Educational Leadership: The Bishop as Teacher
The College for Bishops Leadership Institute was established to provide educational resources for new bishops as well as trending informational resources for all bishops. Educational Leadership: The Bishop as Teacher focuses on specific resources related to teaching:
New items are added monthly. To comment or suggest new topics or resources, please use the feedback form at the bottom of this page.
Effective Teaching Practices
On that ﬁrst day of class, your students are forming a lasting impression not just of you as a teacher but of your course, too. Their early, thin-slice judgments are powerful enough to condition their attitudes toward the entire course, the effort they are willing to put into it, and the relationship they will have with you and their peers throughout the semester. So that ﬁrst class meeting is a big deal. You want to give students a taste of the engaging intellectual journey they will undertake in the coming weeks — and you have great ﬂexibility in how you go about it. Helping you to make that opening session as effective as possible, whatever your discipline, is the goal of this online guide.
Ask students to bring in all of their syllabi from all of their courses that term. Then ask them to read all of the syllabi carefully, and look for specific components that are important for them to know: such as the name and location of the faculty member teaching the course, office hours, the attendance policy, the types of graded assignments, when assignments are due, how much of the total grade each assignment is worth, and guidelines for how to effectively participate in class discussion. This in-class exercise also includes concrete examples for a discussion about time management, study skills, where resources are on campus, and the importance of studying multiple times leading up to an exam and of drafting an essay more than once.
Education research continues to remind us of the powerful impact teachers have on children. This impact is overwhelmingly positive—the studies we highlight here demonstrate specific ways in which teachers can or already do help students feel a sense of belonging in school and make gains in learning. If there’s a common thread among most of these studies, it’s this: To boost student learning, focusing on academics isn’t enough. We should also think about how well students—and teachers—are supported.
High-impact practices can be exhausting. They are labor intensive — for students, yes, but especially for faculty members. Designing and managing these efforts can be all-consuming and energy-draining. How can you manage them more effectively and avoid burnout? Here are some suggestions.
Backward design begins the curriculum planning by identifying desired learning goals, and then devising optimal instruments to measure and assess them. Only thereafter does course-specific content come into play—and even then, it is brought in not for the sake of “covering” it, but as a means to achieve the previously identified learning objectives. Courses designed this way put learning first and often transcend the traditional skillset boundaries of their discipline. Although the advantages of backward design are manifest, it’s probably still the exception to, rather than the rule of, course planning.
Whether it’s first-year orientation programs, new general-education requirements, or training that is mandatory for student leaders, engaging race, gender, and sexuality is fast becoming a standard part of a college education. However, in an era when colleges are expanding their engagement of diversity issues, and at a time when religion plays a central role in public life and global affairs, religion continues to be the dimension of diversity that many institutions leave out. This essay by Eboo Patel was adapted from his recent book, Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise (Princeton University Press, 2018).
In 2008, a report from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) proposed that student learning is negatively impacted by the unsystematic utilization of active learning practices and presented instead a list of ten high-impact active learning educational practices. Many of these are large-scale, institutional level initiatives; however, this article from Faculty Focus suggests ways in which these activities can serve to focus curriculum planning by individual faculty members within specific classes.
As longtime practitioners in our disciplines, we develop implicit skills that can be the source of some of the deepest learning for our students. John Dewey describes habit as “the formation of attitudes, attitudes that are emotional and intellectual…our basic sensitivities and ways of responding to all the conditions we meet in living”. These often overlooked dimensions of learning are also where empathy lives, and so it is there that knowledge might blossom not only into expertise but into wisdom.
Professors tend to cover a lot of content over the course of one class session. Yet students will probably forget most of it by the end of the semester. Why? One reason is that we focus too much on teaching, and not enough on learning. Students, therefore, don’t really get to grapple with the topic you just lectured about. They’re too busy taking notes. And most times, they don’t see a point to learning all this “stuff.” Enter the one-sentence lesson plan.
Before 1563, when the first “modern” seminary opened, academic institutions weren’t really involved in providing theological education. Instead, that task fell primarily to local churches, especially large, urban cathedrals, which were both places of worship and sites for clerical training and lay-focused education. Today, independent seminaries and university divinity schools are much needed and here to stay. Even so, after 500 years of outsourcing theological education, could it be time for the church to also try a different approach? Could the future of theological education be found, at least in part, deep within the church’s past? See also this sample video from TheoEd Talks, featuring Rev. Dr. Lauren F. Winner:
The first day of class sets the tone for the community life ahead. The author in this article from Faculty Focus set his goals for the term in a set of formal intentions and then shared this poem with his students as they started their time together.
