Faith, knowledge, and action are caught more than taught
Identifying effective and innovative teachers
Dr Rob A. Fringer Principal, Nazarene Theological College
The combination of effectiveness and innovation is very important. I would argue the former is most important and is often buttressed by innovation. The latter by itself is really not significant as we care little if a person is highly innovative and yet is ineffective. Concerning effectiveness, this must be measured in line with one’s institutional mission and identity. At NTC, we believe that we exist to deepen faith, expand knowledge, and inspire Christlike action. Therefore, the effective teacher is one who helps to do these three things.
First, an effective teacher cares about the whole person and seeks to find ways to help them grow spiritually. This requires relational investment beyond simply “lecturing” and “marking.” The effective teacher finds ways to hear the students’ stories and discover where they are in their faith journey, and through class discussion and other interactions, they help guide students to be more introspective and to push them beyond simple answers into deeper awareness of God and who they are in God.
Second, an effective teacher helps students to grow in their understanding. Yes, content is important, as is learning basic skills for the educational journey. However, equally if not more important is teaching critical thinking, helping students wrestle through difficult concepts and understand the diversity of arguments and perspectives on any given issue. We expand knowledge by expanding a student’s capacity to engage any issue with depth in the pursuit of truths, and this is guided by their faith relationship. The effective teacher provides a safe place for such critical wrestling where varying voices may be heard and challenged in a respectful and loving environment.
Third, the effective teacher knows that faith and knowledge are not an end in themselves, but must move us to Christlike actions; the student must seek ways to tangibly apply their faith and knowledge in the church and in the world. The effective teacher finds ways to help students connect the dots from faith to knowledge to action; this begins in the lectures, moves through the assessments, and is even encouraged in outside class discussions (hopefully for years to come). It is the “so what” question of why we exist.
NTC’s full mission statement includes our desired impact: NTC exists to deepen faith, expand knowledge, and inspire Christlike action, so that God is glorified, the church is strengthened, and the world is transformed.
Finally, I will say that the effective teacher is most likely finding new and innovative ways to carry out this mission; nevertheless, the greatest innovations are not new; they are the tried and true relational actions of mentoring and modelling. Faith, knowledge, and action are caught more than taught.