The Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning at Calvin College has launched a project focusing on the integration of spiritual practices into the Christian classroom. 

The three-year project, titled "From Christian Practices to Christian Pedagogy," is funded by $56,000 from the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith.

The aim is to go beyond pedagogy that merely conveys information.

"Christian teaching and learning has sometimes meant having Christian theories and telling students about them," said Kuyers Institute director David Smith, a Calvin professor of German and Asian languages. "You can be doing Christian content, but not attending enough to how the way you are teaching influences learners."

"We're trying to get Christian educators to think about education as formation," said Calvin professor of philosophy Jamie Smith, who co-leads the project with David Smith.

The grant will convene a team of 10 colleagues—four from other institutions— representing such disciplines as political science, biology and history.  The group will engage in a first year of shared study, culminating in a summer seminar.

In the second year of the project, each of the group members will work toward incorporating a specific Christian practice into his or her course.

The two Smiths hope that the project will also foster a greater sense of community in the classroom.

"Too much of our Christian teaching and learning hasn't gotten down to the idea of how to be together in a classroom," said David Smith. "I found at the end of my first semester at Calvin that students could sit in my class all semester and not know the name of the student next to them—because the important thing is the grade. Some students displayed little sense of responsibility for whether or not another student fails."

The two leaders of the project—which will culminate in a national conference and a book—hope to have a significant impact on Christian higher education.

"We think there is a lot at stake in a Christian college," said Jamie Smith. "We often emphasize that we're not Michigan State. We're different. But what makes us different isn't just a different set of ideas. At stake is also why we teach and how we teach."

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