Barbara’s text a first for teachers

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brenton Stacey
Public relations officer
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

An Avondale College lecturer has given teachers planning to work in Australia’s Christian, Protestant schools their own textbook to help share faith development with students.

Barbara Fisher with husband Colin at the launch of her new book, Developing a Faith-based Education: A Teacher’s Manual. Credit: Trent McCrow

For more than a decade, Barbara Fisher, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education, created additional resources for students in religious curriculum studies classes because she could not find an appropriate, relevant and locally informed textbook. The frustration led to Barbara writing Developing a Faith-based Education: A Teacher’s Manual (David Barlow Publishing).

The textbook is particularly for pre-service early childhood and primary teachers. It is significant because it is: the first supporting Christian, Protestant spirituality and faith formation in an Australian setting; the first of its kind written by a Seventh-day Adventist in the South Pacific—the book includes references to the new Bible curriculum for the church’s primary and secondary schools in Australia and New Zealand; and the first written by staff in the faculty and published commercially.

This raises Avondale’s profile, said vice-president (administration and research) Dr Vivienne Watts during the launch in Avondale Library on Wednesday (April 28). However, the ideas in the book about the role of a faith-based teacher were a more significant contribution, she added. Vivienne quoted from an article in the Journal of Christian Education that described the philosophy of Czech educational reformer and religious leader John Amos Comenius. He believed all education had faith at its core and all teachers were faith-based educators. “It is the teacher’s unenviable task to lead students in this direction,” said Vivienne. “This book provides a significant tool to help teachers with this task.”

Developing a Faith-based Education: A Teacher’s Manual is in three sections: section one provides an understanding of a Christian worldview; section two provides an understanding of how to teach a faith-based education; and section three provides the skills to teach a faith-based education. Chapters include propositions for debates, questions for group discussion and for personal reflection and questions a teacher may set for assessment tasks such as a book report or research essay.

Grandchildren Jessica and Luke Grey offer their congratulations. Credit: Ann Stafford

“You balance well the conceptual and the applied dimensions of the book, making it realistic and practical,” writes Dr Humberto Rasi in an email to Barbara. Humberto, who coordinates special projects for the worldwide Adventist Church, may produce a Spanish translation of the book.

Paul Marks describes the book as compulsory reading for those who want to be Christian educators not just educators who are Christian. Paul is a former student of Barbara’s who is now head of junior school at Wyong Christian Community School. “It is a God-inspired, multi-denominational manual for best practice in Christian education,” he wrote in a letter read during the launch.

The launch ended with two prayers. Dr Barry Hill, director of Adventist education for the Adventist Church in the South Pacific, prayed during the dedication for God to send his Holy Spirit “into classes and into lives” and to “work with this book to do Your will.” Then two of the three contributing authors, Bev Christian and Sandra Ludlow, unveiled the book, asking those attending to add their prayers for its success.

Barbara thanked her students for contributing to the book’s publication. “Their courage in sharing the challenges of sustaining a personal, dynamic Christian experience in the 21st century is admirable,” she said.

Developing a Faith-based Education: A Teacher’s Manual is available from the Avondale bookshop for $49.95. Phone (02) 4980 2141.