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

We're Teaching Grit the Wrong Way

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.

21 Active Learning Strategies You Must Try

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.

Interactive Strategies for Engaging Large and Small Classes Alike

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.

The Tough-Love Approach to Writing

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.

Teaching in Times of Crisis

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.

Teaching during a Personal Crisis

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.

2017 Education Research Highlights

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.

Creating the Space for Engage Discussions

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.

Laptops Are Great.  But Not During a Lecture or Meeting.

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.

Reliable Sources: Promoting Critical Thinking in the (Mis)Information Age

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.

The 5 Priorities of Classroom Management

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

Help Students Recognize Quality Work, Fix What Isn’t Good

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.

Tips for Addressing Social Loafing in Group Projects

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.

21 Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity

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.

Rebooting Industrial Era Seating

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?

Teacher Characteristics and Behaviors that Make a Difference

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.

How Good Are Your Discussion Facilitation Skills?

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?

The Importance of Learning Students' Names

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.

Activities for Building Cultural Competencies in Our Students and Ourselves

“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?

My Students Don't Like Group Work

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?

Six Classroom Elements Learned from Zombie Films

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.

How to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher

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. 

Mentoring: The Missing Key to Confirmation?

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.

Making Learning Visible: Doodling Helps Memories Stick

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.

Questioning that Deepens Comprehension

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. 

25 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identity with Students

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. 

26 Research-Based Tips that You Can Use in the Classroom Tomorrow

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.

An Activity That Promotes Required Reading, Even in Large Classes

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.

Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class

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 Surprising Truth about Learning Styles

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.

Creativity: A Choice, A Gift, and A Mission

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.

Do's and Don'ts for Teaching English-Language Learners

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!

Learning in the Age of Digital Distraction

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.

Confessions of a "Formerly Young" Professor

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

Is Anyone Reading the Syllabus?  To Find Out, Some Professors Bury Hidden Gems

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.

Fixed vs Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets that Shape Our Lives

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.

Parker Palmer: Good Teaching

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.

The Nature, Development and Benefits of Mentoring Relationships

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.

Keeping Introverts in Mind in Your Active Learning Classroom

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?

Storytelling as Evangelism

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 Makes A Good Teacher?

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.

Examining A Teaching Life

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..

Narrative in the Classroom

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.

Community Story Mapping Guide 

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.

Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding 

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.

Reclaiming the Story: Narrative Leadership in Ministry 

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.

Teaching Adult Learners

Are We Our Students' Keepers?

When you think of a typical college student, what do you envision?  Some unfortunate features of the experience of current college students are all over the media: rising prices, high debt loads, low graduation rates, difficulty translating degrees into jobs. Developing a better understanding of the changing demographics of our students and their means of making ends meet sets the stage for understanding why a growing population of students don't have dependable access to their daily bread.

The Art of Thinking Well

We continue to discover more about the ways in which our individual biases distort our perception and logic; however, as David Brooks explores in this New York Times editorial, a lot of our thinking is actually for social bonding, not truth-seeking.  Alan Jacobs’ new book How to Think examines the social component of our thinking processes, giving some hope that we can all learn how to think well.

Why Historians Want You to Journal in the Age of Trump

In the current storm of breaking-news stories, Rebecca L. Erbelding, an archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, advises historians and scholars to take a moment to document the events.  Ms. Erbelding recommended that historians write down their reactions to the day’s news and keep the journal safe after writing. While working on an exhibit for the museum that highlights how the United States took note of the Nazi threat before World War II, she began thinking about what archived material worked as the best sources and made some of her recommendations based on her work.

Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance

“Humility" isn’t a word that most academics — or Americans — identify with. Indeed, if there is a single attitude most closely associated with our culture, it’s the opposite of humility. The defining trait of the age seems to be arrogance — in particular, the kind of arrogance of thinking that you know it all and that you don’t need to improve because you are just so great already. A part of the academic culture we’ve helped to create has only fed into the perception that academics are no longer willing to engage in dialogue and debate.

