Sept 10, 2004
Since 1876 Calvin College has been pondering what it means to teach and learn and think in a Christian way.
Now, a new institute at the college will provide a focal point for such pondering.
The Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning will be formally launched on Thursday, September 16 at 7:30 pm when David Smith, the institute's first director, speaks on "What is Excellent Teaching? The Question of Faith and Pedagogy." That talk is free and open to all and will be held in the Prince Conference Center at Calvin.
Endowment funding for the institute came from Milt and Carol Kuyers, both 1956 graduates of the college (Milt Kuyers also currently serves as the chair of the Calvin Board of Trustees).
Smith says the question of teaching and learning as Christians is becoming a worldwide concern in the new millennium.
"All over the world," he says, "there are Christian schools springing up. But while you can put up the bricks and the mortar, and get the kids into the classroom to learn, the question remains how do you make this a thoroughly Christian school?"
Smith's goal for the Kuyers Institute is to have it become a center for asking and examining those difficult questions.
"People are looking for models of fruitful teaching and learning." he says. "We want this (institute) to be a place where those models can be found and where the discussions are taking place."
Calvin provost Joel Carpenter believes Calvin's reputation around the world as a place where faith and learning are seamlessly integrated will draw people to the Kuyers Institute.
"Not a month goes by," he says, "that I don't get a call from Christian leaders in Russia, Kenya, Costa Rica, saying, 'Can we talk? How can you help us get stronger about this?'"
The Kuyers Institute will fund research, seminars, publications and internet resources on issues of pedagogy. A key project, due for launch this winter, is www.pedagogy.net, an online source for articles, audio recordings of lectures, surveys, curriculum resources, e-books and book reviews about Christian teaching and learning.
Through the Web site, Smith says, Calvin can invite a global audience of Christian educators into the conversations on pedagogy, people such as the Ukrainian teachers he knows who earn $15 a month.
"Those people are never going to be able to buy our books," he says, "unless there's a radical transformation in their economy. Translating resources electronically is one way to get them to such people for free."
A reading group located at both Calvin and Point Loma Nazarene University in California, is another Kuyers Institute research project. The reading group, co-sponsored by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship (CCCS), will study how students' faith affects their interpretation of texts.
Faculty discussion groups, summer seminars for high school teachers and overseas lectures are some other ways the institute will pursue its study of pedagogy.
Prior to coming to Calvin in 2000, Smith ran the Stapleford Center in Nottingham, England, working on teacher education and curriculum development. He joined Calvin as a professor of German and soon after his arrival worked with Calvin professor Barbara Carvill on a book about foreign language instruction called The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality and Foreign Language Learning. He also is the editor of the British-based Journal of Education and Christian Belief.