If you mention the word ‘curriculum’ to most educators, the immediate response is not normally ‘joy’. Like many teachers, I found my curriculum subjects at university dry and boring. To be honest, it was not until I worked in a Christian school that I really saw the power of planning a distinct curriculum for my students to reveal Jesus and the grand narrative of scripture to them.
I have always been a planner but having worked in HR Consulting for 20 years, I know the importance of planning to ensure outcomes. Given the importance of the outcome we are trying to achieve for our students – eternal life – the stakes are high!
However, for most teachers the planning is often ad hoc, done outside of “work” hours and not seen as a key focus of teaching. Hence, it is often not given the attention I believe it deserves.
Curriculum is also often misunderstood. It is frequently regulated purely to a compliance aspect….but it’s so much more! Curriculum is your plan of what and how you are going to teach your students in order to reveal Jesus, God and The Holy Spirit.
There are 3 things that I believe are essential for curriculum in Christian schools.
- Conceptual Thinking
This is a popular term that is often overused. However, being intentional about something simply means you are giving it priority. Too often teachers in Australian schools give top priority to the Australian Curriculum (AC) or relevant state/territory syllabus, without thinking about what they want to prioritise in their teaching programme from a Christian perspective. I run regular workshops and symposia with teachers from Christian schools in my capacity as holder of the Curriculum Portfolio for CSA nationally. When I ask them what outcomes they want to achieve in their programme or teaching unit – they immediately leap to the AC Achievement Standards or relevant state/territory outcomes. The enduring understandings from a Biblical worldview are not even given a look in.
If we are not intentional about including the divine metanarrative in our curriculum – how are we meant to reveal Jesus to our students? Many proponents of Christian education espouse environment as the key to revealing God in a Christian school. I am not arguing for an either-or approach to curriculum in our schools; it is both/and. Having a hospitable, nurturing Christ filled environment is essential and so is a planned curriculum that includes ‘God’s Big Story’.
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When working with teachers in our schools around the nation I have noticed that the most difficult task for them when attempting to make Biblical worldview integral to their program planning, is thinking conceptually. Our tertiary training has drilled into us the importance of working to the Australian Curriculum or state-based syllabus and often we do not take the time to look at the underlying concepts and ideas we are being asked to teach. At CSA we developed an approach called ‘God’s Big Story’ to assist teachers in planning curriculum in Christian Schools.
One of the key tools in our ‘kit’ is The GBS Lensing Tool’ this simple model helps teachers to lift their thinking from a learning outcome level to a conceptual kingdom thinking level. For example, if you are asked to teach an outcome relating to order in Mathematics, what better opportunity to introduce your students to the magnificent and intricate order and balance of God’s creation. The GBS Lensing Tool helps teachers lift their thinking to a conceptual level, grounded in a Biblical worldview to then address the big picture of God’s world before addressing the smaller picture of man’s. Or in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1999), putting ‘first things first’.
We intuitively know when someone is not being authentic, we pick it up from body language cues, verbal language and just that weird feeling that ‘something isn’t quite right’. Students are masters at identifying inauthenticity. Whenever we as teachers do not authentically include a Biblical perspective in our teaching we are in danger of ‘inoculating’ our students against Christianity and blocking them from coming to know our Saviour. Therefore ‘Conceptual Thinking’ is imperative in preparing a curriculum plan. If we work from a conceptual level and weave Kingdom perspectives throughout our teaching, it will be integral and authentic. The Gods Big Story approach is based on the work of Wiggins and McTigue and takes a ‘backwards’ planning approach to curriculum with the Biblical story authentically woven throughout the curriculum plan. It is not a ‘tacking on approach’ but an embedding of Biblical perspective throughout the learning and teaching plan. To assist teachers in Christian Schools to do this we have been rolling out a series of documents for each KLA with exemplar units included. These can be found on our website and are free to all members:
|God’s Big Story 2.0 | English Companion|
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In ending, be encouraged – curriculum can be creative, inspirational, and fun. Do not feel it all has to be serious, hard work. Allow for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in your planning and as you enter his flow you just might find you enjoy it.