Teachers often complain that they never have time to discuss teaching; so much time is devoted to teaching students, preparing classes, grading student work, and doing research that there’s little time left to compare notes with our colleagues, even those next door. On those rare occasions when we do, it’s often a pleasant surprise. Interesting teaching strategies are being implemented all around us. One possible solution to facilitate and share knowledge might be teaching squares.
Providing opportunities for teachers to reflect in the context of supportive and solution-focused environments leads them to make strides toward professional goals, builds self-efficacy, establishes long-term growth, and ultimately can result in higher student achievement. For a teacher to shift toward a new belief, she must interact with the new strategy by fixing her thoughts on its details for an extended amount of time, carefully picking it apart, questioning its validity, and justifying or criticizing it using formative and summative assessments. It’s not enough just to understand the new strategy —she must wrestle with it too.
What constitutes a life worth living? And how do you begin to explore that question? The Rev. Dr. Matthew Croasmun and his colleagues tackle the issue in a course offered by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. In it, students engage with a range of philosophical and religious traditions to form habits of reflection that will equip them for “the life-long process of discerning the good life.” In his conversation with “Can These Bones” co-host Laura Everett, Croasmun talks about what he has learned from teaching the course, why engaging with other religious traditions is vital to his faith, and why he is one of the faculty advisers for Yale’s secular humanist community.
The graduation gap continues to exist between traditional and nontraditional students. Although the classroom experience has not been the focus of most institutions’ retention and persistence efforts, faculty can and do play a major role for improving the retention and success of all students. While recognizing that there are no easy answers, here are some ideas that can be incorporated in, or modified to align with, faculty’s existing teaching methods.
“Are students getting it? How do I know?” Instructors answer these questions through a variety of assessments, from small, informal methods such as asking students if they have questions, to formal, graded methods such as multiple-choice exams and research papers. These assessments provide cognitive feedback, whether in the form of a score, a correction, lack of an answer, or an abundance of questions. But is that the whole picture? While these assessments can help us gauge how well students are “getting it,” it often fails to explain why or why not.
As much as we may enjoy teaching — and maybe even advising, class prep, and other aspects of our jobs — there’s simply no escaping the part most of us don’t enjoy, or at least enjoy less: grading all those essays. That daunting chore seems always to be hanging over our heads and can easily become all-consuming, if we let it. Here are a few suggestions for conquering your students’ mountains of essays.
Focusing on feelings like gratitude, compassion, and pride offer something of a double shot when it comes to fostering success. They ease the way to perseverance toward longterm goals, and they simultaneously make people act in ways that strengthen social relationships — something that beneﬁts the health of body and mind and, indirectly, raises educational attainment itself.
Active learning has been shown to improve student success. This “menu” contains specific activities, instructions, and suggestions to help you incorporate more active learning in your classes without having to redesign your syllabus. All are designed around tasks with inherent value; in other words, these are designed to get students doing more of the important work of learning, not the instructor.
What gets in the way of you creating a more interactive space in your classroom? Responses come in many forms but can largely be summed up in two words: time and fear. The truth, however, is that every class, regardless of size, subject matter, or physical layout can be engaging.
How do you schedule time to get more writing accomplished? “Writing” involves many different activities. Prep time is for reading and doing research. Revising time is for rewriting, restructuring, and copyediting. And writing time is for new writing. Mix up those distinct actions and you can spend countless hours earmarked for "writing" and yet have no new words on a page to show for it.
Whether local, national, or international in scope, times of crisis can have a significant impact on students in a classroom. There are many possibilities for how to address a crisis in class, from activities that take only a moment to restructuring your entire course. This resource guide from Vanderbuilt University Center for Teaching offers some excellent options.
How do we teach when our world has been turned upside down by a death in the family, a serious health issue (either our own or that of a loved one), or some other private adversity? This article from Faculty Focus is based on interviews with teachers who have weathered crises, as well as mental health professionals, and outlines some general recommendations for both the person in crisis and their colleagues.
History in the Face of Catastrophe
After losing his son, a historian gradually finds that his experience of history has changed and his relationship as a scholar has deepened. Could we imagine a scholarly practice — one among many — which acknowledges that what speaks to us may also be what moves us? This practice would not privilege emotion alone; it would not deny reason. But it would not pretend either that emotion plays no signiﬁcant role within our craft, that what we feel and what we think are not somehow connected, and that our work would not be enriched and made more honest by deeper recognition of this connection.
