“Reshaping practice” puts the focus on what teachers do, in order to reflect their new way of seeing by their teaching. It is changing the habits and practice of teaching to work with a new perspective.
1. Change the layout of the room
Teachers can change the layout of the room to support their new way of seeing a subject—for example, arranging the chairs in an arc around a painting that is elevated to communicate the importance of coming with humility to learn. It could involve changing the seating arrangements so that students work together when learning about communities.
2. Make tangible changes to the environment
Teachers can make tangible changes to the environment to support new perspectives. This may include creating spaces for different uses such as reflection or hanging question bubbles suspended from the ceiling to stimulate curiosity. A tangible change can signal a deeper change. For example, temporarily removing books at the beginning of book week can be the beginning of a change in attitude toward them: in many parts of the world, books are a luxury for which people are grateful.
3. Change or create displays
Displays are a use of the physical space that is often taken for granted, but displays have huge potential for teachers when making changes. Displays can include unexpected elements such as art images and poetry in a science display, breaking down subject barriers so that God’s world is seen as a whole. Displays can be places where learners respond to big questions and curiosity is stimulated.
4. Embody the class ethos and outlook in concrete forms
Developing a class ethos is about embodying values in concrete forms. This may take the form of expectations of behavior that are on display, or teaching some basic sign language so that learners can say a silent “thank you” to each other without disturbing those around them. It could include arranging desks and expecting certain expressions of respect, such as raising hands rather than interrupting each other.
5. Use body language
Teachers’ body language can communicate values and a perspective on a subject. Excitement is contagious and can be communicated both verbally and through the body (for example, excitement can be expressed at the wonders of magnetism). Similarly, talking to students while still grading work, without looking at them, can communicate disrespect.
6. Create the appropriate atmosphere
Creating an atmosphere is about creating the “feel” that matches what is learned. A lesson on delight would be ruined by a dull ambience; a lesson on peace needs a calm mood. Anxiety over tests can be reduced by shifting to a celebration of what the pupils do know. Create a celebratory atmosphere by using language such as “Wow, look at what you know!” Establishing atmosphere could include using music, noise, silence, lighting, color, images, body language, and posture.
7. Give opportunities for practice
Teaching can lead to practice, rather than being kept as something that learners need to pay attention to in order to pass tests or gain information. Teachers can provide opportunities for learners to serve each other and the local community. Teaching can turn a class’s vision outward toward the wider world, and teachers can introduce issues of justice and how we bring about change, providing opportunities to engage, for example, with fair trade or with how shopping can make a difference.
8. Change the context/framework
All teaching takes place within a framework of ideas and values, and we can adjust the framework or context within which we teach. Math does not have to be taught within a consumer framework of shopping and spending; it can be about giving. French does not have to be taught in a tourist framework, dominated by satisfying personal needs and securing goods and services while on vacation; it can be about humbly encountering another culture. A change of image or metaphor can give teaching an alternative framework; for example, seeing the world as God’s playground or garden can promote different thinking about the world and our relationship to it and to each other.
9. Change examples and illustrations to match your framework
For a change in framework to be plausible and effective, examples, stories, and illustrations need to come into line; for example, math examples need to move from getting to giving. One way to move the focus in history from individuals to communities is by changing the framework from studying individual reformers to campaigning communities. If an environment topic is changed from “our world” to “God’s world,” images of the world from a God’s-eye perspective might be appropriate.
10. Put skills in a context of values
Sometimes choosing the right framework and context for learning could mean giving skills a new purpose. That purpose can be defined in terms of values. Design can be taught with a service purpose so that students think about how the design will serve the customer and society rather than about how they can showcase what they can do. Math can be taught with the purpose of combating injustice.
11. Focus, identify, highlight, be intentional
As teachers we can focus on the key emphasis by highlighting key words visually and verbally. We can also use objects to focus attention—for example, using chocolate in a history lesson about English reformers such as the Cadburys, Frys, and Rowntrees. Focusing can involve identifying what is important, such as a character’s choices in a text and his or her degree of responsibility. It could include being intentional about teaching self-control in sports.
12. Change the emphasis
Sometimes we need to move the spotlight in our teaching to put the emphasis in a different place. For example, we may have used different map projections before, but the emphasis could be changed to looking at the issue of fairness in map projections. Sometimes we may need to introduce a new emphasis, such as moving from usefulness to delight or from rules to grace.
13. Change key words and metaphors
Highlighting a key focus or a change in emphasis can be followed through by a consistent use of language, emphasizing key concepts and phrases, and bringing what is important to students’ attention. For example, teachers can consistently use the phrase “God’s world” rather than “our world” in a topic on the environment. They can consistently emphasize a key concept such as sin, joy, or peace.
14. Change resources, tasks, or activities
Tasks, resources, and activities can be changed to suit a new perspective. Once teachers see a lesson in a new way, they might need to review old worksheets, activities, and tasks. This could involve choosing activities that stress the wholeness of people, body, soul, and spirit. It could involve worksheets that have questions of meaning and purpose as well as information recall questions.
15. Change your choice of content
Increasingly, teachers have their choices restricted by curriculum documents, but where choice is possible, different content can be used. If a particular novelist is prescribed, there still may be a choice of works, and teachers could select a work that reflects a focus such as trust. If a particular subject is suggested, such as self-esteem, there could be a range of materials that approach it in a different way, sch as seeing it in terms of finding significance and worth through love. If a syllabus stipulates a key figure in history, you could choose a person of faith such as William Tyndale in the Tudor period.
