INSIGHT | Vol. 1 – February 2021

Highlighting Research in and for Christian Schools


Welcome to the first in a series of communications that will endeavour to provide CSA member schools with updates, findings, commentary and important school-based implications of a diverse range of research projects and articles in and for Christian schooling.

A Thrill Of Hope


“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”
Hebrews 6:19

We all agree. 2020 was an annus horribilis  in so many ways. We lurched from catastrophic bushfires that ravaged our East coast to a global pandemic that touched the entire world. Our school communities bore the brunt of these seismic tremors and a new vocabulary of words like agile and pivot and hybrid work models entered our everyday leadership vernaculars. After such a tumultuous 2020,  we looked to a new year for a new beginning. However, the turning of the calendar into 2021 provided no tangible turning of the tide for these current crises with bushfires now ravaging our West coast and the shadow of COVID continuing to cast its long dark shadow over the world.
Perhaps with new acuity, the Christmas… season of 2020 enabled us all to appreciate and value many of our often taken for granted rituals and traditions surrounding this holy season. For me, I was struck afresh by the power and pathos of some of those all too familiar hymns we sing at Carols services and church events each year. A favourite of mine has always been “O Holy Night”. The carol is a both a declaration of Jesus birth and also and exclamation of His redemptive work for all of humanity.
One line resonated with particular relevance and significance at the end of 2020 – “a thrill of hope – a weary world rejoices”. The thrill of hope – what a powerful phrase that is and what a timely reminder as we launch into 2021! !! That line is only made possible because God came down, sending his Son Jesus – the Word made flesh –  to restore all things in a lost, weary and broken world. This thrill of hope should inspire and encourage us as we seek to be agents of redemption  through our school communities throughout 2021 – pointing a broken, distorted  and often hope-less world to the only Hope for all humanity who breaks every chain and provides hope in the bleakest  situation and light in even the darkest of nights.
This new series of communications – Insights – will seek to provide hope and illuminate different facets of research in and for Christian schooling that reveals God’s redemptive and transformative work that is expressed through seeking out truth and goodness and beauty across our school communities. Insights will also seek to equip you as a leader with articles, perspectives, projects, and commentary related to research initiatives that are redemptive, transformative,  thoughtful and specifically focussed on “kingdom come” imperatives of hope and redemption through the cause of Christian education around the world. I pray that you will be hope-filled throughout 2021 and trust that as you both reflect on, participate in, and thoughtfully engage in the projects and articles curated here you will be inspired, encouraged and hope-FULL in your life and ministry.  

Why Parents Choose Christian Schools | Project

CSA is now launching its third important piece of national research that will provide an understanding of the parents that select Christian schools for their children.  This national study will investigate the profiles, passions, perceptions and priorities of our Christian school families, and you have the opportunity to get involved.


Meditations on “Meditation in a Toolshed” | by Dr Albert Cheng

This article, written by Assistant Professor Albert Cheng, explores the importance of using data that is both looking at as well as looking along within our school communities. The article unpacks a paper by CS Lewis who described these concepts as two ways of experiencing reality. Lewis contends that “When looking at something, one stands outside of it to understand it. Looking along, in contrast, entails participating in the thing itself”. Cheng expands on these concepts with a particular emphasis on the implications for research and evidence-based approaches within our school communities and uses the work of the Flourishing Schools Culture Model to provide examples of these two approaches to data usage. Read more

CSA / ACSI Flourishing Schools Culture Model | by Dr Lynn Swaner and Dr Matt Lee

Pilot Study and Final Report
Nearly all of our Australian pilot schools have now received their school-based reports and the final report on the findings on Christian schools in Australia involved in the pilot will be presented at the National Policy Forum in May. Validated by research, the Flourishing School Culture Model provides culture-level insight to Christian schools on how their students, educators, and school communities flourish in the domains of Purpose, Relationships, Learning Orientation, Expertise & Resources, and Well-Being. The Flourishing Schools Culture Instrument (FSCI) explores responses across a range of key criteria and seeks responses across seven different survey groups: students; parents; alumni; teachers; leaders/administrators; support staff; and board members. You can read the recently updated findings from ACSI’s Flourishing Schools report compiled by Dr Lynn Swaner and Dr Matthew Lee. Read more


Early Teaching Career Research

Early Career Teachers and Relationships
Relationships Foundation were commissioned in 2017 by the UK’s largest school-centred initial teacher training program to carry out a five-year longitudinal research program, exploring the impact of a trainee teacher’s social and professional relationships on their success as a trainee and… thereafter as a teacher. The interim findings of this study have recently been published in Impact, the research and practice journal of the Chartered College of Teaching in England and Wales.