Imposter Syndrome is Definitely a Thing

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you don’t belong — in graduate school or in your first job — and it’s more common that you might think. It makes people believe that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or deserving enough.  Imposter syndrome is a real thing and that discovery is particularly important for women, people of color, and first generation college students because all of those groups are particularly prone to impostor syndrome. Here are some suggestions for students and others who are grappling with impostor syndrome.

Adrift in a Sea of Resources: the Quiet Crisis in Clergy Continuing Education

In enabling clergy to stay current and learn effectively, much is at stake for people across the spectrum of mainline Protestantism. Cash-strapped congregations easily grow leery of continuing education and travel expenses when they don’t experience the return on investment they expect. Unless education systems evolve to make learning experiences more productive, frustration will likely haunt clergy, even in an age of abundant information. The need for new approaches to clergy continuing education stems from a dramatic cultural shift on the American religious landscape.

The Episcopal Teacher focuses on Adult Faith Formation

As a denomination, we’ve discussed the importance of adult faith formation; we’ve produce official documents and vision statements; we’ve sponsored conferences and workshops; and we’ve even produced a variety of resources for adults. But to no avail. Adult faith formation remains stuck in neutral. It is the weakest ministry in most congregations—even though we are talking about everyone over 18! A recent issue of The Episcopal Teacher from VTS Center for the Ministry of Teaching focuses on different stages of adult learning.  Two articles can be found here.

Teaching Strategies for Adult Learners

Adult learners are fundamentally different from their younger counterparts in many ways.  Unfortunately, most teachers have been left to their own devices to find ways to reach these students.  Here are a number of ways to create a better classroom environment for the adult learner.

10 Tips for Delivering Awesome Professional Development 

Facilitating adult learning is very different from teaching traditional students in a classroom setting.  This brief article from Edutopia offers ten great suggestions for planning worthwhile continuing education programs for adults.

50 Ways to Strengthen Adult Education

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership was established by the Wesley Theological Seminary in 2003 with the stated purpose of advancing the understanding of Christian leadership and promoting effective and faithful practice of Christian leadership in the church and the world.  The Lewis Center serves as a resource for clergy, lay leaders, congregations, and denominational leaders, offering teaching, research, publications and other resources such as this one from the 50 Ways Series.  50 Ways to Strengthen Adult Education lists practical tips for teaching adults: creating a culture that supports adult study; varying formats, schedules, and approaches; meeting people where they are; and promoting participation and fostering leadership.

Adult Education Toolkit

This toolkit was developed by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health.  It provides a practical approach to planning adult learning, developing content, and selecting appropriate delivery modes.  Included are a variety of approaches to answering the following questions: How is teaching adults different?  How can I increase retention of material taught?  What are some different ways to deliver instruction?  How do I plan and design a course?

Training the Trainers

Good Leaders Make Good Schools

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past few decades debating how to restructure schools. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to help teachers. But structural change and increasing teacher quality don’t get you very far without a strong principal. Principals set the culture by their very behavior — the message is the person.  This New York Times Op Ed from David Brooks discusses the impact made by strong educational leaders.


Teachers Learn Better Together

Educators often say that education is frustratingly isolating. And if you talk with them about collaboration, you quickly learn that they know it can be a powerful tool to improve teaching and learning and many feel a growing expectation to collaborate. Reducing the isolation starts with the recognition that collaboration is a learned skill. Educators can begin to learn it by focusing on these five key aspects.


Centers for Teaching and Learning Serve as Hub for Improving Teaching Practices

Centers--often with names like “center for teaching and learning” or “center for faculty development” -- increasingly serve as hubs of pedagogical innovation, influenced by but not dependent on flashy digital technology. They allow instructors to ponder new teaching approaches and experiment with new formats. Institutions also position centers to disseminate campuswide strategies and to actively pursue and encourage projects that improve classroom experiences for students.


