The Ponatahi Christian School Prospectus
HOW WE TEACH (METHODOLOGY) and HOW THE CHILD LEARNS (PEDAGOGY)
In a single sentence: We model the only perfect teacher who has ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ, with applications to the world we live in, matching methodology to pedagogy. Modern education has become so “child-centered” in its terminology that even the word “teach” is becoming out of date. Modern education encourages children to construct their own meaning from what they learn, set their own goals, and assess their own achievement. While the best methodology will always be that which best meets the pedagogy, and critical reflection on learning increases importance as the children get older, our belief is that education should be “God-centered” with the teacher having a strong presence in the classroom. At this school, with small class sizes, teachers having the same children for typically two years, and strong internal communication of student achievement data, our teachers know their children and how they learn, very well. We work on the maxim: Happy, well-supported, teachers teach better and happy children learn better!
Learning from the perfect teacher: The Lord Jesus Christ
From the ministry and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ we can learn a great deal about teaching methodology. In His teaching the Lord Jesus employed the following nine teaching methods:
- Teaching by example.
- Concrete-to-abstract reasoning
- Making his disciples learn by experience.
1. Christ utilized the questioning method. The gospels contain more than one hundred questions that Jesus Christ asked during His teaching ministry on earth. This must convey something to us as teachers. Already as a young boy, Jesus was directing questions to the scribes that taught in the temple. Imagine the interest generated by questions he asked during his preaching ministry, e.g., “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days or evil? To save life or to kill?” “Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?” “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or of man?”
2. Jesus also taught using the lecture method, i.e., an oral presentation by the teacher. Consider the loving way that He lectured everywhere – outside, inside, in cities, in the country, on mountains, by lakes, in synagogues, in homes; in short, wherever He had opportunity. Study the beautiful Sermon on the Mount for a wonderful and amazing example of a well-organized and powerful lecture.
3. Christ demonstrated the story-telling method of instruction. Forty miracles of Christ and forty parables of Christ are included in Scripture, and forty is the number of fullness. Jesus used story-telling (parables) to introduce lessons – think of the Parable of the Sower; to conclude lessons – think of Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builder; and as the core of a lesson – think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
4. The Lord Jesus used discussion as a teaching method. Think of His instructive discussions with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the rich young ruler, and His disciples. By means of discussion, Christ led His students into deeper realizations of various truths. Discussion encourages our students to think, to give expression to their thoughts, and to be actively involved in the learning process.
5. Jesus Christ also taught by example. He took a towel and washed the disciple’s feet one by one. They may have forgotten various things He said, but they never forgot this moment.
6. The Lord Jesus implemented the report-making method after He sent out the seventy to preach. When they returned, He asked them to report on how it went and what they had experienced. This was directed learning. Jesus told them what to take, what to do, where to go, and how they were to conduct themselves. He provided them with a clear outline, thorough preparation, and good instructions before sending them out.
7. Christ incorporated the concrete-to-abstract teaching method (inductive as opposed to conductive reasoning). He frequently used physical objects in His teaching. Think of the lesson He taught using a fig tree. When teaching about our relationship to civil government, He held up a coin with Caesar’s picture on it. When dealing with Christian humility, He set a child in the midst for all to see. The sacraments illustrate this same principle. Here, again, the Lord teaches us of the rich value there is in using physical objects in our teaching, i.e., the value of moving from the concrete to the abstract.
8. Christ utilized the individualized instruction method. One blind person He healed instantly by only speaking; a second He healed by degrees (the person saw men as trees walking); and a third He used clay so that the person could feel the means that He was using. Different approaches were used to fit the peculiar needs of different individuals. Look at the various approaches the Lord Jesus used when He dealt with the rich young ruler, blind Bartimaeus, or the buyers and sellers in the temple. Have you ever noticed the tender care and high regard for a single individual that the Lord Jesus demonstrated? When moving in a large crowd with all its accompanying commotion and excitement, He would stop because He heard a single voice, saw one person, or felt the touch of a needy individual.
9. Christ taught his disciplines by making them learn from experience. Consider the time that the disciples could not heal the child possessed with the devil, or when Peter had the learn by experience on more than one occasion such as when he took his eyes of the Lord while walking on the water, or when he boasted that he would never forsake his Master.
But how does all this relate to the century we now live in, especially in regards to Information Technology?
Learning Media, Information Technology, and Personal Devices.
To a large extent teachers have freedom in selecting learning media (teacher, books, videos, I.T., etc), considering what is age-appropriate for their students. Here are four principles:
Principle 1: The Special Character states: “Assisting young people, where possible, in developing the skills and attitudes needed to diligently use the Word of God as the means of God’s grace.” Therefore it is expected that there is a strong emphasis on traditional reading and writing, so that the students are able to concentrate well on this media for extended periods of time.
Principle 2: The Mission Statement states: “From a Biblical foundation to prepare young people for the world in which they must live, work and continue to learn; the LORD willing.” Therefore it is expected that information technology, relevant to the work force and tertiary education, is regularly employed as the students approach their school-leaving years.
Principle 3: Information technology is changing so rapidly that any exposure in the primary school is only relevant for their schooling, and not their future vocation or tertiary study.
Principle 4: New innovations such as tablets and other individual electronic devices will always have a short-term motivation factor, often at the expense of more traditional methods becoming “boring.” This leads to high engagement and short term impressive results when the new innovations are used. But even this becomes “boring” after a while when overused, and often the results are slanted by the child determining what achievement looks like. The long term effects of the modern learning environment, with individual electronic devices through all years of schooling, has not yet been thoroughly researched.
Combining these principles together has lead us to the current practice of almost no exposure to I.T. in Y1 to Y5 (except for special needs), teaching basic skills in Y6-8, more advanced skills in Y9&10, and integrating I.T. through the curriculum, where appropriate, in Y11-13. As we continually evaluate what we are doing in this rapidly changing world, serious changes to our current practice in the medium to long term cannot be ruled out.
Active Learning at Ponatahi Christian School
Education in the 21st century has moved way beyond the teacher as the source of information and the students memorizing what they can, to repeat as much as they can on an exam paper. Students learn to inquire, research, define, describe, list, explain, demonstrate, apply, analyse, design, create, solve problems, and evaluate using a range of methods, while keeping reading and hearing central in the classroom as these are essential for the children to respond to the God-given means of grace in church and at home.