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Testing One, Two, Three

Kathy Dawson The abilities that are valued in school might also be upheld in the church, but the church is not restricted to abilities that can be measured by standardized testing. A child's ability to sing songs of worship, to serve God through hands-on acts of justice, and to be kind to the other would be lifted up and worthy of notice . . . But, how are we to measure such lofty plans in the life of the church? How will we know that we are indeed accomplishing these aims? Read more...

Responses

Response Articles
Author's Response

Extras

Editor's Notes

Lesson Plans and Annotated Bibliography

A Set of Lesson Plans for At This Point
By: Rev. Jill Patterson Tolbert
For the Spring 2010 Issue
“Speaking of Children: Testing One, Two, Three

Lesson 1

Concept
The purpose of the study is to consider the relevance of standardized testing in the both the secular and Christian education setting. The lesson will challenge participants to imagine what types of measures or evaluations might be incorporated into faith formation in a church’s Christian education setting. Participants will begin thinking about ways to effectively measure the value and effectiveness of the wide array of opportunities for growth within a church, i.e. classes, programs, sermons, retreats, etc.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute class period. However, adjustments can be made to accommodate particular situations as needed.

Goal
The goal of this session is a) to give participants a clearer understanding of why some type of evaluation of Christian education might be needed, b) to encourage participants to wrestle with appropriate ways to measure the “success” of Christian education in a way that is non-threatening and well-received, and c) to begin considering ways in which we might learn and grow as disciples in the Body of Christ in visible and measureable ways.

Objectives
Participants will:

  1. Explain the overall purpose of the lesson.
  2. Identify at least three examples of “learning evaluation” present in the Scriptures.
  3. Explain the difference between “summative evaluation,” “standard criteria,” and “formative assessment.”
  4. List at least three aims of Christian education.
  5. Describe ways in which the above aims might be measured.
  6. Identify ways in which their own lives have reflected Christian growth over time, and begin thinking about those people who have aided in that process along the way.

Preparation

  1. Participants should have read Kathy Dawson’s lead article, “Speaking of Children: Testing One, Two Three."
  2. Arrange the room in a way that is conducive to both large group discussion and small group sharing, ideally with tables for four to six people that are easily accessible and arranged to face a common space in one area of the room.
  3. Write the following statement on the board: “As we gather, share with one another memories of your own experience with Christian education, either from childhood, or from the more recent past.”

Materials

  1. Bible
  2. White / Chalk board or a sheet of poster board and pens / chalk
  3. paper and pen/cil/s at each table

Sequence

  1. Opening – (See question on board) As participants gather, have them share with one another memories of their own experiences with Christian education. After a brief period of time for sharing, ask the groups to summarize their conversations. Have a scribe write key phrases on the white/chalkboard or on a sheet of poster board for later reference. (Note: Make sure this list is available for use and reference throughout the 4-week study!!) Before moving on, it might be helpful to read aloud the “Concept” section of this lesson plan so participants might understand the purpose of the day’s lesson.
     
  2. Explore – Assign the following passages for small group consideration. Instruct each group to read the assigned text together, then discuss what each might be saying to us in regarding teaching and learning, both in its original context as well as in today’s context.
    a. Proverbs 1: 1-7
    b. Proverbs 4:1-9
    c. Luke 10:1-23
    d. Acts 11:1-26
    e. Acts 15:1-40
     
  3. Encounter –
    a. Ask participants to share their initial reactions to the lead article. Make a list of questions or
        wonderings that might  have arisen for them as a result of reading Dr. Dawson’s article.
    b. Invite participants to discuss the three types of evaluation referenced in the lead article, and
        share their opinions / reactions regarding which is the most familiar and which is the most
        effective way of “measuring” learning.
    c. Return to small groups in order to discuss the “Questions for Discussion” found at the end
        of Dr. Dawson’s lead essay. After 5 to 10 minutes of discussion, return to the large group
        format to summarize and share responses.
     
  4. Respond –
    a. Return to the list of key themes created at the lesson’s opening. Rate each theme for
        importance, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least important (or creating the least “sticky”
        learning), and 5 being the most important (or creating the “stickiest” learning experiences.
    b. Discuss ways in which your church’s current Christian education program is making use, or
        might make use, of one or more of Inglis’ teaching tips for creating “sticky” experiences.
     
