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The Strength of Evidence

I make a delicious hamburger. I think it is the best burger that you will ever taste. I choose to use top sirloin meat, and I season it with a mixture of herbs and spices along with salt and pepper. When I cook the burger on my BBQ, I choose to use mesquite briquettes, and I grill the burger for only five minutes on each side. The result is a burger that has a crispy top and a soft, medium-rare center.

I made the claim that my burger is the best that you will ever taste. Are you sure that my burger is the best tasting just by looking at my ingredients and cooking process? I’m sure you will have a good guess. The greatest way to know if my burger is the best is for you to taste the burger for yourself. This is evidence.

Is Christian education as simple as cooking a burger? Not exactly, but let me keep with the analogy. We hire good teachers and assemble the best curriculum. We work hard on keeping our buildings in good shape. We spend money on teacher training that focuses on current pedagogical approaches for our teachers. The teachers work hard at implementing the lesson content with faith integration.

These are the ingredients. I have seen so often that as Christian school leaders, we put all the right ingredients into place, but we rarely look for evidence to see if our expected outcomes are accomplished with each individual student. If you are not looking at the facts (tasting the burger), you can convince yourself the faith integration plan is working.

Ten years ago, I weighed 290 pounds. My doctor told me that I should be around 180 pounds. I joined Weight Watchers who gave me a plan. They taught me how to lose weight. I tried my hardest of follow the plan. I had a good plan and desire, but I also had good evidence. I weighed myself each week on Monday mornings. Most weeks, I lost weight. The evidence gave me confidence to keep doing what I am doing. When there was a month that I did not lose weight, I knew that I needed to make changes in my program to reach my goal. For a while, I thought that I could skip weighing myself. I thought I was doing well, but in reality; I was fooling myself. Without checking for the evidence, I wasn’t losing the weight like I thought I was. I eventually lost weight for an entire year, and I did reach my goal. The point is that good plans must also have good evidence for success.

I hope that I am clear that both sides of the equation must happen for there to be success. In other words, for there to be good evidence AND effective teachers, curriculum, and administration.

“One starts with the end – the desired results (goals or standards) – and then derives the curriculum from the evidence of learning (performances) called for by the standard and the teaching needed to equip students to perform" (Wiggins and McTighe, 2000).

What does evidence look like in Christian education? Christian education is not public school education with Christian teachers. It is not writing lesson plans and then putting a Bible verse at the end.

Christian education is about the whole child. We target the Head: intellectual thinking and knowledge, the Heart: an emotional response to God’s Word and world, and the Hands: training our students to look for problems in the world and participating in His redemptive work. The head, heart, and hands culminate in instilling a Christ-centered worldview in our students.

What evidence can we collect that will guide our students to see their place in the world God created, to inspire the ‘whole child’ as they are learning who God made them to be? This is what we at Faith Journey have been thinking about, discussing with schools, and what has inspired the creation of Faith Journey. It has been a collaborative effort to provide a tool that can help teachers in an efficient and time saving way provide the evidence that will help students, their parents, and the school in the faith development that is at the heart of the mission of Christian education.

At Faith Journey, we say that evidence must be the 4 I’s

• Individualized: allow for individual students to show and reflect on their learning

• Intersections: make connections between faith and learning happening in lessons

• Intentional: (requires effort): teachers are planning lessons that capture faith development

• Impact: the lesson, activity, or reflection has results that satisfies the mission of the school and helps students see God in all things

Evidence is how each individual student responds to teaching and learning. This can be artwork, chapel reflections, worksheets, papers, projects, or posters. Videos can also capture evidence with delivering a speech, reciting scripture memory, reading one of their papers, or executing a science experiment.

Administrators and/or curriculum directors look at the evidence to evaluate how the mission of the school is being implemented. At Faith Journey, we offer Christian schools with three unbiased reports a year. The reports are individualized for each teacher per stated lesson objectives. We are looking for evidence of effective faith integration. Once the administrator is given the reports, he or she can celebrate with the teachers on how well they are implementing Christian education with faith integration. We have found that teachers who are celebrated for their work will feel accomplished and desire to work even harder. For the teachers that need some growth, Faith Journey reports are geared to encouragingly recommend options for maximum faith impact in the teacher’s lessons. Administrators have a strong tool for school and teacher improvement.

Here is how Faith Journey helps you to “taste the burger” with our teacher and school reports.

By the way, if I whetted your appetite for a burger, and you are in the Grand Rapids, MI area, you may come to my house on Saturday nights. I’ll make the best burger you will ever taste. I’ll let you eat the evidence.

I am excited to be presenting at the Christian Deeper Learning conference. I am going to offer my 11-minute talk (EMT) about Faith Journey at 10:45-11:00 AM on Thursday, March 9 in the music room.

My main session is called, “Showing Evidence: The Value of Christian Education for Recruitment, Retention, and Accreditation.” It is on Thursday (March 9) from 12:30 pm-2:00 pm in room 112. Parents are exploring school options and considering whether the tuition is worth the cost. Christian schools need to be able to give clear evidence of the value of Christian education and how it is fulfilling its mission. I will share practical ways to gather and share this evidence. The presentation is not specific to Faith Journey.


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