16. Choose an approach to suit the new emphasis
Adopting appropriate approaches means that we examine the approach we are using to make sure it is right for the new emphasis of the lesson and will help students engage appropriately. Approaches can be very specific to subjects; for example, there are a range of approaches in teaching other religions such as a conceptual approach and an approach that looks at religion as a phenomenon. More general approaches such as storytelling might be appropriate if we are emphasising grace (unmerited love and favor) in a person’s life. It is important to select an approach with the two criteria in mind: appropriateness to the emphasis of the lesson and to the learners.
17. Adjust your style
Style is a very personal subject, but most teachers are flexible and can incorporate a variety of styles within their repertoire. When thinking about style, we need to consider whether it is right for a particular lesson with its new emphasis and whether it will serve the learners in engaging with this new perspective. Style can be formal or informal, with many kinds of practices within either. For example, if we are exploring sensitive or controversial aspects of sin and brokenness, a formal approach is sometimes appropriate to give students structure and distance. If the lesson is about serving the community by cooking for the elderly and you are joining in, a more informal style is appropriate. If the emphasis is on fostering focused attentiveness, our general style, whatever it is, might have to slow down to incorporate, say, a slow reading of a text.
18. Change your planning: timing, sequence, and lesson structure
Thinking about lesson or unit planning may mean changing how we introduce or end a lesson. It could include planning in silence if we want students to have time to reflect and wonder. It can be decisions about what to include or exclude, such as including a faith connection or excluding detail in order to highlight a new emphasis. It could include the pace we set, allowing time for slow contemplation or group discussion.
19. Check what you give significance to, test, and reward
What we reward sends strong messages about what we value. If we stress meaning and significance in lesson but then only test for recall of information we send a message about what is important. Teachers can give significance by what they notice and give time to in class, the questions they respond to, the behavior they reinforce. For example, do we reward those who win at any cost in sport? Forms of assessment can be adapted to suit a new perspective. Evaluations in history can reflect people holistically and include their spiritual legacy as well as the political, social, and economic.
20. Plan time and space for reflection
Time for reflection and wonder at God’s world can easily get squeezed out with the amount of content teachers have to cover. Reflection needs to be planned. It does not have to come at the end of a session; it can be way of starting a lesson, such as by listening to the sounds in the environment in silence.
21. Change the student interaction
Teachers can plan student interaction to match the new emphasis. They can work in pairs or groups, individually or as a class. They can collaborate or work on their own. The interaction should reflect the intended perspective and be appropriate for the students. If the teaching stresses community and interdependence, then collaborative learning may be appropriate, as when looking at history and the dependence of reformers on a grass roots community. In science, studentss could make food chains as groups, with each group making a chain and different children adding a link.
22. Ask big questions / Change your questioning
Teachers can incorporate big questions into their teaching in order to stimulate curiosity. They can ask big questions themselves or encourage students to ask them. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning, and each subject has its own questions and issues that teachers can focus attention on. For example, they can ask, Can we measure everything in math, or are there some things we can’t measure? Do we value these things more or less? Teachers can structure questions to direct learners to important issues such as interdependence in science. Questions can raise awareness and uncover things we take for granted, such as the idea that the world is “ours.” Teachers can pose questions about faith and values in subjects other than religion to break down the divide between sacred and secular.
23. Provide contrasts and set up dissonance (clashes)
Teachers can provoke thinking by creating contrasts and dissonance. Dissonance is about creating difference or conflict; it might be teaching about caring for the environment in a littered room, using body language that does not match what you are saying, or playing commercial Christmas music over paintings of the nativity. Including contrasts and dissonance in our teaching can raise awareness of certain issues and challenge learners to rethink. For example, students might be challenged to consider the spiritual and relational riches of some past cultures in contrasts to modern cultures.
24. Make connections with faith and life
As teachers we can model making connections and show the relevance of faith by drawing on faith sources in subjects such as history and using faith examples, insights, and images. For example, we can use the biblical theme of justice, mercy, and humility as a way of assessing reformers in history. Teachers could use images from the Bible, such as that of a gardener, to explore our relationship with the environment. We can enable discussions of faith and values where appropriate and connect faith to life rather than keeping it abstract.
25. Make connections with the wider world
Teaching can have an outward focus, engaging with the local community and the world, bringing the wider world into the classroom, or taking the learner out. Teachers can invite visitors to come and be interviewed, or church musicians might be asked to speak to a music class. Teachers can relate learning to wider issues of faith and values relating to what is going on society. For example, teaching about integrity in science and writing up experiments truthfully can relate to the (lack of) integrity shown in current events. Insights learned in the classroom can be applied to society, like thinking of people as whole and not just bodies or minds or spirits.
26. Model a new emphasis
Teachers can model what they teach—the ultimate example of personalizing teaching. In science, for example, they can model excitement and marvel at the wonders of magnetism. They can model respect and ways of treating students and other staff. They can model puzzlement and confusion before a text, letting students feel free to express their own confusion. Teachers can model being challenged by what they teach.
27. Add the personal touch
Teachers can use personal stories, images, and examples where appropriate. This could involve organizing visitors in religion class or using real-life case studies of people in modern foreign languages or geography. Such stories can challenge students and evoke an affective or moral response. Teaching in this way can focus attention on others and on service. For example, just a small change in a lesson about sound can make a big difference: instead of talking about the intricacies of the design of “the ear,” talk about “your ears” and relate it to the students