Thursday, May 25, 2017

Listening in mission 1: the value of chat

listeninginmission KCML in 2017 are offering a listening in mission practical learning course. It is an experiment for us, testing ways we can provide life-long learning opportunities for ministers in context.

The listening in mission practical learning course involves a listening project, in which participants gather a team of 4-6 from their church and engage in a provided guided listening project. So it is based on action, the church doing something. This is supported by a set of online sessions, in which there is listening to Scripture, engagement with readings in mission, sharing of resources, support and prayer. In other words, reflection.

After a no-strings attached introductory webinar on May 3, to allow folk to check if this was for them, the cohort got underway yesterday evening. The aim was to create links between the project and Scripture and mission and to be a practical resource for each other as we seek to get the listening project going.

For me it was a such rich and sustained engagement in the realities of mission and ministry. I loved the way conversation moved so freely between the readings, the listening practical project and our role as ministers. I loved the exchange of ideas as various folks shared from their current practice. It felt at times like being on holy ground.

Once again, it was a joy to teach without leaving my desk or entering a classroom. Instead, online technology makes possible a very different sort of experience. On the video, I saw children come in for a quick cuddle and partners begin to check about dinner arrangements. This was learning in lounges and around computer desks, threaded through with everyday realities. So different from a classroom.

One of the learnings for me in this particular experience of online learning is the value of the chat function. The online platform we are using has video, voice and a chat function. Three of the KCML Faculty are involved (all from different physical locations). With this shared leadership model, it means that while one is talking, the others can engage on chat. Key discussion themes can be highlighted and 1-1 questions engaged. Even better, the platform we are using allows us to copy and paste the chat.

So every class has the online participation through video, voice and typed chat. It also has the audio saved, to be listened to again afterward. And the chat, which serves as written notes, allowing further reflection on learning. The result is a rich set of layers for learning.

Posted by steve at 03:37 PM

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

4 talks in 4 hours: Kamai Presbytery bound

I shut my office door at 1:30 pm this afternoon. I have to travel tomorrow morning to deliver 4 talks in Tauranga over the weekend.

Friday, 19 May, 10am-12pm: Discipleship and the mission of God – an examination of what it means to from disciples, including reflecting on the distinctive archival resources from Presbyterian history It was Innovation and the Mission of God

Friday, 19 May, 1-2pm: Preparing for mission and ministry today – the introduction of three art pieces, with the stories of how they have been central in shaping my ministry and their implications for innovation, formation and mission.

Saturday, 20 May, 10:30am-11:10 am: Innovation and the Mission of God – a workshop reflecting on six Biblical images that help us understand innovation as an essential practice of a healthy community. Two stories of change that help us appreciate that innovation is not the mysterious quest of a heroic leader, but a set of collaborative, practical actions.

Saturday, 20 May, 11:15am-12:15pm: Refresh! Renew! Rethink! How Scripture brings change in our communities, with particular attention to the justice-making of Wiremu Tamihana, Te Whiti and the Tamar project.

So with a 4 hour window clear of appointments, it was time to prepare. Thankfully each of the talks was something I’ve done before. Thankfully when I speak, I keep physical files of the various resources I use on the day. Thankfully when I speak, I prepare on a computer, which means I can easily make adjustments from one context to the next. So the preparation was a matter of sifting piles, compiling resources, checking and then copying handouts.

IMG_4892 By 4:45 pm this afternoon, I had 4 rows. Each row was in relation to each talk and included speaking notes, handouts and a range of creative resources, unique to each session, that I will use to enable engagement, imagination and interaction.

Now all I need to do is get the 4 piles packed and on the plane, trust nothing gets lost in the Dunedin -> Tauranga flights and make sure the right resource gets pulled out for the right session. I really enjoyed my time with the Kaimai Presbytery last year, and I’m also looking forward to connecting with current interns, recent graduates and perhaps some incoming interns!

