Archive | February 2011

Teach with your Strengths, part 2 of 2

In my last article (part 1 of 2), we discussed the Biblical Reasoning of Teaching with your Strengths. This sequel article outlines the practical gifts that teachers may have according to the research team at Gallup.  I highly recommend you purchase a book right now, and get the Strengthfinder 2.0 (http://strengths.gallup.com) test for free!!  Otherwise you will be paying $13/license.  After I took this test, it has open my eyes to a whole new world of developing new skills in the teaching world.

WAIT!?  What about the other assessments like DISC or Meyers-Brigg?  Well these are personality assessments that focuses on the general demeanor of a person.  But Strengthsfinder gives an accurate assessment on your teaching strengths and then follows up on practical steps on enhancing your top strengths.

After I took my assessment, the results spits out 5 of my top strengths of the 34 listed.  Most  of us would want to zoom down to the bottom and focus on the bottom 5, but the results will only show you the top 5.  Curiosity may kill you, but don’t worry, it didn’t kill me knowing my fatal flaws.  Instead, I am zoned in on the top (see below of my top 5).

Signature Theme Definition in my own words 

Arranger Organize with flexibility, figure out how all the pieces and resources can be arranged for max productivity 

Conductor, in complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all of the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible, You are a shining example of effective flexibility, whether you are changing travel schedules at the last minute because a better fare has popped up or mulling over just the right combination of people and resources to accomplish a new project.

You are at your best in dynamic situations. Confronted with the unexpected, some complain that plans devised with such care cannot be changed, while others take refuge in the existing rules or procedures. You don’t do either. — because, after all, there might just be a better way.

Ex. Games – Risk, Tetris, tower defense, real-time-scenario (RTS)

Command Presence of Person, take control of a situation and make decisions 

Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others.  Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life’s unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest.  You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction.

Ex.  Where do you want to eat?  Where you want to go?

 

Communication Easy to put their thoughts into words, they are good conversationalists and presenters. 

You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public.

Ideas are a dry beginning. Events are static. You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid. And so you turn events into stories and practice telling them.  You take the dry idea and enliven it with images and examples and metaphors.

This is what draws you toward dramatic words and powerful word combinations. This is why people like to listen to you. Your word pictures pique their interest, sharpen their world, and inspire them to act.

 

Significance Want to be very important in the eyes of others?  Independent and want to be recognized???? 

You want to be heard. You want to stand out.  You feel a need to be admired as credible, professional, and successful. Likewise, you want to associate with others who are credible, professional, and successful. And if they aren’t, you will push them to achieve until they are. Or you will move on.

An independent spirit, you want your work to be a way of life rather than a job, and in that work you want to be given free rein, the leeway to do things your way. Your yearnings feel intense to you, and you honor those yearnings. And so your life is filled with goals, achievements, or qualifications that you crave.

(driving motivation)

Whatever your focus your Significance theme will keep pulling you upward, away from the mediocre toward the exceptional. It is the theme that keeps you reaching.

 

Strategic Create alternative ways to proceed.  Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues. 

Sort through the clutter and find the best route, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner,

Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward.

Ex.  Odyssey of Mind

 

Teach with your Strengths, part 1 of 2

I came across this book not too long ago in 2010. This book comes from a series of book from the Gallup Press.  Read more here http://strengths.gallup.com.

We tend to ask the common question of priority, “What do I work on first, my strength or my weaknesses?”  I had asked this question prior to starting my doctorate program.  My advisor at the time posed this conundrum to me and shared me both philosophies of thinking.  Some would work on their weaker areas to make them stronger.  Others will go all the way with they are good at so they can become experts in their field.  I chose the latter.  Why?  First, I am rooted in a Biblical Worldview in how God dispenses every believer spiritual gifts.  Romans 12:6-8 says,

6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Second, if God has given us these unique gifts, why would we neglect it, but rather improve upon them.  The book “”Teach with your Strengths” follows these Biblical principles.  Although not written to a Christian audience, the book does support the principle that we should continue to A) Strengthen our Gifts, and b) Minimize our Weaknesses.  It takes more energy to focus on our weaknesses to make them even at par.  But the extreme energy exerted on improving our weaknesses will go further when we focus on our Strengths.  Let’s focus on our strengths.