Every year, researchers gain new insights into what works in the classroom—and what doesn’t. In 2017, a group of scientists made the case for why social and emotional learning is essential in schools. We learned that negative stereotypes can discourage students of color from going to college, and that a reflective writing exercise can help. We also learned that it’s OK for second graders to use their fingers to count, and that text messages sent to parents boost family engagement and student attendance. Learn more about these studies and others in this annual recap from Edutopia.
A flagging classroom discussion, or one that fails to launch entirely, is most often the fault of something other than our students. Sure, there are some students who haven’t done the reading or who simply refuse to participate. But most students are receptive to at least the idea of engaged, active learning. The key is to turn that general willingness into specific practices. Here are some strategies and methods that have proven effective in a variety of classroom environments.
Step into any college lecture hall and you are likely to find a sea of students typing away at open, glowing laptops as the professor speaks. But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.
Information cannot always be trusted. Thanks to the relative ease of creating and sharing content online, our students are confronted with publications created solely to entertain, persuade, and incite via incorrect or incomplete statistics. Students diving into the world of academic and professional-level research often have no awareness of the gaps in their understanding when it comes to performing critical, thoughtful research. Faculty Focus offers a few suggestions to fill in these gaps and provide students with a workable set of skills to address this lack of critical thinking in the research process.
For beginning teachers, the most difficult thing to master is classroom management. Good classroom management is more than just being strict or authoritarian, and it is more than simply being organized. If I want to have my classroom run smoothly as a well-oiled learning machine, I have to set up a structured learning environment in which certain behaviors are promoted and others are discouraged
How good are your students at assessing the quality of their work? Do they understand and act on the feedback you provide? Royce Sadler maintains that we need to change our focus from the narrow issue of how feedback can be improved and communicated. towards the wider issue of how assessment can enhance student learning. He sees assessment as a process that can promote learning about the content at the same time it develops two important self-assessment skills—the ability to judge the quality of the work and the ability to know how to make it better.
Group work is a valuable learning device that teaches teamwork skills, but group work also brings with it the danger of social loafing, those one or two students who do not contribute their fair share to the project. Not only does it undermine the quality of the project, but it creates frustration among other group members who see it as unfair to have team members not pull their own weight. This article from Faculty Focus suggests a number of ways to address social loafing, as well as to teach students about their own level of contribution to the group.
Organized into five sections representing overarching goals instructors may have for their classrooms, the topics covered in this article include: giving students opportunities to think and talk; encouraging, demanding, and actively managing the participation of all students; building an inclusive and fair classroom community for all students; monitoring behavior to cultivate divergent thinking; and, teaching all of the students in your classroom. Though written for biology instructors, these techniques are widely applicable in any educational setting.
Today’s educational paradigm is no longer one of knowledge transfer but one of knowledge creation and curation. The “cells and bells” model has been prevalent for more than a century, but it is no longer relevant for today’s learners. As educators work to shift to instructional pedagogies that are relational, authentic, dynamic, and—at times—chaotic in their schools, learning spaces must be reevaluated and adapted as necessary. What are some characteristics of dynamic learning spaces?
We regularly hear teaching described as a gift; some teachers are endowed with it and then there’s the rest of us. We all know teachers who are exceptionally effective and they sometimes brush off their excellence with comments about being lucky or just doing what comes naturally. But most teachers who are good at what they do have worked hard to get that way and continue to improve and refine their teaching. Here is a brief list of teacher characteristics that deserve attention.
Successfully leading and guiding student discussions requires a range of fairly sophisticated communication skills. At the same time teachers are monitoring what’s being said about the content, they must keep track of the discussion itself. Is it on topic? How many students want to speak? Who’s already spoken and wants to speak again? How many aren’t listening? Is it time to move to a different topic? What’s the thinking behind that student question? How might the discussion be wrapped up?
Learning students’ names is regularly recommended as good instructional practice. Less often is the recommendation accompanied with advice as to how, or what’s proposed is some convoluted approach that isn’t going to work for most of us. If the course is small, learning the names is possible. But as the numbers increase so does the challenge, until it becomes impossible. We need to work on student names. Perhaps there are some different approaches and ways to think about the task.