Posted by steve at 05:20 PM

Thursday, May 04, 2017

organising for online learning: a physical space

I taught my second online course within 24 hours today. (An intern mission cohort today; a Listening in mission professional development offering yesterday). In preparation, I realised that I have never seen any information on how people prepare to teach online. The online space is totally different physically from a face to face class. I’m no expert and I’ve still got lots to learn but how do I organise myself physically?

Well, this is my desk in preparation.

IMG_4849

On the screen is the video conferencing software ready to go. My video and microphone are turned on and the chat screen is open. As participants arrive, especially for first time users, I will get them familiar with using chat and then turning their microphone and video on and off.

On the desk in the middle is a Bible – I generally use Scripture at some point for lectio divina and to generate interaction and it is ready, open at the page.

You will notice three piles of paper.

On the left is the reading material sent to participants prior. I have a copies printed so that I know exactly what students have recieved and in case specific questions are asked of any of the reading material. I could of course have this on my computer, but I like to keep the computer screen for participants, not for searching for files.

On the far right is a folder (green) of various technical problem shooting solutions. Invariably participants have different browsers or different ways of accessing. I have some basic troubleshooting options, in case simple technical questions emerge. I have limited IT skill, so this covers the basics of login, sound and video.

On the near right is a number of documents I use to keep track of the actual tutorial. I have the names of every participant, which I use to tick off participation. It helps me check who has arrived and in making sure I miss no-one in the initial ice-breaker (name, weather in your location). It also allows me to keep track of who is speaking and ensure student voice is being equally shared. I have a pad of paper, on which I keep notes during the tutorial of what is being said. This enables to keep track of key points in discussion and if I have time after, to provide a summary of key points in the discussion as a way of enhancing feedback loops. In a face to face class, this might be on the whiteboard. I also have a lesson plan/run sheet. This helps me keep track of time. So my run sheet for the Listening in Mission taster is below. This class had 3 facilitators in 3 different geographic locations, so I was quite particular about time – down to every 3 minutes – so that we all knew how we were tracking and could remain disciplined.

Listening in Mission online taster
Wednesday, May 3rd, 4:45-5:45 pm
Hosted by Mark Johnstone Steve Taylor, Rosemary Dewerse

4:45 pm Welcome – Steve Taylor
 
Prayer – Rosemary Dewerse
 
4:50 pm Group building questions – 1 min/person
1. What is weather in your place. 
2. What word or picture or symbol to describe your community (outside the church)?
 
5 pm Scripture Read Luke 10 – Steve
3 questions to contemplate in silence
- as they walked into the village – I wonder what word or picture or symbol they used to describe the community 
- as they listened at table, I wonder what word or picture or symbol they used to describe the community 
- as they saw healing, I wonder what word or picture or symbol they used to describe the community 
  
5:09 pm A short story – how listening changed us and our mission – Mark 
 
5:12 pm Outline of online sessions – Steve
- Scripture 
- pre-reading 
- catch up on project ups and downs 
 
5:17 pm A short story – how listening changed us and our mission – Rosemary 
 
5:20 pm Outline of Listening project – Mark 

5:30 pm Project Q and A – Mark
 
5:40 pm Costs, dates, timings – Steve Taylor
 
Q and A. 
 
5:45 pm Prayer – rosemary  

So this is how I prepare. I still feel like a learner in this area. The piles give me a sense of organisation.

Posted by steve at 09:14 PM

Monday, May 01, 2017

Wondering together feedback

Over Friday and Saturday, I presented two keynote sessions, of around 50 minutes each, at the Wondering Together conference. Organised by Sydney College of Divinity, with about 50 academics in attendance, it was an opportunity to focus on teaching and learning. I presented two papers one on the contribution of flipped learning to innovation in theological education, the other on the implications of activist research for theological scholarship. With each paper, I offered a range of takeaways, in terms of my own practice as an educator.

