ACSI Newsletter Issue 3, 2021

 A S S O C I A T I O N O F C H R I S T I A N S C H O O L S I N T E R N A T I O N A L / I S S U E 3 / 2 0 2 1 


Christian Education Snippets
A Word of Encouragement
2021 Calendar
Conference Update
Paths to School Improvement
Teachers’ Resources
Prayer Pointers

Christian Education Snippets

(Kevin Ricquebourg)


Dear Colleagues,

In September 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1, a 722- kilogram robotic spacecraft on a mission to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. By November 1980 the spacecraft had completed its primary mission and reverted to its secondary task – that of investigating the boundaries of the Solar System. Still travelling at 64,000 km/hr Voyager was at that stage the most distant human-made object from Earth and the first one to leave the Solar System. Having been in operation for 43 years, nine months and 21 days as of 26 June 2021, it was anticipated that it would have powered down well before that date. As the spacecraft was about to leave our solar system and head out into deep space it was decided to take one last picture of the earth before it became invisible. The wireless command to take the photograph was accordingly sent by NASA on February 14, 1990. Because of the vast distances involved it would take 5 ½ hours for the signal to reach Voyager 1. When it did so, its two cameras turned and faced backwards for the last time. There were many concerns at the time that it was not a wise thing to take the photograph as the proximity of the spacecraft to the sun might damage the workings of the cameras and also use up quite a lot of the craft’s remaining power. Nevertheless, the picture was taken and relayed back to NASA. The result was the picture at the top of the previous page. Can you see the Earth? It appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, approximately 6 billion kilometres away, almost halfway up the brown band on the right. After taking the picture the mission managers commanded Voyager 1 to power its cameras down as it would need all its reserves for the long journey into interstellar space.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

When Carl Sagan, a 20th-century astronomer and atheist saw the picture he said, “We live on an insignificant planet, of a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of the universe. … We float in this immense cosmos, like a moat of dust in the morning sky.”

And yet… that is our home! That is where everyone that we know and love lives. That is where our children and grandchildren live. It is where we will die and be buried (unless Jesus comes before then!) It is where all the dictators who ever lived have spent hours and hours dreaming up ways of conquering the Earth which, from the vantage point of Voyager, measures 1/10 of a pixel in diameter! Let’s look at it from another angle.

If you went out and stood on your front lawn and looked up into the sky while Voyager took another photograph of the earth – would you recognise yourself in the photograph? Of course not! You would be smaller than an atom! And yet, notwithstanding the immensity of our God who fills the whole universe, He has thoughts about you today – in fact lots of them!

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139:17-18

This is the God who gives us our significance. He sent His Son to that pale blue dot where He lived a sinless life as one of us and then died… for us! In these actions he gave us two immense gifts. In His death he paid the penalty for our sins and He removed our guilt. His sinless life is His gift to us – it is what God will see on the day of judgement when every thought and deed of ours is weighed in the balance – and found wanting! He sees the perfect life of Christ lived on our behalf and He opens his arms wide and welcomes us in as the apple of His eye! (Psalm 17:8)

K.M. Ricquebourg

(ACSI-Zimbabwe Coordinator)


I have been reflecting much on what it means to be a Christian  teacher  and  how  to  ensure  that  Christian Education  becomes  a  reality  in  our  classrooms,  and into the lives of our students. At the start of our recent school holidays, I ran a workshop for a small mission school on laying Biblical foundations, and stressed the importance  of  the  daily,  dogged,  discipline  of  being intentional at hiding God’s Word in our hearts, and the hearts of our students. How do we do this? We know that to be a good teacher, we first need to be a good learner/student.  And  so,  we  need  to  ensure  that  we make  time  everyday  to  be  in  God’s  Word,  learning from  it,  meditating  upon  it,  wrestling  with  it,  and obeying it.

Today, mark out your day, prioritising time with Jesus in His Word. Be still. Think deeply. Ponder upon the Truth. Tomorrow, do the same. Each day, make time for reading God’s Word and listening to His voice.