Why Kids Can't Write

Poor writing is nothing new, nor is concern about it. More than half of first-year students at Harvard failed an entrance exam in writing — in 1874. But the Common Core State Standards, now in use in more than two-thirds of the states, were supposed to change all this. So far, however, six years after its rollout, the Core hasn’t led to much measurable improvement on the page. Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills.  The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves.


How to Talk to Famous Professors

Imagine you’re Aristotle, and you’re attending a philosophy conference. Normally, you walk down the street unrecognized but at a meeting of the field in which you are an acknowledged leader, others recognize and watch you everywhere you go: the hotel bar, the elevator, the bathroom. People you’ve never met already have strong opinions about you. Many find you intimidating. Some resent you. Untenured academics gaze at you hungrily, thinking that a recommendation from you could transform their careers.  The result: a lot of awkward interactions.  Here are five suggestions for ways to improve communication.

The Tough Work of Improving School Culture

Collaboration is hard work and there is often not a clearly defined path for how we can best communicate with one another.  This is a problem not unique to school settings.  In this brief article form Edutopia, a principal discusses the process used in his school to move from a top-down, principal-driven school culture to a shared, collaborative community.

Teaching the Teachers: Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability

This paper aims to provide a research-based answer for how to structure professional development so that teachers change their teaching practices, leading to students learning more.  This paper will address the many facets of developing an effective professional development program.  Next, the paper will examine what research says about the structure of professional development that truly changes teachers’ work and the learning of students.  Lastly, the paper will explore what funding effective professional development might look like within a larger district.

Weighing the Workshop

The professional development workshop merits careful examination in terms of the quality of learning it can provide. Designers, facilitators, and evaluators need tools to guide reflection on quality that will lead to the best possible learning experience for teachers. This article explores six key criteria in planning professional development.  Though developed as a tool for formative evaluation, this framework will be equally useful to planners as a guide for designing workshop-style professional development.

Helping Professors Find Time to Think

The mission of faculty development has begun to broaden beyond the traditional focus on teaching. The frantic pace of academic life can drive teachers to distraction — deadlines, teaching demands, information overload, days of back-to-back meetings, the increasingly competitive and resource-squeezed nature of our work.  What could teachers do to simplify work habits, to allow scholarship time to be fruitful and rewarding, to be more "contemplative" than "productive”?

Why Give--Rethinking Clergy Education

What is good stewardship around educating our next generation of clergy? In this article, commissioned as part of ECF’s Lilly Endowment initiative, “From Economic Challenges to Transformational Opportunities,” Gary Shilling, economist and chair of the board of Episcopal Preaching Foundation, invites us to consider changes in the way our Church identifies, recruits, trains, and financially supports, the next generation of Episcopal clergy, the women and men who will guide seekers and followers into deeper relationship with Christ. 

Encouraging Lay Theology

Today, people receive a plethora of religious information on cable television and the internet, and it is imperative that the church add its voice to media presentations on the life of Jesus, scripture, God, the Gnostic scriptures, and world religions, not to mention the superficial and often harmful theologies often presented by popular televangelists.  In a time in which many assert that post-modernism privileges experience over doctrine, open-ended theological reflection has become more essential in the pulpit and the congregational classroom.

Why Don't We Differentiate Professional Development?

A great PD event can really energize teachers to improve classroom instruction. However, the sad fact is that the majority of PDs tend to be repetitive, simplistic, or downright boring. How can we improve the ways in which teachers are taught and energized to teach?

Online Teacher Book Clubs: Promoting a Culture of Professional Development 

Creating a culture of sharing and professional dialogue is an essential element of organizational success, but the reality is that it is difficult for professionals to find time for these valuable discussions.  Learn how creating an online book club for sharing ideas can encourage professional reading and conversation.

Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff 

The idea of mindset is related to our understanding of ability.  It has recently been seized upon by educators as a tool to explore and improve student achievement.  Growth mindset may apply to teachers as well as students, improving the educational process for all.