IMG_4797

Both were very well-received. The feedback during question time raised the following points

1. The value of seeking to place Habermas alongside Bloom’s taxonomy, given that Habermas includes praxis ways of knowing, whereas Bloom’s taxonomy concentrates on primarily cognitive.

2. The tiredness of our sector, driven by outcomes focus on education.

3. The fear is that flipped learning reduces lectures focused on content. How to respond to those who prioritise content over skill?

4. A comment: how to frame research in teaching and learning in light of Australian Research Council grants.

I really appreciated the chance to do some thinking and integrating and to be working with Rosemary Dewerse in these areas. As well as the keynotes, there were over 30 short papers presented on a range of teaching and learning questions. The conference plans to release a book, so that will be a valuable addition to the ongoing need to grow our teaching and learning skills.

Posted by steve at 11:11 AM

Friday, April 21, 2017

Researching the future

wonder I’ve spent the last few days pulling together two keynote addresses I am giving in Sydney next weekend. The conference is hosted by the Sydney College of Divinity and is focused on Learning and Teaching, with the theme of Wondering about God together. My preparation has involved trying to stitch together a number of projects sitting on my hard drive, including
- parts of my Flinders Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching application
- some research I presented at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference in 2015, on activist research.
- a conference abstract I had accepted for BERA (British Educational Research Association) 2016 (which I had to withdraw from due to work and budget pressures)

It has also involved working in partnership with a colleague, Rosemary Dewerse, who has provided invaluable research assistance. I wanted to offer a “sector” survey – of trends in online learning and research in theological education – and Rosemary has been a superb collaborator.

It is my first international academic keynote/s so I am pretty excited. Here are the two abstracts:

Researching the future 1: the contribution of flipped learning to innovation in theological education
 
Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

Abstract:
The focus of this paper is learner-centered teaching. Research shows that only 5% of university class time involved active student participation (Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, Jossey-Bass, 2002). This is considered in relation to the particular demands of teaching theology, which include a student cohort that is often mature and highly invested.

A number of strategies to increase student participation are outlined, drawn from the authors’ own experience. These include attention to classroom interaction, industry-shaped assessment, tutorial design, curricula development and flipped learning.

Given flipped learning is a recent innovation being shaped by changes in technology, it is considered in more depth. Three lines of inquiry are pursued, including as a strategy for increasing student participation, integration with Bloom’s taxonomy and in dialogue with current research into transformative learning, in particular the role of technology in learner centred teaching.

The argument is that learner-centred teaching needs to take technology seriously. However this needs to be nuanced, given that teaching is a profoundly social activity. Paying attention to the voice of student peers is an essential dimension of the learning experience. While technology is an important innovation in attending to this dimension of teaching, equally as important are the pedagogical strategies that enable learners to appreciate agency in themselves and their peers.

Researching the future 2: The implications of activist research for theological scholarship

Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

Abstract:
The focus of this paper is research-led teaching. The conference theme, of wonder, is applied to the actions of researching our teaching. The notion of researching our teaching raises important identity questions in relation to research, researched and researcher.

The insights of activist research are applied as a theoretical framework which enables us to attend to our identity as theologians (speaking of God’s Kingdom) and teachers (wanting to impact students). The implications of action research are further developed by undertaking a sector survey. This involves applying the work of Ernest Boyer to an analysis of journals, sector bodies and publications in theology. What emerges is a picture of a sector that has prioritised research in the domain of discovery, yet has given little encouragement to the domain of research from teaching and learning.

This is inconsistent with the multiple investments, both as educators and from our key industry partners, who work with us in this sector. I propose four theses:
• Each of us are activist researchers because we care about our content and our communities
• Our denominational stakeholders value activism, our teaching more than our research
• We as a theological sector are weak overall in our research outputs
• Researching our teaching as activist researchers provides an opportunity for us to align our multiple investments and investors and attend to our weakness as a sector

To make this concrete, I outline a set of first steps, under headings of informal research, institutional feedback and researching practice. In the midst of massive social change, the invitation, and imperative, is for us as a theological sector to wonder together by researching our teaching practice.