  5. Closing – End with prayer, using the following words, or relevant words of your own choosing: “Gracious and merciful God, thank you for the many opportunities that we have to learn about you. Thank you for those who have aided in our Christian growth along the way, and bless their continued teaching. Forgive us for the times when we think we “know it all,” and help us to see that we will never, in this lifetime, know or understand you fully, and therefore we should take our growth in you and education about you seriously. Open our hearts and minds to what you might be saying to us, what you might be teaching us, with each new day, with each encounter that we have with others, and even with each breath we take. In your son’s name we pray, Amen.”

 

Lesson Two

Concept
The purpose of the study is to consider the ways in which current practices of Christian education can be enhanced to create “sticky” learning experiences. The lesson will challenge participants to imagine what practices might be incorporated into the faith formation process in their particular congregation’s setting in order to create more memorable experiences. Participants will continue thinking about ways to effectively measure the value and effectiveness of the wide array of opportunities for growth within a church, i.e. classes, programs, sermons, retreats, etc.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute class period. However, adjustments can be made to accommodate particular situations as needed.

Goal
The goal of this session is a) to enable participants to examine current methods of Christian education at work in their congregations more critically, b) to encourage participants to consider changes or additions that might be made in order to enhance their current methods of Christian education, and c) to being to consider ALL of church life as opportunities for education, not just the “Sunday School” hour.

Objectives
Participants will:

  1. Explain the overall purpose of the lesson.
  2. List at least three possible ways of creating memorable church learning experiences.
  3. Identify at least three things their particular congregation is already doing to create more “sticky” learning experiences.
  4. Describe at least three ways in which worship is education.
  5. List at least three ways in which your particular congregation’s current programming could be enhanced to create more “sticky” learning experiences.

Preparation

  1. Participants should have read and Holly Inglis’ response article, “Assessment Isn’t Rocket Science—It’s Brain Science!”
  2. Arrange the room in a way that is conducive to both large group discussion and small group sharing, ideally with tables for four to six people that are easily accessible and arranged to face a common space in one area of the room.
  3. Write the following statement on the board: “What is your church already doing to enhance the transference of learning inside your walls to the lives of members outside your walls?”

Materials

  1. Copies of the Presbyterian Hymnal, or copies of the song “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak,” #426 of the Presbyterian Hymnal.
  2. Bible
  3. White / Chalk board or a sheet of poster board and pens / chalk
  4. paper and pen/cil/s at each table

Sequence

  1. Opening –
    a. As participants gather, encourage them to reflect with others at their table on last week’s
        lesson.
    b. Begin the formal time together by singing verses 1 and 2 from the hymn, “Lord, Speak to
        Me, That I May Speak,” found on page 426 of the Presbyterian Hymnal.
    c. At the close of the second verse, open the time together with prayer, using words of your
        own, or having a class participant volunteer to do so.
     
  2. Explore – Encourage the participants to consider ways in which Jesus as the Master Teacher created “sticky” learning experiences for his followers. Using the “popcorn-style” input method, make a list of five or six specific passages that are especially evidential of this type of teaching, briefly summarizing why these teaching encounters were particularly “sticky.” (Note: Keep this list for the remainder of the series to use as a reference, as needed.)
     
  3. Encounter –
    a. Return to the list of key themes created at the last week’s lesson opening. Rate each theme
        for effectiveness, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least effective (or creating the least
        “sticky” learning), and 5 being the most effective (or creating the “stickiest” learning
        experiences.
    b. Spend time in small groups discussing the following questions, found at the end of Inglis’
        response article:
           i. Ask five individuals in your church what “stuck” from last week’s worship experience.
              Was it the words? The visuals? The music? The people? Did the learning change the
              thinking and/or behavior of those individuals during the week? If so, how?
           ii. Given the “Tips for Creating Memorable Learning in the Church” outlined in the article,
               what can your church do to increase the likelihood of participants’ long-term memory
               and recall through the week?
           iii. When you consider assessing the prior knowledge of your congregation in relationship
               to worship or Christian education, what challenges do you see? How are the
               challenges of this kind of assessment unique to the church and what can be done
               to overcome these challenges?
     
  4. Respond – Brainstorm particular ways in which your church’s current Christian education program is making use, or might make use, of one or more of Inglis’ teaching tips for creating “sticky” experiences.
     
  5. Closing – End by singing the last two verses of the hymn, “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak.” Close with prayer, using the following words: “Lord, as we leave this place today, continue to speak to us…to lead us…to teach us,…and to fill us, today and in the days to come. Amen.”
     