In the next article (part 2 of 2), we will discover what my strengths are… stay tuned.

Teaching Teachers – Role of the Faculty Developer

What if you are the leader of your institution in charge of teaching teachers? It’s one thing about being the #1 teacher among students, but how about among peers in the same field?  This article is dedicated to those who have the huge task of teaching teachers aka: Faculty Developer. Here are some suggestions in getting started on the investment of improving your faculty talent base.

Motivation and time constraints pose the biggest deterrent for any faculty developmental imitative.  Most professionals outside the academic world prefer short term weekend conferences to gather “nuggets” of information that might benefit their context.  According to adult learning theories, this may have only short term and limited affects on the overall transformative transference of knowledge.  Even so, these short blasts of conferences should not be negated for its benefits can still drive attendees to consider deeper commitments to development.  We should take advantage of the brevity to create intensity.  In a proposed model, the conferences would be a fishing pool to create outlets, farming select learners into a more in-depth training regimen.

As a Faculty Developer, you would need to commit to wearing several hats: 1) visionary, 2) recruiter, 3) evaluator, 4) teacher/learner, and 5) politician.   First, either working in a team environment or alone, the faculty developer is usually the one casting vision on where to drive this initiative.  He must draw the need to both the supervisor (school) and to the adult learners, promoting good, sound reasons on why we must develop our skills.  He is selling a dream of necessity that the other parties might not yet see.  Casting the vision is always the toughest fight and usually done alone without initial support.

Second, the FD would be a recruiter of talent and resources.  Where will all these resources come from, whether talent, time, or treasure.  As a recruiter, they must find credible instructors and external organizations to provide the training that fits the mission and values of the institution.   Will the instructors fit the dynamics of the adult learners?  Will the instructor be up to date with the material covered and will it be contextual?  The matter is not to answer, “Who is available,” but to answer, “Who is best available for this context?”

Third, the FD needs to evaluate the whole process for improvement and accountability.  Like many church Christmas program, the church exerts so much energy in the weeks leading up to the program, yet hardly spends the equivalent time on the back side (follow up) of the program.  The trainings and workshops are only a initial point of contact to the adult learners.  The evaluation process will being after the event itself to determine if the overall goal was achieved — changed behavior.

Fourth, the FD is also both a teacher and learner.  The FD is at times required to provide training and instruction.  They must have some areas of expertise to teach and coach the adult learners.  With limited budget, the FD might even be the sole provider of instruction to the institution.  In all cases, the FD must be a learner as well.  They would have to submit themselves of learning though books and external training venues to sharpen their skills.

Finally, the FD must play a politician to negotiate in and out of stake holders and constituents within and outside the organization.   Politicians leverage benefits by giving and taking resources through their contacts.  In an open network or closed institution, many parties exist with alternative motives, which usually benefit themselves and their constituents.  The FD, with their own agenda, must lobby among these parties to levy the limited resources of personnel and finances. The good politicians know that not every battle can be won. Building social capital would mean building a lasting, viable faculty developmental program.

The mission and roles described are not exhaustive of what is to be expected, but should lay down a foundational ground work of the FD’s primary objectives in creating this new culture of growth.  Personally for me, I am in the pre-planning stages of an actual assignment to develop such a huge task for the National Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship – a network of churches in America.  I commit my time with a group of individuals to cast this vision of developing better, healthier church leaders and teachers.

Adults can Learn!

In recent years, more attention has been placed on the Adult  Learning principles. Lawler & King (2000) published a book on  developing better faculty based on the Adult Learning Theories.  Backed with research, they delineated 6 key principles to integrate when teaching adults (p21):
  1. Create a Climate of Respect
  2. Encourage Active Participation
  3. Build on Experiences
  4. Employ Collaborative inquiry
  5. Learn for Action
  6. Empower Participants
At the end of the day, adults  are stimulated to learn when they can contribute to the class “pot of knowledge”.
Because there is a difference in how children and adults learn, we must differentiate which methods will work best in each context.  Rarely do adults sit down and read a thick manual to learn everything about how a new DVD player works; rather, they usually pick up the manual when ther’s a problem to solve.  More precisilely, adults read the specific section they need in order to fix wahatver is borken or to acoomplish a task, such as recording from one disc to another.
Since Adults are often unmotivated to learn facts in a vacuum, a skillful teacher will create a context of learning.  Some research suggests that adults are motivated by problem solving or addressing an issue of concern, especially when the stakes are high – most adults are highly motivated to find a SOLUTION.  For instance, a Christian who ordinarily has little interest in in-depth Bible Study may become motivated to research what Scripture says about marriage and divorce when facing the possibility of divorce.
In the church context, before adults will be motivated to study a topic, they typically need to understand the problem that needs to be addressed.  We are much more motivated when we have a clear NEED TO KNOW, so a good educational approach with adults will “problematize” the issues and help learners see what is at stake.  (adapted from Leadership Baton, pg 194)

