Published on March 14, 2014
teaching after tenure musings at mid-career 15 march 2014
“Seminary education may have its share of forgettable educational moments, but its central educational agenda is a deep and crucial form of learning. It is the soul-shaping learning that forms religious vocation.” Aleshire (29)
“It is not enough for teachers to be brilliant scholars. Nor is it enough for teachers to be entertaining circus side shows. Teachers must be brilliant, passionate, intense, insistent, compelling, and relentless.” Student quoted in Aleshire (63)
“people should stop writing so much! … the literature is too voluminous for any one person to read, even in highly specialized areas. The exponential growth of new information begets more and more writing about narrower and narrower areas of inquiry.” Aleshire (69)
“Competition for religion teaching jobs is so ﬁerce that those fortunate enough to get hired have largely forgotten how to be collegial … What’s more, religion scholars face unique pressures to continually justify their jobs at institutions that often are either struggling to survive or cutting back on religion departments. And a rapidly changing church landscape means faculty get bombarded with mixed messages about how best to train tomorrow’s faith leaders.” Killen (web)
“Christianity is a teaching faith. It carries in its heart the making of disciples through teaching. Yet its pedagogical vision is inside its Christological horizon and embodiment, inside its participatio Christi and its imitatio Christi. The colonialist moment indicates the loss of that horizon and embodiment through its enclosure in exaggerated judgment, hyperevaluation tied to a racial optic … faith seeking understanding mutates into faith judging intelligence.” Jennings (107ff)
are you overwhelmed yet?
adaptive challenges • shifts across the landscape of higher education generally, and theological education more speciﬁcally (demographic, digital, ﬁnancial, etc.) • shifts in how we understand authority, authenticity, agency • multi faith contexts • competing commitments (teaching, research, leadership, family, community, globe)
“up on the balcony” and “deeper inside”
four points • adaptive challenges require adaptive action • key to adaptive action is managing attention • the one element that is key is the primary thing we don’t manage well • pragmatic ways to manage attention in teaching
adaptive challenges require adaptive action
“Adaptive action is a way of working effectively in changing unpredictable circumstances. With adaptive action there is no linear, prescribed sequence of steps. But there are principles and practices that can enable groups to set the conditions for a preferred future.” Eoyang (web)
3 kinds of change • static: change comes from a speciﬁc intervention that moves a stable system from one point to the next • dynamic: change comes over time following a smooth trajectory (planning is useful) • dynamical: change is inﬂuenced by multiple variables that are interdependent and thus unpredictable
enhancing adaptive capacity • teach and learn in every interaction • see, understand, and inﬂuence patterns • pay attention to patterns in the whole, the part, and the greater whole • recognize and build on the assets of self and others • search for the true and the useful • act with courage • engage in joyful practice Patterson, Hollady, Eoyang (19)
I can’t imagine a better description of, or prescription for, your vocation as a theological educator. At this point in your journey you have the institutional authorization to do precisely this — and teaching your courses may be one of the most effective ways to do so.
it begins with managing attention — your own, your students’, your institution’s
managing your own attention
collaborative inquiry • building into your work regularly-scheduled time for reﬂection on what you are learning • discerning when you want and need the skillful help of others • thinking through as best you can what kind of help you need • ﬁnding people you trust to give you what you need in a way that you can use it • making yourself available and open to receive the help you’ve asked for Dykstra (web)
more ideas • form a teaching/learning reﬂection group on your campus • ﬁnd a mentor — or more than one! • work with a spiritual director • draw upon Wabash Center resources and workshops • subscribe to Tomorrow’s Professor • work with a local Center for Teaching and Learning
managing your students’ attention
“to teach is to create an environment in which obedience to truth can be practiced” Parker Palmer
ﬁrst understand knowing
pedagogical practices • animating/essential questions • differentiating circles of ideas and concepts • rubrics • managing your own emotions
animating/essential questions • cause genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas and core content • provoke deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understanding as well as more questions • require students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers • stimulate vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons • spark meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences • naturally recur, creating opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects Wiggins and McTighe
what essential questions are you asking in your courses?
differentiate between… • ideas and concepts central to understanding • ideas and concepts important to know and to do • ideas and concepts worth being familiar with
what is the ‘enduring understanding’ or the ‘central idea or concept’ that you want students to remember 10 years from now when they think about your course?
use rubrics for clarity of expectation • rubric for ‘six facets of understanding’ • individual assignment rubrics • critical incident questionnaire
how do the rubrics you’re currently using support your essential questions and enduring understandings?
