December 04, 2006 Sufficiency

We've been discussing competence on the cohort... This goes back to what I wrote about last term cncerning the idea that we should work on shoring up our inadequacy of experience, but we must never think we can get over our inadequacy of sufficiency. we are not sufficient, but Jesus is. I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. The more we know about the Christ life, the more we know we can only boast in the cross. Self-confidence in a depraved self carries it's own judgment with it... Man's drive to be competent is generally tied to his desire to be autonomous, rather than dependent on God to His glory. In contrast, Christ frees us from the perversion of this drive to instead pursue excellence in Him.

11:25pm Dec 5, 2006 EST - The Rating game, part 1

Raymond J. Wlodkowski, in his book Enhancing Adult Motivation To Learn, sets forth five pillars of what makes for good teaching. It would seem that Jesus exemplifies each of these characteristics, and we are tasked to rate our own teaching in the light of this. I challenge all of you to do the same, wherever, you are called to teach... the five pillars are Expertise, Empathy, Enthusiasm, Clarity, and Cultural Responsiveness.

Applying the five pillars concept to evaluation of your own teaching is pretty humbling after previously applying them to Jesus' teaching. I think it was Phillips Brooks who said that humility is standing up to the full measure of your stature alongside Christ and having an accurate estimation of your self. I do not presume to be Jesus in my teaching, but I hope to maximize what Wlodkowski refers to as the 5 pillars. I'll describe my approach and leave it to others to determine a rating, which will invariably happen. So this is an approach, not by any means a formula.

I do not have one set teaching style, rather I have a variegated set of strategies and tools that I leverage to meet student and curricular needs in a given environment. Part of this is intentional and part is intuitional. Context (the learning environment) and audience drive this approach. I see that cultural responsiveness and empathy as flip sides of a coin, much as expertise and clarity are. Enthusiasm, for instance, may be contagious, but it takes on a different look in the teacher and the individual learner in different contexts.

Expertise- “Always needs work”… I have two real areas where people consider me an expert, and guess what, I'm not. As a teacher of educational technologies, I have always subscribed to the notion that there are very few “experts” since there is always something new to learn and to keep track of that renews the holes in ones knowledge incessantly. Staying current and fluent is not like it was when there was a codified body of knowledge one could “master”. My mastery level skill-set of a few years ago would not allow for survival in today's landscape. This becomes more true as time passes and Moore's Law rolls ever onward. The second area is as a Bible teacher, where the more I know the more I know I don't know. It is key to stay in the Word in an intentional and disciplined way, and it helps to listen to other teachers. I practice “redeeming the time” by listening to selections from my collection of expository teaching tapes that I collected through the years in case I ever lived where there was not access to such teaching. It takes time to articulate expertise, and it is critical to keep a teachable spirit and ask a lot of questions that challenge your presuppositions. When you get an answer you never thought of, treat it as a treasure to refine.

Empathy- ‘Needs consistency”… On a personal level I have to differentiate this from the lack of emotional self control (the “sound mind” Paul spoke of). I sometimes exhibit this when I overly sympathize with people's woundedness. In the context of the second pillar, I hope to practice kindness in teaching others, but I know I need to develop the ability to “compartmentalize” so it does not hinder the need to challenge students. A key way in which I hope to consider my audience in structuring an instructional strategy is by the use of pre-tests and surveys of student expectations. This is best done before the first meeting, but can be done at that time. Then the approach can be adjusted to meet the needs of the audience to the degree that the curriculum can be adjusted. This is a larger issue and must be applied at the curricular design level to be efficacious in the big picture…

Enthusiasm- “Fair to middlin…” For the Christian teacher, I equate this with being Spirit -filled (en-theos), and that is always a prayer that is on my lips surrounding my teaching. I consider myself responsible for the responses of my students, and having a passionate love for the Scriptures needs to be communicated to them. We are not alone when we teach ,and we all sit together at the feet of Jesus. It is difficult to see the lack of that in many scenarios. I do not think we need to have a pulpit pep rally, and enthusiasm in a teaching environment is best maximized when the onus is placed on the students to participate in and interactive learning environment, not ,by contrast, by emotional manipulation. Too many teachers think that simple facilitation is enough.

Clarity- “Need to be more concise.”As to clarity, teaching and learning should feed one another. There must be concurrent interaction to enable this kind of communication to take place. From the teacher's perspective, clarity is accomplished first and foremost by setting clear learning objectives, which drives the rest of the design process. This may requires simplification of complext constructs, or at the other end of the continuum, deconstruction of presuppositions. In my online resources, I focus on useability and clarity to facilitate learning. Addressing multiple learning styles is ever in my approach. In “lecture” settings, Socratic questioning and problem based learning are often leveraged, and I rarely use pure lecture except from the pulpit. this is something I might explore further in a later post. Critique and student feedback plays a role in clarifying meaning as well. Written assignments and projects , as well as discussion questions are mapped to learning objectives and categorized as to difficulty level (time on task) and Bloom's levels.

Cultural Responsiveness- “It Depends”…Cultural responsiveness can be addressed by using open ended scenario based case studies, discussion questions that require the learner to move to the upper end of Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive levels in an inclusive manner. Jesus know the hearts of men (he never analyzed a set of Likert scale responses as far as I read in the Scriptures) but I have to ask in order to gain understanding of the audience. My instructional designs for courses are based on feedback from focus groups and students responses, plus survey results from subject matter experts (other teachers) that address identifying possible student misconceptions, skills and concepts that students must learn on a topical basis, and a critical path of topical information. Revisions are based on pilot programs and student and instructor feedback. I would posit that in teaching the Bible, it is paramount that the learner understand the cultural context of the content being taught, and the desire is to transport them there, and this is prerequisite to any attempt to make it “relevant” to their particular culture. All communication really is cross cultural.

This is an extreme oversimplification of how the pillars are applied in my teaching, but hopefully this can remind myself to the need for maximizing instructional strategies based on what we know about how students learn and how best practices emerge in the learning environment. My own teaching philosophy informs every aspect of my work as an instructional designer.

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