Collaborating to Train Church Leaders  

A pilot course on global displacement created by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary aims to address a disconnect between congregations and the national church.  Seminary students, the future leaders of congregations, are connected with national resources for multi-faith engagement in order to build potential for new and innovative partnerships.

Starting With Soul

This article from Parker Palmer's website at the Center for Courage & Renewal addresses the question: "How can we nurture teachers for the long haul?"  In typical professional development events, too often the focus is on "subsistence strategies" (content and methods) rather than activities that "probe sense of purpose" and "invite deliberation about what matters most": engaging the soul.  Though this article discusses teacher development, the broader concepts apply to any organization that seeks to develop professional practices that keep dreams whole while cultivating an awareness of current reality.

Trends in Educational Technology

10 Common Grant Writing Mistakes

In our hypercompetitive funding climate, it’s critical that you can write clear, cohesive, compelling grant proposals. With so much at stake, it’s a shame to watch a proposal rejected for something that could have been avoided with a little work upfront.  This article from The Chronicle for Higher Education offers a list of the 10 most common errors in grant writing.

Will Letter Grades Survive?

Under pressure from an unprecedented constellation of forces—from state lawmakers to prestigious private schools and college admissions offices—the ubiquitous one-page high school transcript lined with A–F letter grades may soon be a relic of the past.  Schools and lawmakers have come to the same conclusion: The old models of student assessment are out of step with the needs of the 21st-century workplace and society, with their emphasis on hard-to-measure skills such as creativity, problem solving, persistence, and collaboration.

Best Education Podcasts 2017

Podcasting is on the rise in terms of both popularity and creativity. According to Edison Research, 40 percent of people age 12 or older have listened to at least one podcast, up from 29 percent five years ago. Many excellent new podcasts have launched for educators. Edutopia offers this list of recommendations.

10 Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized

When it comes to staying organized for teaching, there is no one-size-fits-all. It's really all about finding the system that works for you, picking apps or tools that you will actually use, and remembering that there are lots of options to choose from as you figure out the best fit.  As you sort through this list, decide to pick one or two, put them into practice for a month, and then reflect on if and how well they are helping you stay organized.

Kyle Matthew Oliver: You already have everything you need to be a digital media minister

Digital media ministry can be a bit intimidating at first but the good news is that digital media ministries are, first and foremost, ministries. Both lay and ordained church leaders have already been called to live out and take on Christian acts of hospitality and proclamation, formation and service, fellowship and solidarity.  To learn to minister online, the challenge is to align existing ministry instincts with the new environment.  You already have everything you need to be an effective digital media minister—except maybe some practice.

Eight Apps That Can Help Your Church

If you’ve got a smart phone, you’ve probably downloaded a few apps, either games to waste some time or something a little more productive! There are apps for everything now, including a few that might be of use to your church. To save yourself sifting through the hundreds of thousands of apps on the market, the Church of England has selected a few for you which will help your church be creative, work together and save you time. All of them are work on both Apple and Android phones and all are free to use.

Common Questions Google Analytics Can Answer

What do people want from a church website?  Google analytics is a great place to start finding answers to questions like: Are the right people visiting the website?  Do they feel welcome?  Is social media worth the effort?  What is the top content on your website?  This article from “Church Marketing Sucks” gives a brief introduction.

Talk With Your Audience--Not At Them--With Google Slides Q & A

A new feature in Google Slides is Google Slides: Slides Q&A. This update—rolling out globally—helps speakers connect with their audience and collect real-time feedback. With a simple link displayed on a Slides presentation, audience members can submit questions from their phones, laptops, and tablets—and vote on those they want answered the most.

How Can You Make Thinking Visible in the Classroom?

Rachel Smith, Director of Digital Facilitation Services for The Grove Consultants International, develops ways to integrate technology into visual practice.  In this TEDx presentation, she talks about effective note-taking and new ways to support active listening.