Lesson Three

Concept
The purpose of the study is to examine more critically the current methods and rationales of standardized testing in secular school settings, and to then allow those insights to inform our discussion of “assessment” as it relates to Christian education in our churches. The lesson will encourage participants to verbalize both benefits and drawbacks to standardized testing, and to begin thinking about ways that learning can be “measured” in ways that are more respectful of the individuality of each learner. Participants will also use their own experience as learners to critique and imagine improving upon current teaching and assessment methods, both in church and secular educational settings.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute class period. However, adjustments can be made to accommodate particular situations as needed.

Goal
The goal of this session is a) enable participants to see both sides of the “testing / assessment debate,” in both the secular settings and in Christian education setting, and b) to begin to imagine ways in which teaching / learning can be measured in a less intimidating, more reliable manner that respects individual gifts and differences in both secular and Christian education settings.

Objectives
Participants will:

  1. Explain the overall purpose of the lesson.
  2. Explain what is meant by teaching children to be “earners and consumers” when it comes to educational focus.
  3. Identify at least one teacher (formal or informal) that made a significant positive impact on his / her life with regard to Christian education / formation.
  4. Distinguish between educating for “economics” and educating for “citizenry.”
  5. List at least five “measureable” gifts and five “immeasurable” gifts that are, for better or for worse, honored and revered in today’s culture.

Preparation

  1. Participants should have read and Carol and David Bartlett’s response to Kathy Dawson’s lead article.
  2. Arrange the room in a way that is conducive to both large group discussion and small group sharing, ideally with tables for four to six people that are easily accessible and arranged to face a common space in one area of the room.
  3. Write the following statement on the board: “Think of a person in your recent or distant past who you remember as a good teacher. Share this memory within your small groups, and discuss what it was about those people that made them “good teachers?”

Materials

  1. Note cards
  2. Postage stamps
  3. Basket of river stones, small garden rocks, or decorative marbles
  4. Baptismal bowl / font filled with water
  5. White / Chalk board or a sheet of poster board and pens / chalk
  6. paper and pen/cil/s at each table

Sequence

  1. Opening –
    a. As participants gather, encourage them to reflect with others at their table on the question
        written on the board.
    b. As the lesson begins, invite each group to share the characteristics and qualities that made
        the teachers named “good” and “memorable.” Make a list of these characteristics on the
        board or on a sheet of poster board.
     
  2. Explore –
    a. Encourage participants to consider ways that current methods of assessment in public
        schools do not accurately measure learning and / or growth. Push them to think outside of
        their own personal boxes, trying to imagine shortcomings from a more neutral perspective.
    b. Both Dawson and the Bartletts lift up Osmer’s (and Paul’s) educational goals of “faith,
        hope, and love.” Yet these “gifts” are quite difficult to measure. Imagine fruits that might be
        present in a life and viewed as exhibitions of “(near) mastery” of faith, hope, and love.
     
  3. Encounter –
    a. Spend time in small groups discussing the following quotations found in the Bartletts’
        response paper. If possible, share concrete examples that either back each statement up,
        or challenge each statement’s validity.
           i.  “The demise of music, the arts, (and) physical education in our schools is indicative
               of an inability to think about the schools as educating citizens, not just quiz-takers, and
               certainly not just quiz-takers whose knowledge is limited to vocabulary and arithmetic.”
           ii. “If our goal as educators and parents is to build a strong nation by developing an
               educated citizenry…(w)e will not be as concerned to make  sure our children find their
               slots in the economy as to make sure they fine their place as members of an educated
               citizenry.”
          iii. “Measureable works can lead to boasting and competition. Immeasurable gifts lead to
               community and mutual celebration.”
          iv. “(S)ometimes it is far more formative for a student to see what a teacher does, who a
              teacher is, than to learn what a teacher insists is the necessary knowledge of the faith.”
    b. Reconvene as a large group and share the highlights of your reflection time, taking notes
        as appropriate.
     
  4. Respond – Return to the teacher remembered in the lesson’s opening. Take a few minutes to write him / her a thank-you note for the way s/he impacted your life. If the person is still living, do your best to locate an address and send it to him or her in the mail. If the person is no longer living, consider sending it to his or her spouse, son, or daughter. If there is absolutely no way to pass the note on to the individual or the family, give it to God by placing it in the morning offering at worship, trusting that God can deliver the message beyond our measly ways of communicating.
     