Posted by steve at 11:24 AM

Friday, February 17, 2017

Structuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience

A new experience for me today, submitting a proposal to offer a poster to the Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools. I’ve not ever offering an academic poster before. However part of my Flinders University 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching included evidence of practical classroom teaching. It is the sort of material best communicated visually. ANZATS has a stream on Learning and Teaching Theology, so I’ve offered a poster, titled

Structuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience

This poster will demonstrate the use of Bloom’s taxonomy in structuring the classroom experience in the context of flipped learning. Desiring to personalise the ability of students to consider their own role in the teaching and learning experience, Bloom’s Taxonomy was used in a Christology class to structure content delivery.

The poster will outline the classroom practice. In week one, Bloom’s taxonomy was introduced to both explain flipped approaches to learning, but also to inspire and motivate students to undertake the pre-reading. A set of questions generated discussion and agreement around the types of behaviours that enhance learning, resulting in the development of a shared class covenant in participating in a Flipped Learning Experience.

The poster will further outline the subsequent weeks, including how the classroom experience was structured in relation to different parts of Bloom’s taxonomy. This provided students with choice and also opportunities for immediate formative self-assessment.

Finally the poster will analyse student feedback and the role of the lecturer in engaging class interaction in feedback loops.

Hence the poster will thus provide a visual demonstration of the practice of teaching in dialogue with theoretical engagement with learning theory and interaction with student experience.

Now I’m looking forward to the challenge of communicating all of this visually. It should be a fun, growing, new challenge – if accepted. And something to hang on my wall!

Posted by steve at 03:33 PM

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Research-Led Learning and Teaching

wonder I’ve been invited to be part of the Sydney College of Divinity Learning and Teaching Conference, April 28-9, 2017. The theme is appealing Wondering about God together.

Called ‘the queen of the sciences’, theology begins and ends with wonder at the works of God in the
world. If this wonder is both caught and taught, how can theological educators create a research
culture that fosters deep theological learning? What is the role of research in building communities
of theological learning? Come, let us wonder together!

It invites reflection on the relationship between wonder and Research-Led Learning and Teaching. It also prioritises research in Learning and Teaching, which must be at the heart of higher education and shifts our discussion of learning and teaching out of the realm of anecdote. I have been asked to contribute two keynote addresses, around my research into the impact of flipped learning on theological education. I might also venture into research on innovation and pastoral practice in the face of contemporary.

The conference will offer papers streamed around the four Domains of the new Higher Education Standards (Australia) 2015.

  • Student Experience
  • Learning Environment
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Research and Research Training

The aim is to encourage teaching Faculty and all those involved in the wider tasks of Theological Education to offer papers engaging the wide range of issues currently pressuring all aspects of theological education. The Call for Papers, by 16 November, 2016, is SCD_WonderingAboutGodTogether_Flier.

Posted by steve at 09:55 AM

Monday, May 09, 2016

Learning and development: a Salvation Army after-dinner mint

chocolate-basket-1327879-640x480 I am with the Salvation Army in Wellington this evening. I have been asked to present a keynote address at the Salvation Army’s inaugural Learning and Development Conference. It involves around 50 executive leaders from across the Army, wrestling with how they might collaboration in training. I have been asked to provide an after dinner speech, in which I, as an outside voice, address the question

Why would the Salvation Army even be doing learning and development, and what is at stake?

After some considered reflection, and rifting through quite a bit of recent speaking material around innovation and discipleship, I’ve returned to something I did in Australia in February 2015, speaking to a group of funders of the Uniting College about the future of the church. It means I will speak under three headings.