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Christian School Graduates and The Common Good

Following on from the successful launch of the Cardus Education Survey Australia project report launch last August, CSA are compiling a series of short (6-8 pages) articles that relate specifically to the implications for Christian schools of the survey’s findings across 6  major themes. The report findings provide a holistic perspective of millennial…graduates (ages 25-29) rather than measuring only academic outcomes, economic contributions and career pathways of the individual. You may consider using parts of these in your school communications and staff presentations. You can view the full video presentation of the Launch and all published reports on the CSA website as well as the Cardus Education Survey Australia Project website. The CES site also contains the slides used by all presenters and the three published report documents.

As CSA Member schools, you are also able to access the keynotes delivered on report’s findings at the National Leaders Summit (NLS) in each State/ Territory.

A comprehensive Christian Schools Australia Report is also being compiled that will bring together the key findings relating to Christian schools arising from the Cardus Education Survey Australia Project as well as the Relational Schools Project and the soon to be launched Christian Schools Community Profile.

The Teacher as a Learner-Researcher  

This is just one of the topics covered in the new research journal Academica, released by Australian Christian College (ACC). This research based journal showcases the research, insights and work of teachers and leaders in the nation-wide Australian Christian College network of schools. The journal covers a broad range of topics such as Christian education, academic improvement, online education, character development, student and teacher wellbeing, professional educational issues and education technology. Academica’s content demonstrates the ACC school network’s commitment to pedagogical improvement, contemporary research and exemplary teaching practice.

The latest edition contains a range of thought provoking and easy to read articles that include:
Modelling Learning: The Teacher as a Learner-Researcher; Leadership and online learning during the COVID-19 crisis: Proactive or Reactive?; How does teaching online differ from on-campus teaching?; What Does A School Chaplain Do? and Pedagogical Curriculum Knowledge: An exploratory concept for teacher planning.

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Navigating Tensions Between Christian Ethos and Assessment Practices | Dr Maria Varlet

Insights from Australian Doctoral Research
In this article, Dr Varlet summarises the key findings from her doctoral research and the tensions between espoused theory and our everyday assessment practices in Christian schools. A key purpose of this study was to shed light on the potential tension between ethos and assessment practices by exploring the perspectives of teachers in one Australian Christian school. The study investigated teacher beliefs and attitudes, the influences shaping these, the way in which Christian ethos is understood and experienced by individual teachers and how, if at all, this is applied to their assessment practices. Read more

Measuring What We Value | Podcast

On this episode of ‘Horizon 2020’ Darren Iselin talks with Dr Beth Green, who is currently Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Tyndale University, Fellow of the Royal Society and a Senior Fellow and former Director of Education at Cardus, a faith-based think tank in Canada.


What It Means To Innovate Christian Education

Arising from the Australian Christian Higher education Alliance (ACHEA) conference in 2019, this recently published book featuring predominantly Australian based contributors and case studies reformulates Christian education as an interdisciplinary and interdenominational vocation for professionals and practitioners. It speaks directly to a range of contemporary contexts with the aim of encouraging conceptual, empirical and practice-informed innovation to build the field of Christian education research. By helping thinkers to believe and believers to think, the book seeks… to stimulate constructive dialogue about what it means to innovate Christian education research today. Chapters are organised into three main sections. Following an introduction to the volume’s guiding framework and intended contribution (Chapter 1), Part 1 features conceptual perspectives and comprises research that develops theological, philosophical and theoretical discussion of Christian education (Chapters 2-13). Part 2 encompasses empirical research that examines data to test theory, answer big questions and develop our understanding of Christian education (Chapters 14-18). Finally, Part 3 reflects on contemporary practice contexts and showcases examples of emerging research agendas in Christian education (Chapters 19-24).

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Hope for the Next Year and Beyond

To conclude this edition, the current research update from Professor Tyler Vander Weele at the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University provides a succinct overview of some of the latest empirical research on hope, and the Centre’s efforts in developing more philosophically and theologically informed measures of hope and of optimism. This past year has been difficult for… our country and for the world. We have been struggling through a deadly pandemic. We have faced tensions across racial and political lines. Many have faced tremendous economic hardship. Some are doubtless wondering if there is any reason for hope. Dare we hope for the future? And what is hope? Is it realistic? Does it help at all? Over the past couple of years, we have been trying to better understand and assess hope at the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard to attempt to shed light on some of these critical questions of our day.

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