachers who are the central participants in any school need to “learn to live this life” together from a particular standpoint. As such, at the very foundation of any Christian pedagogy is not ‘what we should teach?’ or ‘how we should teach it?’, but ‘why we teach?’

The Bible teaches that our lives are to be centered on knowing and honoring God in the here and now, with an eye on the future as we await Christ’s return and the coming of the kingdom of God. Our true and ultimate home is not on Earth. Indeed, we are called to live out our lives as “foreigners” or “aliens and strangers” (1 Pet 1:17b; 2:9–12). We live between two worlds: the current one, and the next to come. This can be a confusing place for children!

If education is the whole of life of a community, and the experience of its members learning to live this life, from the standpoint of a specific end goal, then we have more to consider than curriculum and methods.

Avoiding Ends-based Education

One of my common observations of schools (religious and otherwise), is that they offer an education focused on the ends, rather than the means of education. But I argue that ends and means must always be seen in relation to the ultimate problems of life, problems that concern the nature and destiny of humankind. This should lead to a pedagogy that reflects an understanding that God made us in his image as creative, problem-solving beings, to seek him and live in relationship to him and one another. While doing this, God also called us to love, serve, and work with a knowledge of his risen Son in order to bring God glory. Education is a process of cultivation and formation. Put another way, the task of the teacher is the nurturing and transformation of habits of body and mind that enable children to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives centered in Christ.

My book should be out in March or April, but in the meantime, I intend to write a number of posts that will prepare my readers for the arguments that will be outlined in detail in the book.

In future posts I will discuss some of the many topics that I cover. Not all will be as separate posts, but all will be at least introduced:
  • The role of the imagination in education
  • Forming & connecting communities that matter in education 
  • Why the 'whole of life' of any community is what matters
  • Children's worlds: A myriad of competing 'Communities of Practice'
  • Making belief, desires and views of the world are observable and discussible in supportive contexts
  • The place of 'formation' NOT indoctrination: What might it look like?
  • Helping students to engage with their world
  • Helping our students to navigate the world
  • Why does 'standpoint' matter?
  • Understanding why God made us as creative beings
  • The power of story
  • The place of truth and the One who is the author of truth
  • Wholeness, and why it matters
  • A pedagogy that intersects and connects other different worlds
  • Where do values, worldview and virtues fit in?
  • A concern for meaning, understanding, truth & critical thinking
  • Classroom life & the teacher's role within it
  • Storytelling and Life
  • Imagination & Life
  • A framework for Classroom & School Life
 I look forward to engaging with you in future posts.

NEXT Post: 'Learning Occurs Within Communities Not Just Schools'

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