“Who am I to speak about diversity and inclusion?” Many of us have been afforded numerous opportunities that our students have never had, and possibly never will be afforded. When the topics of diversity and inclusion came up, it can be an intimidating teaching moment. However, when you look at the racial/cultural makeup of most college campuses, if faculty “like me” do not broach the sensitive topics of diversity and inclusion, who will?
Students don’t always like working in groups. Ann Taylor, an associate professor of chemistry at Wabash College, had a class that was particularly vocal in their opposition. She asked for their top 10 reasons why students don’t want to work in groups and they offered this list. What are some more effective ways to utilize group work?
College courses, like movies, can inspire, entertain, shock, or repulse. Instructors produce, direct, and star in a series of semester-long scenes, complete with audiences, critics, and awards. If your course could be equated to a movie genre, what would we be watching? Would we see a romantic comedy, focused on relationship-building and a predictable, subtle narrative? Perhaps it would be an action film – colorfully energetic, thrilling for some, and uncomfortable for others. Current research on learning suggests you may want to consider plot elements in zombie films as you design your courses. Here’s why.
However talented, no one is a naturalborn teacher. Honing the craft takes significant care and effort, not just by the individual, but also by the school at large. Though experience does matter, it matters only to the extent that a teacher—regardless of how long he or she has been in the classroom—commits to continued professional development to refresh his or her status as a transformational teacher.
While the question asked most frequently about confirmation relates to curricula, resources are rarely the key to effective programs. Stories from teens, parents, and program leaders from congregations around the country indicate that the key to confirmation is relationship. It is most often relationships more than content that equip young people to claim their own call to follow Jesus.
Shelley Paul and Jill Gough had heard that doodling while taking notes could help improve memory and concept retention, but as instructional coaches they were reluctant to bring the idea to teachers without trying it out themselves first. To give it a fair shot, Paul tried sketching all her notes from a two-day conference and learned that doodling causes you to listen at a different level. Doodling has long been seen as a sign that students aren’t paying attention, but it may be time to give doodling an image makeover.
Questions are a common way for teachers to check for understanding, right? (The answer we’re looking for is "yes.") Who hasn’t questioned a group of students to determine whether or not they understood the content? Unfortunately, not all questions are created equally. Here are four over-arching questions that can be used to scaffold student thinking about complex texts.
How do we get students to consider perspectives different from their own? How do we get them to challenge their own biases and prejudices? Teachers traditionally turn to literature, history, and current events to open up these conversations, but it's always helpful to have a bigger toolbox to tackle these important issues. The New York Times has pulled together 25 short documentaries (ranging from 1 to 7 minutes), as well as offering teaching ideas, related readings, and student activities.
This article highlights specific teaching tactics for everything from engaging students to improving learning to reducing teacher stress. As the author suggests, it is always helpful to dig a little deeper and follow the links to learn more about the studies behind these nuggets of teaching wisdom.
Encouraging students to complete the course readings is an age-old problem. The approach outlined in this article aims to promote critical thinking and motivate students to complete class readings, while also encouraging students to form deeper connections with the material and one another, despite a large class size. An added bonus for the teacher is that it allows him or her to be more aware of students’ preexisting knowledge and to be able to tailor lectures as needed.
The opening ﬁve minutes of class offers a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning. It seems clear that we should start class with a deliberate effort to bring students’ focus to the subject at hand; unfortunately, the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes of a class often get frittered away with logistical tasks, gathering our thoughts as we discuss homework or upcoming tests, or writing on the board. This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests more thoughtful ways to engage students for learning.
The Bullet Proof Musician is a blog written by performance psychologist and Juilliard alumnus/faculty member Noa Kageyama. The blog features articles for musicians who are trying to beat performance anxiety and play their best. In this post, Kageyama examines what we know and (and what we think we know) about learning preferences and styles. Links to additional reading and viewing options round out this exploration of a fascinating educational topic.
When we define and embrace our own creativity, we thrive. And when their teachers thrive, students will learn to thrive as well. We can take responsibility for thriving by giving ourselves the powerful gift of being creative. How does embracing ourselves as creative beings cultivate a vibrant professional life? Here are a few thoughts on the intersection of creativity and teaching.
The number of English-Language learners in the United States is growing rapidly, including many states that have not previously had large immigrant populations. As teachers try to respond to the needs of these students, here are a few basic best practices that might help. We have found that consistently using these practices makes our lessons more efficient and effective. We also feel it is important to include a few "worst" practices in the hope that they will not be repeated!
