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Collaborative Teaching Promotes Deep Learning

A decade ago, the U.S. church world was alive with the excitement of the Rotational Model of Sunday School, which emphasized an interdisciplinary, collaborative method of teaching Bible lessons. In the Rotation Model, different classrooms were set up to teach the week's Bible lesson in a different way; for example, one classroom might teach a Christian song on the liberation of Hebrew slaves from Egyptian captivity; a second classroom might be set up like a scene from the story where children act out the passage, and a third room might show a short video highlighting the route the Hebrews took across the Red Sea.

In 2014, some public schools have taken the multi-disciplinary approach to teaching even further, fully integrating arts into education to help children learn kinesthetically: "Here," says instructional resource teacher Ann Ramsay, about programs at Douglas Elementary in Raleigh, NC, "if students learn through music, if they learn through movement, if they learn visually or spatially, if we have everybody working together with the curriculum, then the opportunity for that child to learn is greatly increased." The program's success has been shown in 40 North Carolina schools, like Rochelle Middle where, in 2009, the principal's office received nearly 2,000 discipline referrals, but after a year with the new program, referrals dropped below 200. Furthermore, writes Joyce Clark Hicks in an article on Faith & Leadership, an online resource from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, "The staff is energized. And thanks to outreach initiatives like Parent Night, parents are more engaged, too. Test scores at the school are also improving, with reading and math scores up from an overall proficiency of 29 percent in 2007 to 53 percent in 2013." The key is regularly scheduled opportunities for teachers to reach across disciplines to identify diverse ways to impart educational lessons to their students. Deep integration across disciplines creates students who interact with one another and the subject matter with deep engagement. Read the article for more on how to teach collaboratively and build collaborative teaching teams. A second article highlights key suggestions for successful teacher collaboration. Here are additional resources for creative teaching in Sunday School from the Center for Congregations, an online resource for worship communities. For more research on religious education, read our feature article, "Best Resources on Religious Education."

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