Christian teachers serve their students wholeheartedly. They serve Jesus with great joy and zeal. They do so because they love their students and Jesus dearly. And because of this love and devotion for Jesus, teachers seek to remain current in their content and Biblical knowledge. Sustaining and enhancing one’s acumen for Biblical and content knowledge means seeking opportunities to enrich both. Teachers strive to do so through a variety of ways – Bible study, worship, workshops, conferences, and classroom settings as well as through personal and professional reading and studying. As you continual to pursue your professional growth, you may want to consider the following.
Having a deep understanding for the conceptual structures and nomenclature of one’s subject matter is paramount in being able to prepare and deliver excellent instruction. Teachers extend much effort, time, and energy to learn their content and how to present that content in different and meaningful ways. And, teachers utilize different instructional strategies that are age-appropriate which further brings about a deeper understanding for students. Reverting back to those ‘tried and true’ as well as adding a few more instructional strategies to your toolkit is good practice and keeps you fresh as a teacher.
In addition to instructing, teachers also manage the learning environment. Having a good grasp about pedagogical knowledge is important too. Pedagogical knowledge includes those general principals of classroom management, some understanding about child development, instructional strategies for teaching, and techniques for evaluating the learner. As teachers, we continually strive to sharpen our knowledge in this domain through professional development, through conversations with an experienced teacher or even possibly a teacher/mentor arrangement. Having a better understanding of pedagogical knowledge fosters a mindset that enables one to maintain a healthy ebb and flow between classroom organization and instruction.
Pedagogical/Methodological Content Knowledge:
Wow, that is a mouthful. But, having a solid understanding of pedagogical knowledge or content knowledge may or may not lead to a productive learning environment for students. Another integral piece is the transfer of that knowledge in meaningful and comprehensible ways for students. Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is that continuous interplay between teachers’ thoughts (knowledge) and actions (technique) to employ the most powerful illustrations, examples, demonstrations, and presentations that brings about student understanding of content. Teachers’ ability to present content in meaningful ways differentiates teachers from other scholars, education from other scholarly professions and mediocre teaching from exceptional teaching (Shulman, 1987).
Seymour and Lehrer (2006) give more information about (PCK) through a two-year longitudinal study tracking a teacher’s growth in (PCK) through observation, videotape, and interview. A strong understanding for (PCK) promotes a generative dialogue reported by Seymour and Lehrer (2006) that produces deeper teacher understanding for student misrepresentations and misunderstandings about content.
This ability to recognize students’ misconceptions of content enables teachers to discern when conversations are facilitative or dysfunctional for a particular learner and a particular learning environment (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Fisher, Frey and Hite (2016) heighten one’s awareness by teasing out differences between students’ mistakes and errors. Awareness and understanding of this difference is pertinent for teachers as they monitor students’ learning and adjust their instruction accordingly.
Students make mistakes and errors on their journey to master content frequently. Both mistakes and errors produce incorrect responses as we all know. After you pointed out a mistake to a student or students, you most likely have observed them take the appropriate action to fix their mistakes. Errors, on the other hand, are not as easily remedied as you probably have also experienced. The reason being is that students don’t always know what action to take or how to formulate a plan that will fix their error or errors. Fisher, Frey, and Hite (2016) give four examples of students’ errors in learning:
- Factual errors are errors that come about due to misunderstanding of content vocabulary;
- Procedural errors are errors that result from incorrect application of concepts;
- Transformational errors are errors occurring because one is incapable of applying new knowledge when appropriate or trying to apply this new knowledge when it is not appropriate;
- Misconceptions are errors that reinforce previous misunderstandings of learned material.
Knowing the difference between student mistakes and errors as teachers and intervening where appropriate, not only enhances one’s pedagogical content knowledge, but further contributes toward rich, generative dialogue between teacher and students and leads toward a deeper understanding and mastery of content.
We cannot lead or teach without being in God’s Word daily. Attending church and partaking in Holy Communion regularly enables the Holy Spirit the means to strengthen your faith and better equip you to be faithful servants for those entrusted to you. Devotional time with colleagues, chapel times with colleagues and students, and praying for and with students are integral to maintain and enhance your Christian relationships with one another. And by doing so, the Holy Spirit is present with you, strengthening your Christian faith and the Christian faith of those around you. Ervin Henkelmann (1984) speaks about responding to one another and our students with Christian love and care in his book, Feed My Lambs.
Instruction in Lutheran schools is unique and different from other private and public schools for good reasons. You teach your students that God’s Word is infallible and absolute truth. You take time to strengthen your faith through worship and study, thus being equipped to keep the Good News of Jesus front and center for your students and the wisdom to direct your students back to the Cross of Jesus for forgiveness and heal. You know that your students are gifts from God, uniquely created in His image. You so beautifully discern when to confront wrongdoing and correct or bring the peace of the Gospel and forgive, and you teach your students how to do the same.
As you take some time this summer to relax and read, may I suggest a few resources for professional and personal study.
- Technological pedagogical content knowledge: a framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
- Intentional and Targeted Teaching a Framework for Teacher Growth and Leadership. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
- Feed My Lambs. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House
May God grant you a safe and peaceful summer!