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A version of this article was originally published in the CACE blog on July 31, 2018.

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action 

Tucked into my blog post report in January 2018 on the first ever Christian Deeper Learning conference, I alluded to a small core group working on a definition and explication of what deeper learning looks like in the Christian school context. Out of honor to the small group that composed it and because I believe it deserves more than just a link (as well as the fact that you, dear reader, may have missed it!), I would like to take the opportunity in this post and the next to share parts of it with you.

As a core group (authors are noted at the end of the full document – you can reference that here) we each took our turn crafting a document expressing our thoughts about the distinctives of Christian Deeper Learning and then following up with phone calls where we identified points of resonance and agreement. The process took us several months and by the end we had not only gained respect for one another’s ability to articulate key elements, but we were able to reach consensus on some foundational principles. We hope you use it to stimulate your own thinking, discussion and dialogue among your colleagues.

Here is part one of the document below:


Deeper Learning in Christian Schools: Playing our Part in God’s Story

People of God’s story engaged in real work that forms self and shapes the world

What does it mean to approach learning as participation in “God’s Story?” Learning in God’s story is not primarily about content but about experience. Our participation is not only about what we think but also about our deepest hopes for ourselves and the world in light of God’s story.

Our role in God’s Story is discovered by looking inward, realizing who we are as image bearers, and looking outward, as we explore our world and see where God is working in it. Deeper learning in Christian education provides a way to learn content and skills, and to develop the character of Christ through aligning the unique gifts of the learner with the deep needs of the world.

So, for students and educators, ‘Deeper Learning’ invites us to become engaged in God’s story, equips us to play our unique role, and empowers us to apply our knowledge and skills to produce real work that meets real needs for real people.

Encapsulated in our bolded definition, the following three foundations for designing Deeper Learning experiences for our students are expanded upon and explored throughout this document:

  • A celebration of the learner: what it means to be created in God’s image.
    • People of God’s Story…
  • A mindfulness towards learning design: how curriculum, instruction and assessment inspire inward and outward engagement.
    • engaged in real work…
  • A responsiveness to culture: how to embody our mission in every aspect of school life and how to live it out in God’s world
    • that forms self and shapes the world.

Next Friday we will list out the explanation of the three foundations listed above – that comprises the remainder of the document. This part of the document responds in more detail to these questions: “Who are the learners?” “What is the process of learning?” “Who is the learning for?” I hope you see in this document a movement toward action by the student – seeing them as capable, responsible, and connecting their gifts to the world’s needs. What words in our work shared thus far connect with you? Please comment below.

Dan Beerens is an educational consultant, author, international speaker, and educational leader. Before starting Dan Beerens Consulting in May 2010, he served as Vice President of Learning Services and Director of Instructional Improvement at Christian Schools International. Prior to that, he was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Holland Christian Schools. Dan has also worked as teacher and principal in urban and suburban public and Christian schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. He serves as a Senior Fellow at CACE (Center for the Advancement of Christian Education), represents Curriculum Trak sales and professional development and serves as co-chair of the annual Christian Deeper Learning conference. He blogs regularly for CACE and is the author of Evaluating Teachers for Professional Growth: Creating a Culture of Motivation and Learning (Corwin Press) and co-editor of the recent book MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education (ACSI).

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