Maybe the smart phone's hegemony makes perfect evolutionary sense: Humans are tapping a deep urge to seek out information. Our ancient food-foraging survival instinct has evolved into an info-foraging obsession; one that prompts many of us today to constantly check our phones and multitask. A new book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World, explores the implications behind this evolution (some might say devolution). NPR interviews Dr. Adam Gazzaley, co-author of this work.
A teacher’s transformation from youngest faculty member in the department to one of the legions of middle-aged instructors generally means that students begin to react differently to pedagogical and advising strategies, and that some of the well-honed, once-effective tactics in the classroom have needed adjustment as a teacher moves from a young professor to a formerly young professor
Joseph A. Howley, assistant professor of classics at Columbia University, knew getting students to read his syllabus, even in a class that emphasized close reading, would be a struggle. So in 2015, Mr. Howley snuck a line in the middle of the document asking students to email him a picture of the character Alf from the popular 80s sitcom ALF—with the subject line “It’s Alf!” And when he tweeted about the experiment, it went viral.
TED Talks: Build Relationships with Your Students
“We’re educators. We’re born to make a difference,” says Rita Pierson, who has spent 40 very dedicated years as an educator. The difference she refers to is not only helping students learn, but being a positive force in their lives. In her TED Talk, she calls on teachers to build relationships with their students, no matter how challenging that may be. Pierson shares examples of gestures large and small to bolster students’ self-esteem, down to how she marked a quiz that a student had failed.
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
Good teaching cannot be equated with technique. It comes from the integrity of the teacher, from his of her relation to subject and students, from the capricious chemistry of it all. A method that lights one class afire extinguishes another. An approach that bores one student changes another’s life. Parker Palmer shares his thoughts on the mystery of good teaching.
Based on the research literature and student and faculty testimony from a residential liberal arts college, this article shows that unplanned “natural” mentoring can be crucial to student learning and development and illustrates some best practices. It advances understanding of faculty mentoring by differentiating it from teaching, characterizing several functional types of mentoring, and identifying the phases through which a mentoring relationship develops. It is written for faculty who want to be better mentors and provides evidence that administrators should value and reward mentoring.
Often confused with shyness, introversion is an aspect of personality which affects how we engage in social activity and our preferences for learning. Unlike extroverts, who typically are energized by social interaction, introverts can find connecting with large groups of unfamiliar people exhausting. In an academic environment, introverts may prefer to work completely alone and discover their best ideas in solitude. How do we respect introverts’ needs in the midst of an active learning classroom?
In his sermon at his installation last November, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry preached about the need for Episcopalians to find a way of doing evangelism that is “genuine and authentic to us instead of one that imitates or judges anyone else….that is as much about listening and learning from the story of who God is in another person’s life as it is about sharing our own story.” In this ECFVP webinar, Edmund Harris will explore the theme of storytelling as evangelism, inviting participants to consider how sharing stories in their own church contexts might enable people to engage in evangelism that is “genuine and authentic.”
What do the best teachers have in common? When we say "best teachers," we are not just talking about the ones we liked best. We mean the teachers who had the greatest inﬂuence on us — the ones whose names you still remember to this day, even though in some cases it’s been years since you sat in their classrooms. They are people you yourself have tried to emulate in your own teaching.
We haven’t found too many pedagogical articles worth a regular reread. Christa Walck’s “A Teaching Life” is a notable exception. It’s a soulsearching, personal narrative that confronts the difference between what a teaching life can be and what it is. Read a recent introduction to this article from Faculty Focus. Find the full original text here..
Teachers are generally comfortable with teaching concepts and subject organization but in doing so may neglect a narrative approach to instruction. Narrative has a powerful effect on our brains and may help students learn in ways that logical argument explanation cannot. Here are some suggestions for including story telling in your teaching.
The task of story mapping is to uncover, recover, tell, and retell the stories of community in order to develop a road map for future action and advocacy. This comprehensive guide explains the process in four steps: forming a host team, preparing for community visits, interacting with community, and analyzing stories.
Formative assessment is the "frequent, interactive checking of student progress and understanding in order to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately." Alternative formation assessment (AFA) can be simple and quick, rather like using a dipstick to check the oil in your car. This article includes a list of 53 informal ways to check with students to gauge learning and understanding.
Narrative Leadership in Ministry, a three year project led by Alban at Duke Divinity, mined the literature of theology, business, psychology, and education to discover how good narrative leadership has the potential to transform congregational life. This article summarizes the findings of this project and details guiding principles and key intentions of narrative leadership in ministry.