  • What is God up to?
  • What lies in a “Kingdom” kete (basket)?
  • Three stories from my own experience

Under each of these headings, I will weave three repeating threads

  • the move from centre to edge, learnt to play away from home
  • the moving from monocultural to multi-cultural, learning to lead across cultures
  • the move from face to face to digital, becoming fluent with faith formation in digital worlds.

It has been at least seven years since I was last with the Salvation Army in New Zealand and will be my first non-Presbyterian outing since I’ve returned to New Zealand. I’ve never seen myself in the after-dinner mint category – you know inspiring, funny – but despite these limitations, I’m looking forward to it.

Posted by steve at 06:11 AM

Thursday, April 14, 2016

a busy wee patch

The photocopier is whirring away as I type, printing off 90 sets of workshop notes. On Saturday, I am delivering two workshops on the theme Making Jesus known through the nurture and teaching of people in the Christian faith. It is part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Synod of Otago and Southland. They have chosen to celebrate 150 years by looking forward, offering resourcing workshops on around each of the five faces of mission of the PCANZ: to make Jesus Christ known:

in nurturing and teaching
in loving service
in proclaiming the gospel
in transforming society
in caring for creation

It is a wonderful approach to being 150 years old, one of the first invites I got to speak when I arrived as Principal and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

knox

Then on Sunday, I am preaching at Knox Church, Dunedin. My focus will be fresh expressions of mission as they emerge from the lectionary text of Acts 9:36-42. I want to take a gendered and economic approach to Acts and suggest that economic justice as in fact one of the marks of the early church. My sermon is titled “Women’s wealth.” It is my first sermon in a Presbyterian church, so it will no doubt become an important memory. After morning tea, I am leading a workshop on mission with the church.

Here is the blurb -

Rev Dr Steve Taylor, Principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership will be leading a workshop after worship for all interested people. Steve is a missiologist, a discipline that among other things explores how the church can be part of what God is doing in the world. It is an approach which influences much of how the church understands itself.

Sometimes people ask me what KCML lecturers do between teaching block courses. I guess this is one answer – resource the church in mission and ministry :)

Posted by steve at 05:16 PM

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Acceptance: New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning

I’m delighted with the news, received yesterday, that my New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context paper has been accepted for BERA (British Educational Research Association). The BERA conference is in Leeds, in September 13-15, 2016. It is just after two other conferences I am hoping to present at. More importantly, it is a chance to take my research on flipped learning, which I undertook in 2014, as part of teaching Christology, into a context that is both international and educational.

christologyclass

It is important to research the impact on learners when we make changes, hence why I did the initial research. It is one thing to present that research to theologians (I have presented at ANZATS in 2015). It’s another to present that research to educators, to slip out of my discipline and engage with another. So I’m delighted that my paper was accepted and look forward, with some nervousness, to the opportunity to engage.

Here is the abstract:

New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context

Flipped learning, like any new kid in town, finds itself undergoing careful scrutiny. A Review of Flipped Learning (2013) identified the need for further qualitative research, including its potential to engage diverse learners across cultures and subgroups. This paper investigates the impact on learners when flipped learning is introduced into a higher education undergraduate theology topic. Traditionally, theology has privileged Western discourse. Can flipped learning be a useful ally in encouraging globalisation and personalisation?

A 2014 Flinders University Community of Practice research project implemented three pedagogical strategies. These included the introduction of indigenous voices to encourage personalised learning, the use of Blooms Taxonomy to scaffold activities in-class time and digital participation to cultivate the learning culture. These addressed all four pillars (Flexible Environment, Learning Culture, Intentional content, Professional educator) of flipped learning (The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™, (2014)).

Students completed a four question written survey at the start, middle and end of the topic. The results indicated a significant shift. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively and expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity. However, feedback from Student Evaluation of Teaching responses, assignments and interaction with students was mixed. While overall people affirmed flipped learning, some expressed a desire to return to traditional lecture modes.