  5. Closing –
    a. Encourage people to select a stone from the basket and hold it in their hands as the closing
        prayer is said.
    b. Use the following words, or something similar of your own design, as the closing prayer:
        “Lord, we thank you this day for those who have guided and shaped our lives as we have
        journeyed thus far. We thank you especially for those special people whom we have
        acknowledged and recognized as important teachers for us in our faith formation. Bless
        them as they continue to love and serve you as mentors, teachers, pastors, or friends. And
        if their baptism has already been made complete in death, we thank you for their faithful
        witness throughout their lives, and are grateful for the trust we have that you have made a
        place for them in your heavenly realm. Triune God, continue to teach and mold us, that we
        might be the leaders, teachers, and followers that you desire us to be, each and every day
        of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
    c. Following the prayer, have participants place the stone in the baptismal bowl / font on the
        way out, remembering their own baptism, the promises made by the greater Body of Christ
        to teach and nurture them at their baptism, and the special teacher in particular.
    d. The baptismal bowl with stones will be a focal piece for next week’s lesson, centering on
        Dr. Bill Brown’s response article, “Wisdom’s Wonder.”

 

Lesson Four

Concept
The purpose of the study is to give participants an experience of “wondering” and an experience of “learning.” The lesson will encourage participants to experience Bible-reading in a new way. Participants will be asked to reflect on their learning over the past four weeks (formative assessment), and encouraged to continue their “wonder-filled quest for wisdom” beyond this lesson and beyond the traditional Christian education time.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute class period. However, adjustments can be made to accommodate particular situations as needed.

Goal
The goal of this session is to a) give participants the opportunity and the freedom to wonder about God and God’s word, and b) to encourage participants to continue on their own paths of learning and teaching from this point forward.

Objectives
Participants will:

  1. Explain the overall purpose of the lesson.
  2. Identify at least three Bible-reading habits.
  3. Define the practice of “lectio divina,” or “divine reading.”
  4. Distinguish between Christian education and Christian formation.
  5. List at least three ways in which their individual congregation educates and / or forms.
  6. List at least two things that s/he has learned over the course of this study.

Preparation

  1. Participants should have read Bill Brown’s response article “Wisdom’s Wonder.”
  2. Arrange the room in a way that is conducive to both large group discussion and small group sharing, ideally with tables for four to six people that are easily accessible and arranged to face a common space in one area of the room.
  3. Write the following on the board: “Share with each other the ways in which you approach reading the Bible. Do you have Bible-reading ‘habits?’ If so, what are they? When you sit down to read Scripture, what is the purpose of your reading? What do you hope to get out of it?”

Materials

  1. Bibles
  2. Copies of the Presbyterian Hymnal, or copies of the song “Open My Eyes That I May See,” #324 in the Presbyterian Hymnal.
  3. Baptismal bowl / font filled with water, holding stones from last week’s lesson
  4. White / Chalk board or a sheet of poster board and pens / chalk
  5. paper and pen/cil/s at each table

Sequence

  1. Opening –
    a. As participants gather, encourage them to reflect with others at their table on the questions
        written on the board.
    b. As the lesson begins, invite each group to share their responses to the question on
        the board. Put two columns on the board, one labeled “habits” and one labeled “purpose”
        and categorize the responses accordingly. Feel free to add a third column / category of your
        own choosing if needed.
     
  2. Explore –
    a. Give a brief overview of the practice of “lectio divina,” or “divine reading,” then begin the
        practice by singing together hymn #324 from the Presbyterian Hymnal, “Open My Eyes
        That I May See” as a prayer of illumination.
    b. Have each table read Proverbs 8:22-31 three times in the following way:
           i. First silently and individually,
           ii. A second time, with each person at the table reading a verse at a time,
           iii. A third time, with one person reading it aloud to the table.
           iv. Finally, have each participant read it silently one last time, then filling in the blank to
               this statement: “When I read Proverbs 8:22-31, I wonder ______________.” (Be sure
               to let them know that it is okay to wonder multiple things!) Encourage them to share
               their wonderings with each other until all groups have finished.
    c. Make a list of the large group’s “wonderings,” sharing from each table as invited.
    d. Ask participants how this is different from ways they have read the Bible in the past.
        Encourage them to share ways in which they have encountered Scripture in other different
        and meaningful ways.
     
