Dr David Smith

David I. Smith has written widely on Christian education, including his latest book On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the Classroom. He serves as director of the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, a research institute at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is also professor of education. He is in demand internationally as a speaker on topics related to faith and education. He has also been known to write reviews of obscure electronic music.

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Christian Practices and the Changing Landscape of Christian Schools

Christian schools are part of a rapidly changing educational landscape, operating amid an array of cultural, political, and technological shifts that constantly place our best answers in question. Adding to the challenge, the change is not all on the educational side. As we respond to a change situation and seek to work out different facets of Christian faith in response, the “Christian” part of Christian education is also a moving target. In various times and places, Christian educators have foregrounded Bible knowledge, character, worldview, service, and missions. Facets of faith that we bring into focus affect the kinds of questions we ask and also what we ignore. Where does the notion of Christian practices fit on this map, and how can it help us engage with the schools of today and tomorrow?

Practices Re-imagined: Rethinking the Boring Stuff

When we debate how Christians should respond to secular culture, educational or otherwise, it is easy to focus mostly on the big, dramatic questions. How should we address porn, postmodernism, marriage, Islam, the purpose of life. Yet a lot of the formation that takes place in schools happens through the boring stuff: doing homework, typing assignments, getting grades and reports, raising a hand in class. We surely need to think about, and help our students to think about, the big issues driving our culture. But how might Christian faith also help us to reimagine the ordinary, everyday practices that make up the majority of our educational effort?

Strand Session:

Re-imagining Vocation, Practices, and School Assessment

For good and ill, Christian schools operate within a larger educational culture that increasingly looks for assessment data to benchmark school performance. Secular assessment tools do not typically address aspects of student formation that may be central to the vision of a faith-based school, while Christian tools can exhibit a narrow emphasis on some narrow facet of faith, such as right belief or engagement in religious activity. Many tools of either kind offer little immediate benefit for learners. This session will draw from an ongoing project at the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning that is seeking to develop fresh tools for Christian schools to assess their contribution to student formation. We will explore an approach to assessment that draws from emphases on student vocation and Christian learning practices, considering examples of what it might mean for students to grow as Christian learners.

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