This data can be theorised using the notion of learning as a social act, shaped by learner agency. Preston (“Braided Learning,” 2008) observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders or accomplished fellows. Each of these roles depend on agency being given to, and received by, fellow learners. Student assignments demonstrated that these roles were present during in class-time and further, that the pedagogical strategies implemented were essential in inviting students into these roles. In contrast, students who expressed concern about flipped learning indicated either a desire to preserve the percieved purity of an objective academic experience or a reluctance to trust student agency.

This suggests that the success of flipped learning depends not on the technological ability to produce videos. Rather it depends on pedagagical strategies, including those that help learners appreciate agency in their peers. In sum, the desire to learn from any new kid in the class remains at the core of the educative experience.

- Dr Steve Taylor, Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Flinders University, South Australia

Posted by steve at 04:08 PM

Saturday, January 30, 2016

New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context

This is the abstract I have just submitted for BERA (British Educational Research Association) annual conference. What I like most is the missiology that is implicit in this abstract. Are you willing to learn from the new kid?

New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context

Flipped learning, like any new kid in town, finds itself undergoing careful scrutiny. A Review of Flipped Learning (2013) identified the need for further qualitative research, including its potential to engage diverse learners across cultures and subgroups. This paper investigates the impact on learners when flipped learning is introduced into a higher education undergraduate theology topic. Traditionally, theology has privileged Western discourse. Can flipped learning be a useful ally in encouraging globalisation and personalisation?

A 2014 Flinders University Community of Practice research project implemented three pedagogical strategies. These included the introduction of indigenous voices to encourage personalised learning, the use of Blooms Taxonomy to scaffold activities in-class time and digital participation to cultivate the learning culture. These addressed all four pillars (Flexible Environment, Learning Culture, Intentional content, Professional educator) of flipped learning (The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™, (2014)).

Students completed a four question written survey at the start, middle and end of the topic. The results indicated a significant shift. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively and expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity. However, feedback from Student Evaluation of Teaching responses, assignments and interaction with students was mixed. While overall people affirmed flipped learning, some expressed a desire to return to traditional lecture modes.

This data can be theorised using the notion of learning as a social act, shaped by learner agency. Preston (“Braided Learning,” 2008) observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders or accomplished fellows. Each of these roles depend on agency being given to, and received by, fellow learners. Student assignments demonstrated that these roles were present during in class-time and further, that the pedagogical strategies implemented were essential in inviting students into these roles. In contrast, students who expressed concern about flipped learning indicated either a desire to preserve the percieved purity of an objective academic experience or a reluctance to trust student agency.

This suggests that the success of flipped learning depends not on the technological ability to produce videos. Rather it depends on pedagagical strategies, including those that help learners appreciate agency in their peers. In sum, the desire to learn from any new kid in the class remains at the core of the educative experience.

- Dr Steve Taylor, Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Flinders University, South Australia

References
Flipped Learning Network (2014). The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™. http://flippedlearning.org/cms/lib07/va01923112/centricity/domain/46/flip_handout_fnl_web.pdf.

Hamdan, Noora, McKnight, Patrick, McKnight, Katherine and Kari M. Arfstrom (2013). A Review of Flipped Learning: A White Paper Based on the Literature Review.” http://www.flippedlearning.org/cms/lib07/VA01923112/Centricity/Domain/41/WhitePaper_FlippedLearning.pdf.

Preston, C. J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities 4 (2): 220-43).

Keywords: flipped learning, diversity, higher education

It is a development of work I presented in 2015 at ANZATS and HERGA, but this time with clear focus on flipped learning. I will hear by 11 March if the proposal is accepted. The BERA conference is September 13-15 in Leeds, so might well fit beautifully with the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference, 6-8 September in Durham and Lines in Sand, 18th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, 9-11 September in Glasgow. Or it might be a stretch too far. We will see. Good to have an abstract entered and grateful for the time and encouragement of Dr Katy Vigurs in looking over a draft of my abstract.

