A Christ Centred Pedagogy

The below post introduces the project but the main sections can be found in the linked menu (more will be added over time):

1. Teaching with authority

2. Teaching with humility

3. Teaching to transform

7. Teaching with humour


This project is really a personal reflection or manifesto as I consider the type of teacher I want to be. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher, with a two year diversion around the age of 11 when becoming a chef looked attractive- I soon realised that I preferred eating food to cooking it. I remember with fondness teachers from my childhood and youth who brought alive a thirst for learning and indeed a love of learning. These teachers’ names are indelibly imprinted on my mind: Miss Butt, Mr Starkey, Mr Long, Mr Lawton, Mr Banks and many others. The educator, Dylan Wiliam once suggested that we learn most about teaching and how to teach in the first eighteen years of our lives. If that is the case, then I was blessed to have wonderful teachers who inspired me.

As we fast forward thirty or forty years to where I am now I recognise that I am in a position to influence others through my teaching. I am blessed to be able to be a teacher in every aspect of my life: firstly as a parent; secondly as a teacher/ teacher educator; and thirdly as a minister. While not unique in having this confluence of roles, it certainly helps me have a different perspective as an educator.

As a Christian, or more correctly as a person striving to be a disciple of Christ, I must recognise the source of all teaching. The Saviour teaches:

“But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all sisters and brothers. And on earth you are not to be called Father, for you have one Father who is in heaven. Neither are you to be called instructors, because you have one instructor, Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. And all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23: 8-12).

The master teacher, the example of and for all is the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Recognising my dependence on him I am able to more fully develop an understanding of who I am and who I am called to be. This is no less the case as I strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in my role as a teacher. I have written reflections elsewhere on how my faith affects me in formal classroom settings:

If I explore what lies behind this invitation I am led to the experiences of the life of Jesus; whether it is him being moved with compassion to raise the son of the Widow of Nain, when he blessed the little children, or when he bore the pains and humiliation of the cross with grace and love for all people. This teaching builds on the belief that every person is a child of God. As such, I should treat every person or every child in my classroom in the way that Jesus would. He would not turn any away because of the way that they looked (the woman anointing his feet with oil), what they have done in the past (the woman caught in adultery), or how they treated him (he died for all of humanity even those who nailed him to the cross). Am I fulfilling the command to strengthen others? I must build up every child whom I teach in every aspect of my dealings with them, I must not lose patience when they stretch it to breaking point, I must offer time and understanding. Every year as I address a new group of trainee teachers I offer my philosophy of teaching which is to ‘be the kind of teacher I want my own children to have’ which is only a slightly disguised plagiarism of the Golden Rule. For me, as a Christian, I must follow Jesus’ example in every aspect of my life. The command to follow him was not a part-time exhortation.

This is no less applicable in my life as a husband, father and minister. In these examples I am using the actions of the Saviour in particular places and applying them to the situations that I find myself in. I am likening the scriptures to myself; as such I am trying to be more Christlike. This, I think, is a laudable aim and one that we should strive to follow in our lives. When we consider teaching, however, we are not left with the application of certain events from the life of Christ to our practice. The Saviour was the Master Teacher; he taught throughout his life, and as such a meditation and reflection on how he taught should provide the best model for Christian educators wherever they find themselves.

‘Come follow me’ is an invitation of Jesus to all who would be his disciples. ‘What would Jesus do’ has become a famous bumper sticker or way of thinking about the appropriateness of one’s course. Jesus Christ is, for Christians, the greatest exemplar of living life in relationship with God and with other humans. This invitation to follow him is not limited to certain aspects of a Christian’s life; surely his example should permeate every thought, word and deed. I have suggested elsewhere that ‘the beliefs that a teacher holds should be seen to provide a basis for their classroom practice, and a reflection on these beliefs could help individual teachers develop a more cohesive and honest approach to their teaching and interaction with pupils’ (2013, p. 7). As Christians consider their beliefs that may impact them in the classroom, it is crucial that we consider the example of Jesus in the way that he taught, in addition to the characteristics he exemplified. This project will explore how Jesus taught and what impact this can have on the creation of a Christ centred pedagogy of education. It will use examples from the ministry of Jesus to suggest principles of teaching that would enable to teachers to try and teach how Jesus taught.