How to Start Earning E-formation Digital Badges 

Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online.  Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings.  They hold potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.  E-formation badges are a way to utilize this tool in the Church.

Chris Yaw: Every Congregation Can Have an Online School 

The Internet gives even small congregations the ability to offer vibrant adult education and formation programs.  Chris Yaw, founder of the online learning website Church Next, talks about online group learning as a means of congregational renewal.  See also this sample from Church Next featuring Bishop Michael Curry:

Technology Tips for Teachers

9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning is a resource of educational web tools and mobile apps for teachers and educators.  Technology has become an essential force shaping much of our teaching and pedagogy. This chart highlights some of the fundamental digital skills every 21st century teacher should possess.

An Introduction to Twitter Education Chats

How can teachers extend the reach and frequency of their interactions with fellow educators?  Twitter education chats (edchats) are the answer for an increasing number of teachers and administrators.  Building a strong and satisfying personal learning network through edchats gives you your own professional support system and a reliable resource for the cutting edge in education.

10 Tips for Creating Effective Instructional Videos

Instructor presence is an important component of effective online teaching and video can help make it happen. Instructional videos have become increasingly easy to create and can turn a good online class into an engaging learning experience. Pressing that record button can be intimidating for some of us–after all, we’re teachers, not TV personalities–but it’s actually easier than you might think. Here are 10 tips that will soon have you broadcasting like a pro.

15 of the Best Open Source Image Sites on the Web

The lines have become foggy as the Internet blurs the lines of fair use copyright issues. We all know that copying and pasting text without permission or attributing to the author is plagiarism. What’s unclear is what falls into that category. Here is our list of the top open source image sites that are safe to get pics from. You might find that one site will be your go-to site for open source images, but there are indeed choices out there.

Create Engaging Presentations with Free iPad Apps

Engaging an audience is an important part of getting your message across.  If you are tired of your normal teaching routine, try sharing information or sparking a discussion with one of the free iPad apps listed in this post.  Introducing a topic with embedded video clips and sharing graphics and images are some ways to keep students interested in content and engaged in your presentation.

25 Awesome Apps for Teachers, Recommended by Teachers

What are the best apps for teachers?  This article presents 25 awesome apps recommended for teachers, by teachers, from TED-Ed Innovative Educators and the TED-Ed community.

The Scientific Reason Why Bullets Are Bad for Presentations 

You may have heard it before: don't use bullet points in presentations.  Bullet points make information more difficult to remember, especially when accompanied by auditory information.  Learn more about this dilemma as well as how to improve the value of your visual presentations.

3 Beginner-Friendly Data Visualization Tricks 

Statistics and data validate presentations and sometimes showcasing numerical research is the main point of a presentation.  However, charts and graphs are overly used and easily ignored or forgotten.  Here are three simple tricks for effectively preparing data for presentation slides.

Digital Badges Could Document, Motivate Faith Learning  

All teachers know that knowledge and skills are inseparable--the continuum that spans the art and science of a particular discipline.  Unfortunately, in faith formation settings, we tend to lean too heavily on imparting knowledge rather than developing skills.  The digital badging movement recognizes that learning happens in a variety of formal and informal settings, and that you might want to demonstrate learning from one area of your life to people in another.

Easy Video Creation  

Video is an increasingly important communication medium in our new media ecology.  Here is a brief overview of video production basics from Kyle Oliver at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, Virginia Theological Seminary.  More tech ideas from the recent E-formation Conference at VTS can be found here. For a sample of video creation in church, see Nurya Love Parish's "Growing Disciples in a Digital Age:" 

100+ Self-Education Resources for Lifelong Learners 

DIYGenius provides tools and tips to manage your own work and to master the focus to learn anything online.  This list of recommendations includes: MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses), online lectures and video sources, documentaries, digital skills training, open educational resources, DIY educational communities, and new online sources for books, liberal arts studies, and tools for self-education and self-discipline.  Included are resources for both teaching and personal study.

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