On March 22-24, more than 80 school leaders and curriculum specialists from around the nation converged on Adelaide for the 2017 CSA National Curriculum Symposium. Most delegates were from schools, with others coming from the Christian tertiary sector. The Welcome Dinner on March 22 was attended by nearly 100 guests.
Recognising that Christian schools desire to be authentic and effective in both the spiritual formation and excellent education of students, the challenge is always to embed school practices within a strong Christian framework in a way that is more than superficial. Curriculum was the primary focus of the symposium but was by no means the sole topic of conversation.
Dr Daniel Pampuch, CEO at Christian Schools Australia set the scene by reminding us to consider our audience – the students of today. Their major difficulties revolve around the big questions – Who am I? Why am I here? What is my role in the world? Research shows that young people do want to engage with culture and yearn to be participants in creation and restoration. They do want an authentic identity and to live fulfilling lives. God’s Big Story encompasses all of that. We must not turn it into a small story!
Daniel also introduced a draft model of the CSA Christian Schools Framework, which describes Curriculum as being one of six ‘hooks’ alongside Kingdom Education, Christian Community Principles, Biblical Literacy, Christian Philosophy of Education and Biblical Worldview.
Later in the Symposium, Dr Ryan Messmore, Executive Director of the Millis Institute, Christian Heritage College, challenged delegates afresh to bridge the artificial but strongly held public / private divide. That is, an often subconscious division of the world into public (think maths, science, politics, work, reason) and private (think values, faith, religion, prayer, Christian studies) categories.
Ryan stated, “When we say ‘Christian education’, our students are not hearing ‘geometry’ or ‘anatomy’!” The question is not whether we should bring God into the public sphere – He is already there. The correct question is: ‘Which faith is guiding our values and our decisions?’ And the best question to ask is ‘Why?’ Schools need to grapple with such issues at a philosophical and theological level.
CONNECTING LEARNERS WITH GOD’S BIG STORY
Four training modules, developed and presented by Rebekah Cook, Cass Pendlebury, Sandra Scott and Susan Starling, were rolled out in order to further equip curriculum leaders with fresh perspectives on how to bring an authentic biblical approach to curriculum in Christian schools.
The four modules are as follows:
- Module 1 The Big Picture: What makes a curriculum distinctively Christian?
- Module 2 Teachers teach what they believe: How do teacher beliefs shape curriculum decisions?
- Module 3 Illuminating God’s Big Story in Curriculum: How do I connect learners with God’s Big Story?
- Module 4 Begin with the end in mind: What is the end goal of Christian curriculum planning?
The final workshop was a terrific time of sharing in small groups and writing curriculum unit outlines which do authentically connect learners with God’s Big Story. Praise God that the Australian Curriculum makes meaningful curriculum conversations possible on a national level.
CSA’s hope is that many delegates will now plan to run professional learning modules in the above format or according to their own contexts in schools or regional areas, thus expanding teacher capability and vision for holistic Christian education.
STATE AND SCHOOL SNAPSHOTS
During the Symposium, it was exciting to hear reports from five state and school curriculum leaders about their approaches to connecting learners with God’s Big Story. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, as we all know, and teachers love to learn from one another.
Bianca Vieiro (Wyong CCS NSW), Julie Wicks (Pilgrim School SA) and Meredith Lockery (Tyndale CS SA) shared their whole-school approaches to Connecting Learners with God’s Big Story and the reasons behind their decisions. Maria Varlet (Crest Education, Vic) spoke about her doctoral research on the tensions between curriculum with a Biblical ethos and current assessment practices – we look forward to learning more from Maria’s findings. Natalie Leitao (CSA WA), whose special interest is in worldview development, shared Western Australia’s context and gave a state perspective.
Powerpoint summaries of some of these presentations are available on CSA’s website and can be accessed here
RESOURCES FOR CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
To enhance effective staff training and professional learning in schools, a detailed ‘Connecting Learners with God’s Big Story’ handbook and a USB packed with useful resources were given to each delegate.
Resources from the Train the Trainer Symposium are on the CSA website.
LAUNCH OF THE LEARNING OBJECT REPOSITORY
At the Symposium, CSA’s Digital Development Manager, Harry Woodward-Clarke launched CSA’s new Learning Object Repository (LOR), which is a free online learning platform for schools to easily share digital classroom resources with one another. These resources, from Unit Guide and Lesson Plan documents through to multimedia productions will be easily accessible to all.
The resources are available via the Education Services Australia (ESA) Scootle web resource – https://scootle.edu.au – which many educators will be familiar with already. A copy of Harry’s presentation can be accessed on the CSA website here
I am coordinating teams of “content creators” for the LOR and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
For any technical assistance and questions of the LOR, please contact Harry Woodward-Clarke at HarryWWC@CSA.edu.au
And just to enhance the Symposium even further, two books were launched!!
Louise Sherman sold out of copies of the brilliant new Our Mob: God’s Story: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists share their faith, an art book produced by Bible Society Australia to commemorate 200 years in Australia. This art book with a difference is a special collection of over 115 paintings from 67 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia with each painting portraying a Bible story or Christian theme.It’s been researched and edited by award-winning author Christobel Mattingley and Louise Sherman with a thought-provoking Foreword by distinguished artist Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann.
Dr Ryan Messmore launched his latest book, In Love: The Larger Story of Sex and Marriage. This book has been described as ‘a treasure trove of insight and inspiration’ and ‘more than just another intellectual conversion story’. The book intertwines two love stories, one ancient and one modern, with the greatest love story of all. It is a winsome and accessible book about sexual ethics, marriage and love – perfect for senior students and young adults everywhere, and for those who teach and mentor them.
While a formal survey is still to go out to delegates, the Symposium was a very exciting gathering of like-minded educators whose passion is to strengthen the Christian school movement in all sorts of ways. I look forward to the future with great hope. God is doing marvellous things through Christian schools in Australia.
Executive Officer SA
Christian Schools Australia