In Step 1 I mentioned that the premise of the 6 steps is that in today’s classroom there has been (or needs to be) a seismic shift from teacher to facilitator and student to learner. No longer should we approach education as the knowledge-filled teacher filling the student with content. Nor should we see students as subjects but learners on a journey; the journey of faith exploration.
Step 2 focuses on the subject of faith as presented as an exploration. This faith exploration, however, is not as much in the cosmic universe as much as the spiritual universe. Before you get the idea this is a bit New Age, think of faith as a journey to an unknown time and place. Yes, we have the setting of earth and the context of Creation to the Jewish Patriarchs through Jesus and the Apostles, but we go further into today and the future. We may explore the past but need to try to understand the implications of what that means for us today and tomorrow.
Dynamic and Ever Changing
The challenge for catechists is not to consider faith as something that has been, but is dynamic and ever changing. We must present religion as emergent and expanding ready for exploration of the past, present, and future. This is important because while there is an understanding of past events, scholars are still uncovering what really happened, what it means, and how that meaning impacts us today.
One way to approach our faith is to move from answer-based to project-based application. To understand the precepts of faith is important for recalling informational facts. These facts make up our basic understanding of faith and tradition, but mature faith demands that we understand what to do with this information, once we learn it. One way of going beyond facts is to challenge students with project-based learning experiences.
Project-based learning challenges students to go beyond the normal stopping places in religion. A common practice in religion classes is to teach the facts with answers that are correct or incorrect, that is, right or wrong. If we set our goal as students getting the right answers we have missed a key emphasis of learning, that is, to allow students to understand the meaning of why the information is important in the first place. For example, the students should learn what the seven sacraments are, but should be able to consider how the sacraments can be lived in their lives today, and why. The same goes for the beatitudes, morality, prayer, the Creed, and attending mass. The list goes on. And so by stopping at the quest of what does little to prepare our students for a mature faith life.
Bloom’s Taxonomy offers a concrete example of this type of learning. The lowest level of learning stops at recalling facts and the highest level challenges learners to understand the content so as to be able to apply it in new ways. Consider the number of ways we can offer students the opportunity to process information to be able to apply it to their lives!