The Practicing Faith Survey is a tool to help Christian schools understand their impact on students’ faith formation and look for ways to improve, and to help students in those schools to explore their calling as Christian students. The survey is anonymous and online; it will ask students about their learning practices and it will offer some feedback to help them grow as a learner.
- Why are students being asked to take this survey?
The Practicing Faith Survey helps faith-based schools to assess their impact on students’ faith formation. This is important for several reasons. In today’s data-driven climate, Christian schools need evidence that shows the value of their work. Teachers need evidence of how students are growing so that they can improve their teaching. As a parent, you need grounds for confidence that your school is really accomplishing what it claims to accomplish. Academic grades are only one part of this picture, and don’t tell us about students’ spiritual growth. The Practicing Faith Survey helps schools to collect information about other areas of student growth that are vital to their mission.
- Who is behind this survey?
The survey is not based in a specific church denomination or group of Christian schools. The research that guided the development of the survey was carried out by the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning at Calvin University and Cardus, an education think tank in Canada, in collaboration with scholars at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Arkansas. The survey was developed and tested in collaboration with a range of different Christian schools. The questions were tried out with over 2000 students in order to examine whether they were clear and valid. While several organizations cooperated to create the survey, your student’s responses are not stored in the site and remain anonymous.
- Who can see my child's answers? Can I get hold of them?
Unless they choose to share them, only students will be able to see their individual answers. Teachers and school administrators will only see overall trends in how all students in the school responded. Individual answers are not saved anywhere— each individual student’s answers are deleted from the site once they are done with the survey. We would certainly encourage you to talk with your student about the survey. Ask them what they learned about themselves, what surprised them, whether they spotted any areas in which they would like to grow, and how you can support them. But we also strongly recommend that you do not pressure them to share specific responses if they are uncomfortable doing so.
- Why can't I or my student's teacher see their individual answers?
There are two concerns here: getting good information and supporting students’ learning. When we take surveys about things that are important or personal to us, especially in areas where we might feel at all ashamed or inadequate, we are likely to answer less honestly if we think someone else is looking over our shoulder. If students know that their teachers or parents will see their answers, they are more likely to give answers that they think will conform to expectations, even if those answers are not quite strictly true. That reduces our ability to trust and learn from the overall results. It also reduces the opportunity for the student to learn through genuine reflection on how they are currently doing. The school will see and be able to share some overall trends. But at the individual level, this survey will only work well if individual students can answer anonymously.
- What will the survey ask about?
This survey does not ask students what they believe or about their spiritual experiences. It is not a test of orthodoxy. Beliefs matter, but Christianity and Christian education are about more than beliefs and devotions. This survey focuses on how students are approaching their calling as students in the context of a Christian school. It asks them about their learning practices as these relate to Christian beliefs and values. It explores how students are engaging in practices that relate their learning to knowing God, caring for others, serving wider needs, reflecting on their own motives, and seeking truth. This focus on practices makes it possible to offer feedback to students and teachers about practices that could be strengthened in the school.
- What if my student is not a committed Christian?
People choose Christian schools for many reasons, and not every student or parent in a Christian school is necessarily a committed believer. This particular survey does not ask students what they believe or about their spiritual experiences. It does not grade them or given them a pass or fail. Instead, it focuses on their learning practices as these relate to Christian beliefs and values. The survey asks students to answer honestly so as to help them learn about their own learning. It does not push them toward specific responses or specific beliefs, but instead helps them build a map of how they are invested right now in the school’s learning practices. Any student should be able to answer the questions and get useful feedback, wherever they are in their faith journey.
- How can I help?
The survey is designed to help students to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to five areas of Christian practice. These five areas focus on knowing God, caring for others in the school community, seeking truth, discerning our motives, and serving the needs of the wider world. Encourage your student to answer the questions honestly, and do not pressure them to share answers they don’t want to. Talk with them after the survey. You could talk to them about how you think you are doing in those five areas of Christian practice and compare notes. Ask them what they learned about themselves, what surprised them, whether they spotted any areas in which they would like to grow, and how you can support them. Consider committing to an intentional practice as a family in an area where growth seems needed.
- What will I learn about my school?
While individual student responses will be anonymous, the school will have access to information on overall trends in student responses. This will help them to target areas where teachers can invest more intensively to support student learning. The survey is not a way of grading the school as a whole. Schools are complex, and no single measurement can tell us how good a school is as a whole. Use the survey as an occasion to ask your students’ teachers and school leaders about how they are investing in practices that help your student grow in faith.