In  an  interesting  article  by  Erik  Raymond,  aimed  at pastors and teachers of the Word, he talks about how to  not  become  bland  and  boring,  reminding  us  how pastors work hard to get the sermon into their souls, and  then  process  it  into  practical  meat  for  the  ears, minds and souls of their congregants. Erik takes us to the   words   of   Jesus   in   Luke   6:45   where   Jesus comments,  “out  of  the  abundance  of  the  heart,  the mouth  speaks”.  What  comes  out  of  our  mouths  as teachers  is  precisely  what  is  filling  our  minds  and hearts  throughout  the  day/week.  Think  about  that. That   is   what   makes   Christian   education   real.   The abundance of God’s Goodness and His truth as it fills our hearts and minds and translates into every part of our   lives   and   oozes   out   into   our   lessons,   and classrooms like a fresh fragrance, an aroma of Christ, as our Lord and Saviour. As Creator and King.

As you embark on another term, a cold term, a term that still threatens covid and possible lockdowns and mixed learning and teaching opportunities, may you take courage in your calling. May you hear your name and call from God, who when asked by Moses how he could do the job that God called him to do of leading His people out of slavery, God said, “I am with you”.

When Joshua questioned how he was to conquer Jericho, God said, “I am with you”. The “I am”, is with you today, tomorrow and each day of this coming term. Be bold and courageous, and walk in obedience to His Word, delighting in it. We are praying for you and with you. Every Monday morning, we gather as a board and pray. We meditate on God’s Word and use it to direct our prayers and thoughts for you. God is faithful. May you be the  aroma  of Christ in your classroom, the abundance of God’s Word bubbling forth from your mouth in ALL your lessons and interactions.

We   look   forward   to   bringing   you some   great   teaching   and   learning opportunities in August/September through   our   online   conference,   “A Lifetime of Learning to Live for God’s Glory”. Refer to details further on.

Blessings in and through Christ in Education,

Sarah Cross (Chairperson)


Celebration International School Eaglesvale Junior School Eaglesvale Senior School Gateway High School

Gateway Primary School Karanda Primary School Lendy Park School Maranatha Group of Schools Midlands Christian School Midlands Christian College Millennial Academy

Mutarazi Junior School Rainbow Pre-School Southern Lights Trust Success Tutorial College




June: Tuesday 1st (11:00am) : ACSI Zimbabwe Board Meeting


July: Commences Friday 9th Online course: Theology of Christian Education

Gateway Christian Training College

July: Friday 16th Introduction to PSI (for interested participants) (POSTPONED)

July : Friday 30th Workshop: A Biblical Perspective of School Interactions – with pupils and fellow staff members Gateway Christian Training College

August : Fridays 13th /20th /27th Weekly releases – online Christian Educators’


September: Friday 3rd Final release – online Christian Educators’ Conference

September: Thurs 9th to Saturday 18th PSI Training – Candidate Trainees and Cohort 2



October: Tuesday 12th (11:00am) ACSI Zimbabwe Board Meeting

November Global Leadership Summit

November Grade 7 Pupil Leadership Workshop

Gateway Primary School (tbc)

The ACSI Paths to School Improvement (PSI) is a strategy to accomplish resourcing as many schools as possible through a school improvement process.

For more information: email info@acsi.co.zw or

Tel: +263 786 031 794

Involves a two-year commitment to training, undertaken during school holidays by Heads, and then actioned throughout the term. There is a cost involved. The process of improvement continues as a lifelong commitment by the school.

The  advantage  of  this  programme  is  that  you  walk the continual process in partnership/relationship with other  schools,  building  a  community  committed  to improving Christian Education through Zimbabwe and Africa.


“The myth about leadership is that it’s a solitary act.”

In  Numbers  11,  Moses  is  exhausted,  aggravated  and  complaining  to  the  Lord  about  the  burden  of leadership. “I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! …Just kill me!” I’m sure as leaders we have all had days where we feel like Moses. (Maybe we are having them right now!) How did God respond? He said to gather other recognized leaders who would be able to take some of the load, so Moses would not have to carry everything by himself.

If you’re going to be a leader, you have to be a leader that makes it possible for other people to lead. You may find that God has put you in place of leadership, but He didn’t do it to turn you into a controlling, stressed  out,  loner.  We  were  created  for  relationships,  and  leadership  is  all  about  relationships. leadership is influence and influence requires a relationship. We have goals, desires, and a vision of what we would like to see happen. But be assured…if it is a God given vision, you will work best when sharing the vision with other godly people who walk with you as co-laborers. Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 Sure, you might be the original “visionary” but I appreciate the quote, “Leaders, prepare for your departure.” It’s a process: We need mentors, and must mentor others, serving and strengthening them to become serving leaders.