For more details on Adult Learning Theory, check out this site:

Christian Worldview and Philosophy to Education

Do you see the world from God's point of view?

Every Teacher must develop a philosophy to education. On any application, speaking engagement, personal interview, or casual conversation – people will ask what makes your teaching style distinct from the rest?  As a Christian, unequivocally, we must stand firm in the truth of God’s Truth.

Creating a personal philosophy for education will benefit in several ways:

1.  A Christ Centered plan for curriculum and lesson planning.
2.  A purifying filter for all content used in your teaching environment
3.  Appropriate pedagogical methods for the students.
4.  A living example of the teacher mentor to the impressionable student.
The list above is not exhaustive.  Those who are seriously considering teaching as a profession would be wise to create a one pager describing their teaching philosophy, preferably one that has a perspective from the Master Teacher himself, Jesus Christ.

My Philosophy to Education:

I am reminded of my first class in my doctoral studies, Philosophical issues in educational studies.  I wish I can submit my personalized diagram of William Frankena’s 5 Boxes for a model of Christian Philosophy of Education.  First, I believe in the Creator, the Triune God who created reality, both material and immaterial.  Second, through His creation, He reveals His absolute Truths to man so that we can come to know Him more.  Third, He created man in His own image with the abilities to rationally think, experience, and communicate to Him and others.  Finally, God actively works with man’s pursuit for the excellent life; he grows in mental capacities and cultivates good character so that from his inner desire, he seeks to please God through his life.

As a Christian Educator, I must always remember this foundational Christian worldview.  I am to aid the student in realizing his purpose in accordance to God’s redemptive plan for his life.  Whether the student becomes a doctor or an engineer, he is to pursue his academic studies and career with excellence in mind so that the student will have an impact for God’s Kingdom.  My objective with the student is to prepare him for the world where he can directly engage his employer, colleagues, and ministry intelligently and, most importantly, spiritually.  Christian students should be encouraged to elevate to the top of their profession, wherever it may be, and indirectly reveal the power that works within them, who gave them a Christian mind to excel.  Through their life, their character shines bright before their colleagues, so “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mat 5:16).

Because I believe so deeply in a Christian Worldview that is counter to our relativist culture, I attended graduate studies in the disciplines of Education and Leadership at evangelical seminaries of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Biola’s Talbot Seminary.   I highly value a classroom environment where God is always present; students exist in an interpersonal community of learning; and teachers guide the student to find their calling through academic engagement.  In addition, I enjoyed the professors who encouraged me to critically think and make a stance on my own convictions.  I was not manipulated into conforming to their core beliefs, but rather promoted to participating with God through learning foundational truths.

Finally, the teaching methods of choice would be mixed and diverse.  All discoveries lead to the wonderful truth of God’s perfect design.  Almost all the time, practical application will be encouraged outside of the classroom so the student will have a chance to practice his newly found insights within an open system.  A holistic integration of practical experiences will accompany the theoretical classroom lessons.  I also value the importance of a personal mentoring relationship with the student and teacher. The teacher is not only concerned about the student’s academic achievements, but also looks to create opportunities where the student can easily seek out his teacher as a mentor for guidance in life challenges.  Although this might not be realistic to accommodate a huge classroom, every effort on the teacher should be made to cultivate this nurturing environment.

All these values and goals can only be achieved by the working power of our Triune God.  Jesus Christ is the master model teacher seen biblically in scriptures, and the Holy Spirit illuminates the teacher and student in their journey together in discovering truth.

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