Jesus’ role as teacher, or indeed as the Master Teacher is well documented in the Gospels and in Christian history. Keller (1998) suggests:

One of the strongest portraits of Jesus in the Gospels is that of a teacher (Lee, 1988)’ Other than the title “Lord,” people call Jesus “Teacher” more often than any other epithet in the New Testament, and often with a great deal of respect and admiration (Mark 10:17; Matt 22:16).2 Jesus also calls himself a “teacher.” In the story of the preparation for the Last Supper, for example, Jesus instructs his disciples to find a room for the paschal meal and to tell the owner that “the teacher” has need of it (Mark 14:14; Malt 26:18; Luke 22:ll). Apart from the portrayal of him as an infant, the earliest picture we have of him is the episode of the 12-years old Jesus amazing the teachers in the temple with his learning (Luke 2:46-47). Other depictions include the itinerant Jesus teaching multitudes (Matt 5-7), individuals (John 3 and 4), adversaries (Luke 15), and disciples (Mark 4:10-20, 33-34; 7:17-23; 10:10-11,23-31). He teaches in the temple (Matt 26:55; Mark 11:17; John 7:14), in synagogues (Matt 4:23; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:15; John 6:59), in houses (Mark 7:17-18; 9:2S), from a boat (Luke 5:3), on the hillside (Matt 5:1-2), at a well (John 4:7-30),at table (Luke7:36-50),on the road (Luke24:13-32), and by the shore (Mark 2:13; 4:1). In other words, Jesus teaches people wherever he is and wherever they are. In fact, Matt 26:55 evidences that Jesus taught on a daily basis. Today, in the Western world this traveling teacher is considered the most famous pedagogue (Kighet, 1950, 190). (1998, pp. 19-20).

As such the basis for an exploration of Jesus’ teaching is wide. Indeed, if a sample of explorations of Jesus’ approach to teaching is taken, there are numerous examples of the aspects of key principles that are outlined. For example Troftgruben (2013) suggests that Jesus’ teaching highlighted the following to all would be teachers:

  1. The necessity of integrity (Matt 24: 24-27)
  2. The call to be Jesus’ representatives (Matt 10: 40-42)
  3. The importance of honouring both heritage and innovation (Matt 13: 51-52)
  4. Treating others in the community as Christ (Matt 25:31-46) and according to Christ (Matt 18:23-35)

Concluding that in light of Matthew’s Gospel: “the evangelist envisions teachers who practice humility, service, aversion to social recognition, and reverence toward God and Christ. In practicing these things, teaching disciples strive not to be greater than their Master Teacher, but instead to be like him (10:24-25a), to incarnate the kingdom of heaven (13:52), and to carry on the Teacher’s work (28:18-20)” (2013, pp. 397-398).

As I look at the principles that are outlined I recognise ways in which I can be a teacher in a Christian context. As I serve as a minister each of these has resonance as I strive to become more Christlike in my teaching. However, as a ‘secular’ educator I struggle to see the complete application in the way that I am asked to teach in my professional career. Fawcett, Brau and Fawcett (2005) suggest some practical ways in which the teachings of the Saviour can be applied in classroom situations which may seem to extend the likening of scriptures a little too far; examples include:

Teaching Approach Scriptural References Additional References
To encourage daily preparation for class, the professor uses frequent pop quizzes consisting of true/false, multiple choice, fill in the blank, & short essay questions. The quizzes cover all of the assignments but vary in format according to the material covered ·         See Parable of the Ten Virgins—Matthew 25:1–13

·         Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man

·         cometh at an hour when ye think not—Luke 12:40

·         Matthew 12:36

·         Matthew 24:43– 44

·         1 Thessalonians 5:2

·         2 Peter 3:10

Professor grades strictly on performance (i.e., skills developed & knowledge gained) using the entire grading scale. High, but fair standards are clearly defined at the beginning of the course. Only a comparatively small number of students typically earn the highest grades ·         See parable of the Talents— Matthew 25:14–30

·         See parable of the Pounds—Luke 19:12:27

·         Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons—Acts 10:34

·         For there is no respect of persons with God—Romans 2:11

·         1 Corinthians 15:40–42
Professor requires students to build new skills & abilities & is willing to push/pull them out of their zones to help them succeed. The professor explains that real learning often demands new, challenging experiences that can make students feel uncomfortable. ·         See Sermon on the Mount—Matthew 5, 6

·         Be ye therefore perfect, even as your as your Father

·         which is in heaven is perfect—Matthew 5:48

·         Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.

·         Bless them that curse you, and pray for them …—Luke 6:27–28

·         Luke 18:22–26; Mark 10:17–24

·         John 6:60

To help students master the material, the professor requires a demanding workload, including multiple text books, readings packets, & term projects. The readings are referred to, but often not discussed in detail in class. Serious out-of-class effort is expected on a daily basis to get an “A.” ·         Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me— John 5:39

·         Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed—2 Timothy 2:15

·         Matt 8:19–22; Luke 9:57–62

·         Matthew 10:5–10

·         Acts 17:11

·         1 Timothy 4:15

(p. 469).

To some extent these ideas explore some aspect of Jesus’ teaching approaches but they apply certain individual events and generalise, and even stretch, the approach rather than exploring an underlying pedagogy that can underpin an approach to teaching. I aim to identify some of these underlying principles that are evident in the ministry of Jesus and explore them within the context of a Christian pedagogy of education.

Next: 1. Teaching with authority