managing the emotions and tensions of learning
Stephen Brookﬁeld • expect ambiguity • perfection is an illusion • ground your teaching in how your students are learning • be wary of standardized approaches and models • regularly reﬂect on your own learning • take your instincts seriously • create diversity • don’t be afraid to take risks • remember that learning is emotional • acknowledge your personality • don’t evaluate yourself only by students’ satisfaction • remember the importance of both support and challenge • recognize and accept your power • view yourself a helper of learning • don’t trust what you’ve just read
managing your institution’s attention
“on the balcony” of an institution • develop reﬂective practice • pay attention to the whole of the curriculum • “eyes of the mind and eyes of the heart”
Figure 3.2: Reﬂective Matrix: Spectrum of Reﬂective Practice in Seminary Teaching. Faculty talk of teaching only in disparaging ways. Teaching talk is generally nervous, critical, and for summative purposes. Teaching talk is tentative and informal, but there is faculty interest in it. Teaching talk moves across boundaries and is formative. Teaching talk is generative, shared, and energizing. Theology is key arbiter; closed canon forms basis of truth. Theological commitments are voiced only in terms of guild expertise. Theological frames are one among many but allowed into conversation. Theological commitments form center of curriculum and invite conversation. Theological commitments support openness in learning and seeking transformation. Faculty are all powerful in the institution; students are perceived as a necessary evil. Faculty and students act independently and in isolation. Faculty and students collaborate informally, with faculty taking the lead. Faculty and students work in teams with each other and other constituencies. Structural roles blur as the same person inhabits different roles in different projects. Student role is strictly deﬁned as novice. Student role is subordinate to faculty, a learner who consumes information. Students may inhabit multiple roles—novice, skilled practitioner, researcher. Students have multiple roles, may be learning partners with faculty. Students are co-learners with faculty and other constituencies, may be pursuing degrees, continuing education, or simply learning for its own sake. Less Reﬂective More Reﬂective
attend to the whole curriculum • what is the overall arc of the degree programs within which you teach? • what are the explicit, the implicit, and the null curricula? • where are the feedback loops, the places of iterative and generative assessment? • how do your classes interact with other classes in the curriculum? where is the harmony? where is the discord?
eyes of the heart and eyes of the mind • shared governance • room for discerning patterns and developing relational trust • suﬃcient diﬀerentiation (cf. Gordon Smith)
attend to ideas from other venues, look for patterns
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him cruciﬁed.” ! 1 Cor 2:1-6
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” ! 2 Cor 4:7-15
a conversation process • core public agreement • one question in each of three rounds • brief silence before each person (allows you to ponder what was said, and prepare for the next speaking)
core public agreement • Speak for oneself; Use ‘I statements.’ Own and offer your thoughts and feelings honestly; avoid grand pronouncements or stating positions of others • Practice respect in speaking and listening; accept that others may have different views, without needing to debate or set them straight • Be brief in comments; honor timeframes and refrain from interrupting • Listen carefully, especially when something is hard to accept; suspend judgment • Respect conﬁdentiality: After the conversation, do not attach names to comments made without permission • Allow people to pass, or pass for now, if they are not ready or willing to respond to a question Respectful Conversations project
three questions • what in your experience as a newly-tenured professor inﬂuences your perspectives on the topic of theological education? • when you think about teaching and learning, what matters most to you? • within your own perspective, what questions do you still wrestle with?
background resources • Adaptive Action, Eoyang and Holladay (Stanford University Press, 2013) • The Courage to Teach, Palmer (Jossey-Bass, 2007) • Radical Rules for Schools: Adaptive Action for Complex Change, Patterson, Holladay and Eoyang (Human Systems Dynamics Institute Press, 2012) • The Skillful Teacher, Brookﬁeld (Jossey-Bass, 2006) • Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe (Pearson, 2005)
citations • illumination to John 1:1-14, St. John’s Bible (http://blog.seeingtheword.org/?tag=word- made-ﬂesh) • Daniel Aleshire, Earthen Treasures: Hopeful Reﬂection on the Work and Future of Theological Schools (Eerdmans, 2008) • Patricia Killen quoted in the Faith&Leadership blog: http:// www.faithandleadership.com/features/articles/the-wabash-way • Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale University Press, 2010) • Glenda Eoyang, quoted on the web: http://www.csh.umn.edu/wsh/Leadership/ adaptiveaction/index.htm • Dykstra on evaluation: http://www.christianleaders.org/MS360/evaluation.htm • epistemological diagrams from The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer
citations, continued • “authorship learning” diagram: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/constructionism- reborn/ • graphic of enduring understanding: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/teaching-for- enduring-understanding/35243 • complimentary rules comic: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/? u=4d03b90f9fff26c211dc4eb54&id=77743fd6c4 • For better or for worse comic (http://www.fborfw.com/) • table of traditional vs. collaborative leadership: http://www.business2community.com/ leadership/understanding-future-work-8-traits-collaborative-leadership-infographic-0697429#! zrLIg • table of ﬁelds of attention: http://www.blog.ottoscharmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/ Fig-4.png • all other photos by Mary E. Hess (http://meh.religioused.org/web/Home.html)
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