  3. Encounter –
    a. “In his opening paragraph, Dr. Brown states, ‘Wisdom is the bridge between truth and faith,’
        then opens the second paragraph with “Biblical wisdom is a journey…’ What do you think
        he means by this, and what do you think this might have to say to us about Christian
        education and formation in the church?”
    b. Invite each group to share their reflections on the quote from Dr. Brown’s article. Encourage
        them to think further about the difference, if any, between educating Christians and forming
        Christians.
    c. Return to small groups and assign each group one of the following questions for further
        discussion:
           i. How does reading the Bible to educate differ from Bible-reading to form?
           ii. Reflect your own history of Christian experiences and share those that have educated
               as well as those that have formed.
           iii. What aspects of programming in your current congregation educate and which aspects
               form?
    d. Reconvene as a large group and share the highlights of your reflection time, taking notes
        as appropriate. It might be helpful to again create three columns for notes, one labeled
        “Educate,” one labeled “Form,” and one labeled “Both.”
     
  4. Respond –
    a. Reflect on your own experience of Scripture-reading prior to today, and then consider your
        experience of the “lectio divina” style of reading earlier in the lesson. Did this experience
        change your understanding of Bible-reading? If so, how? (Note the allusion to “formative
        assessment” here.) Spend a few minutes discussing responses to these questions in the
        large group.
    b. Brown closes his response with the following sentences: “How does one measure wonder?
        I don’t know. But what I do know is that the wonder-filled quest for wisdom never ends.”
        Spend the last few minutes of class sharing how this study may have enhanced individual
        “quests for wisdom.” Share with each other any wonderings or insights that have been
        brought to light as a result of the reading and sharing.
     
  5. Closing – End by charging participants with the following words: “Each of you is a learner,
    having been blessed with one or more teachers along the pathway of life. Each of you is
    also a teacher, with the opportunity to touch the lives of those around you by the words you
    say and the things you do. As the Body of Christ, we are called to encourage faith, hope,
    and love…to cultivate truth, beauty, and goodness…in all of God’s children. As you go from
    this place today, TAKE a stone from the font to serve as a reminder that you are both learner
    and teacher. You are both the garden and the gardener, because the learning is never done,
    and the teaching is always at work. May you always remember that ‘the wonder-filled quest
    for wisdom never ends, and may your progress on the path be marked with dance steps!’ Go
    in peace to serve the Lord in both your learning and your teaching.”
     

Annotated Bibliography 

Bunge, Marcia J., Terence Fretheim, and Beverly Gaventa, eds. The Child in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

     Collected essays from biblical scholars about the place of the child in different texts from the Bible—two of the authors are William Brown and David Bartlett who also contributed to this issue.

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. New York: Random House, 2007.

Helm, Judy Harris and Amanda Helm. Building Support for Your School:How to Use Children's Work to Show Learning. New York: Teachers College Press, 2006.

     In this resource the mother/daughter team of authors offer ways to document children's work specifically in early childhood programs. Judy Harris Helm is a Presbyterian elder at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL and uses this strategy to explore the spiritual lives of children as well as to demonstrate learning in other areas.

Hogue, David. Remembering the Future, Imagining the Past: Story, Ritual, and the Human Brain. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 2003.

Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, Wash.: Pear Press, 2008.

O’Shea, Mark. From Standards to Success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2005.

     A case study of a standards based school in California—gives a sense of how this school uses standards and criteria for planning and assessment.

Reeves, Douglas R. Accountability for Learning: How Teachers and School Leaders Can Take Charge. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2004.

     This book gives a broad view of practices of accountability at various levels within the public school system. It begins with the accountability of teachers and continues with supervisors, district personnel, and policy makers.

Williams, Cassandra, ed. Children Among Us: Foundations in Children’s Ministries. Louisville: Witherspoon, 2003.

     Practical chapters for churches desiring to take the presence of children in their midst seriously—one chapter on children’s faith development was written by Kathy Dawson, one of our authors in this issue.

“Assessment to Promote Learning,” Educational Leadership, Vol. 63, No. 3, November 2005.

     This issue is packed with various articles on different methods of assessment that are formative for student learning. There should be a number of good ideas here for churches wishing to implement assessment in their educational programs.


Websites

www.childrensdefense.org

     Organization headed by Marian Wright Edelman that advocates and lobbies on behalf of children. The website has a wealth of research information and faith-based resources for congregations including the annual Children’s Sabbath resource.

www.godlyplayfoundation.org

     Information, resources, and training available in this groundbreaking form of children’s worship and faith formation

www.rotation.org/

     Workshop rotation site that offers curriculum and helps for this form of Christian education that draws on multiple modalities

www.arborday.org/explore/

     Arbor Day foundation connects children with nature. This is a good place for churches to assess the possibility of using their property as outdoor education space for children

http://www.search-institute.org/developmental-assets-are-free

     Search Institute offers tools for churches to aid the children in their neighborhoods to become thriving resilient youth.
 

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