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM

Monday, December 14, 2015

spaces innovate

spaces

Thursday and Friday the KCML core team gathered. We wanted some time to dream, think and plan. The first day involved some strategic planning. What is our charism? What values will nurture our charism? What strategic signposts will point us toward God’s future among us? We worked hard and were surprised, pleased and delighted with an initial draft, which now awaits interaction from our key stakeholders.

The second day was curriculum. What do we want our graduates to know, do, be and relate? How might we be able to assess these outcomes? What are the immediate steps we can take? By morning tea, we were tired. We’d worked hard the day before and we needed coffee. A walk was suggested. We left the beautiful room we were gathered in and walked to a local cafe. Around large tables, the conversation returned to the question that had seemed to exhaust us a few minutes earlier. Suddenly, in this space, there was fresh energy. An unexpected question generated intense discussion and a whole new possibility.

We walked back, excited, nervous, and a bit shocked.

Spaces innovate. Different spaces invite different ways of thinking and being. An important lesson for a group of educators to have experienced, in their own bodies and being.

Which, later that day, would set in train another set of unexpected questions, intense discussion and a whole new set of possibilities. If spaces changed us, what might that say about the type of teaching spaces we want to inhabit.

Posted by steve at 07:31 PM

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Where do we get enough bread? Graduation sermon 2015

graduation2015 It was the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership 2015 Graduation Service last night. I was asked as the new Principal to preach. The lectionary text for the day was Matthew 15:29-39; the feeding of the 4,000. In the sermon I unpacked what the text might mean for being church and for ministry. I was able to weave in some creativity, including an art work by Faith Ringgold and setting up on stage a picnic, with different cultural groups bringing their mat and food, in order to explore the diversity of the Presbyterian Church in Aoteroa New Zealand. It gained positive feedback, so for those interested the sermon in full is as follows (more…)

Posted by steve at 03:39 PM

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching

The news was made public today that I’ve gained a Flinders University 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. With over 1100 lecturers at Flinders University and only 5 Awards made each year, it is a very significant achievement. The Award was made in recognition of:

leading sustained innovation in theological pedagogy over six years, implementing quality improvements that ensure the embedded diversity of the student body is a resource in contextualising, personalising and deepening the overall teaching and learning experience.

Application is based on submitting a 10,000 word application that addresses 4 criteria:

  • Approaches to teaching and the support of learning that influence, motivate and inspire students to learn.
  • Development of curricula, resources or services that reflect a command of the field.
  • Evaluation practices that bring about improvements in teaching and learning.
  • Innovation, leadership or scholarship that has influenced and enhanced learning and teaching and/or the student experience.

In making my application, I focused on my teaching and academic leadership over the last 5 years. I wanted to think through what it means to teach in the particular context of the challenges and opportunities of teaching theology in a modern, pluralist, University context.

Teaching theology in a University setting provides a critical, academic and pluralist context. The environment is one in which those with faith and no-faith mingle. As a consequence, teaching theology involves the teacher creating a space in which students participate in ways that are neither pietistic nor dogmatic. This context has been impacted by the rise in recent years of religious intolerance. As a result, the University, in providing spaces in which critical conversations can occur, provides an important societal good. As a teacher, I see my role as cultivating, nurturing and protecting these spaces, growing in students the capacity to work confidently in diverse environments, able to deal with subject matter that they, their peers and diverse communities, remain potentially highly invested in.

It is a great thrill to have the theological context named and recognised by the University. I think I’m the first Award winner from the Department of Theology at Flinders University in 36 years, since it was set up in 1979. Recipients are recognised by the University to be leaders in their field and gain $5000 to spend on things teaching related. So that’s quite encouraging. My hope is to use the financial resources to continue to develop indigenous theological curricula – specifically to expand on the indigenous women’s Christology project.

Posted by steve at 02:39 PM