Monday, September 17, 2012

Education and Evaluation – Part I – From IOTA to INSTROTEACH

With so much in the news about the Chicago Teachers’ strike, politicized criticism of teachers, increased testing of students, the evaluation of teachers by student test results, the decline of public schools and the quality of traditional education today, I decided that I needed to think about these things. I am not an educator per se, but I have my qualifications. I taught in the Chicago Public Schools, 1968-69. After seminary, in 1975, I attended a week long “Teaching Skills Institute” run by the National Education Teacher Project of Scottsdale AZ, also known as the Arizona Experiment. The teacher was Locke E. Bowman, Jr. I still have 3 booklets from the event: 70 Cues for Teachers, by Bowman, The role of the Teacher in the Church: 5 Areas of Competence, and The Evaluation of Teaching Effectiveness in the Church. These booklets were produced by “INSTROTEACH,” an acronym for "INSTRument for the Observation of TEaching Activities in the CHurch." A point I hope to make is that educators in the '60's did ground-breaking and good work that seems to have been lost and forgotten. Perhaps it was only cast aside as thousands of new education academics made new studies, invented new theories, and developed new programs, not necessarily better.

The next month I became an assistant pastor at a large church in Duluth MN and immersed myself in church education. I became the chair of the Christian Education Committee of the Council of Churches. My pal was Fr. Lloyd Mudrack, who oversaw the best church resource library I ever saw. We brought INSTROTEACH to Duluth and taught church teachers to teach all around town for three years. Then I went to New Jersey and found my interests in urban problems and the peace movement. Later in the ‘90's I became Associate for Professional Development for the PCUSA and oversaw some materials and programs that related to the workshop I took in ‘75. More about that later.

These three booklets I have are rare. You can find mention of them online, but only a handful of libraries possess even a single copy. Here is what I have learned in recent weeks about them, their origin, and what I was taught in 1975:

Lucien B. Kinney taught education at Stanford. With some colleagues he developed IOTA, “Instructional Observation of Teacher Activities.” This evaluation tool grew out of the publication Teacher Competence: Its Nature and Scope by the California Teachers Association. It became widely used in California, Arizona, and other parts of the west. Kinney and his cohorts listed 123 things a good teacher does. They categorized them in 7 roles:
     1. Director of Learning.
     2. Counselor and Advisor.
     3. Mediator of the Culture.
     4. Link with the Public.
     5. Member of the Faculty.
     6. Member of the Teaching Profession.
     7. Member of an Academic Discipline.
There were 28 teaching activities or scales, each of which included five levels of teacher performance. 13 scales were used in classroom observation and 15 graded by teacher responses in an interview.

R. Merwin Deever taught at Arizona State. His work with IOTA led him into a group that was concerned with teacher education in the churches. It is difficult to imagine today the great works that were undertaken in the post WWII years by the churches in the area of education. I reprint here an letter by Locke Bowman Jr. explaining this. The letter is published online by Tom Rightmyer, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Tom says “Dr. Bowman retired in 2002 as the Executive Secretary of the General Board of Examining Chaplains of the Episcopal Church and Administrator of the General Ordination Examination. I served as a staff member of the General Board and assisted in writing, administering, and evaluating student responses to the Examination from 1990 to 2002. [I think I saw a notice of Locke’s death in 2011.]

Dear Tom:
        Here is what I would say to the person who directed a query to you about  church education 1945-1950+. This was a time of great ferment in all the Protestant churches. The Continental theologies had begun to affect seriously the curricula of all the theological seminaries, so that names like Barth, Brunner (Emil), Tillich, and Niebuhr were on everyone's lips, it seemed.
        The Presbyterians were the pioneers in developing teaching materials for use in the churches that would reflect the best educational theories and also focus seriously on theology. After a famous Long Island conference of leaders in the Church, they launched the "Christian Faith and Life" curriculum, sub-titled "A Program for Church and Home." This material was hailed by the New York Times education editor as the most significant publishing venture in the "history of Christendom." Hardback books for students were produced, and magazines were published for use jointly by parents in their homes and teachers in church classrooms. The curriculum was organized in a three-year cycle: Jesus Christ, Bible, and Church. The underpinning for this approach was Karl Barth's dogmatic, focusing on "the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ; the Word revealed in Holy Scripture; and the Word proclaimed and lived in the Church." 
Educational methodology was pedagogical--a serious teacher-student encounter focused on content. The Faith and Life curriculum appeared in 1948, and it was a huge success financially. Large numbers of Episcopal congregations purchased the materials. The curriculum, continually revised, continued until 1970 when it was replaced by a new approach called "Christian Faith and Action" (now superceded by other efforts).
        The Episcopalians watched the Presbyterian developments with keen interest and began to explore the idea of a national curriculum produced in New York. A series of false starts delayed their work, but finally the General Convention directed that work should begin. By 1957, the Seabury Series had appeared. (The Seabury Press was established specifically for the purpose of publishing the curriculum.) The Series also featured student books, some of them hardbacks, and there were classroom materials for teachers and students. The theology behind the
material was primarily Tillichian. 
        Emphasis was on combining theological reflection with a focus on group process. Churches were required to engage in training before the materials could be used. A typical class group would include a teaching team and a process observer. Emphasis was placed also on combining the educational ministry with the developing "family services" in Episcopal parishes. Growing suburban congregations were special targets of this approach.
        The Seabury Series fell into disuse in the 1970s and was not replaced. Seabury Press struggled along until about 1986 when it went out of business also. This was the Episcopal Church's first and last venture into national curriculum production. In 1985 an effort began to study Christian education in the church, and a task group reported to the General Convention in 1988. No recommendations were made concerning curriculum.
        The period after World War II also brought other churches into the discussions of effective Christian education--especially the Methodists, the Lutherans, and other denominations. [Southern Baptists continued to be the largest producers and consumers of teaching materials, but they marched to their own drummer and had little to do with any ecumenical efforts.] The Roman Catholics were in the Dark Ages until after Vatican II when they came to life after the American bishops issued a paper, "To Teach As Jesus Did." That resulted in modern curricular efforts that looked much like the Presbyterian and Episcopal efforts of earlier decades.
        Regrettably, few books are extant that reflect adequately the whole ferment of the post-World War II period. I would, however, recommend that these authors be explored: Randolph Crump Miller, distinguished professor of religious education at Yale Divinity School, who wrote extensively in the 1950s. As a priest of the Church, he epitomized Episcopal thinking at the time. Another seminal book widely read and earnestly discussed was "The Church Must Teach or Die," by James Smart (first editor in chief of the Presbyterian Faith and Life venture). These two authors and their bibliographies will lead any serious student to the heart of the issues for that post-War era.
        Hoping to be helpful, I remain sincerely,
        Locke E. Bowman, Jr., Professor  of Christian Education emeritus, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria.

My spouse and I both grew up with Christian Faith and Life, and fought to keep Christian Faith and Action when it was attacked in the ‘70's. Books by Miller and Smart had places on my bookshelves. I would like to see the Seabury Series – Tillich appeals to me more than Barth. I also welcome any additional information on this history of these developments. I still need to describe INSTROTEACH, the work of Ned A. Flanders, and the work of the old Vocations Agency of the UPCUSA.

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