Who are you leading? Or rather: Who are you with? Who is alongside of you on the journey?  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2: 2-3

Stronger Together! Brian (For the PSI Team)

Paths to School Improvement / Programme d’Amélioration Scolaire

A Program of / Un programme de: Association of Christian Schools International

If we’ve learned anything as a country throughout our history, it’s that the ways we see leaders leading in times of crisis will define legacies, often determining whether one is reviled or revered. This is because times of crisis expose the heart and skills (or lack thereof) in leaders much faster than times of peace and prosperity.

In churches, in families, and in work environments of all kinds, true leaders can pull people together in spite of the chaos that swirls around them. Here are 5 C’s that leaders need to provide in times of crisis.

  1. Calm

Resisting the urge to panic in a crisis is critical for leaders. That’s how a leader lays a foundation for everything else to follow. By remaining calm, a leader is able to think, analyze, problem-solve, and communicate more effectively. Calm is not the absence of fear, but the presence of mind to set fear aside and focus on what’s important.

  1. Compassion

When we lose our ability to see the humanity in others, we begin to lose our grip on our morals and ethics. Having compassion for the hurting and the suffering is also important for leaders in prioritizing resources and vulnerabilities in a time of crisis. To ignore suffering is to undercut the power of self-sacrificial love.

  1. Clarity

Judgment and understanding quickly can be clouded in a crisis by a barrage of thoughts, emotions, and questions. It’s imperative for leaders to be able to clear the mental clutter, and deal with what is known and what can be done, instead of what is unknown and out of one’s control. Just pausing to breathe and simply asking “What do we know and what can we do?” is a good start to clarity.

  1. Creativity

Great leaders can accomplish what seems impossible in times of crisis, often because they are able to find creative ways to solve problems. Untold thousands of pages have been written on Abraham Lincoln’s navigation of the Civil War, recounting how he continually and creatively adapted to the resources and strengths of even his greatest rivals. A creative mind can find unexpected solutions.

  1. Calculation

In football, you often hear the winning coach talk after a game about the importance of halftime adjustments. In a crisis, a true leader doesn’t stay on autopilot but continuously takes in new information to calculate and recalculate the potential paths through the situation. Leadership is not just setting a gameplan for a potential crisis; it’s assessing and changing that gameplan in the middle of a crisis when the calculations call for adjustments.

I hope this list gives you some ideas of how to evaluate leaders in your life and inspires us to become better in every context of leadership.

Source:http://www.markmerrill.com/leading-in-times-of-crisis utm_term=markmerrill&utm_campaign=MM%20Blog%20Post&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=123656015&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-




Re-commencement of PSI (Paths to School Improvement) training

Schools who are currently part of PSI as they implement what they are learning;

Implementation of PSI App (Local Host Partner); ACSI Zimbabwe Advisory Board;

Sean Moore as Director of ACSI Southern Africa and his leadership and mentoring role of schools in SA during these challenging times;

ACSI Zimbabwe Members Schools: – those who are facing financial and other challenges;

State schooling system;

Preparation for online Christian Educators’ Conference in August; Protection for our communities, schools and families from Covid 19

If you have something to share, specific prayer requests or response to

any article, please contact us :


If you would like to receive latest news from ACSI Southern Africa please notify by email to


If you would like to enquire about membership of ACSI Zimbabwe please contact the office for details : info@acsi.co.zw or acsizimbabwe@gmail.com or call +263 786 031 794

Membership Categories are as follows:

  1. INDIVIDUAL:($10 per term)
  2. SCHOOL:(0.50c per pupil per term)
  3. ASSOCIATE: $50 per term (for churches / business organisations)

How to Effectively Lead a Multi-Generational Staff

Tania Lennon of the Hay Group, an international corporate leadership development consulting company, published an excellent study on the multigenerational workforce. Her team studied over 2,500 executives around the world spanning five generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. Members from each group were asked about what they valued in the workplace. As it turns out, there were quite a few differences in answers between the generations:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1928-1944): “Value authority and a top-down management approach; hard working; ‘be heroic.’”
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1945-1964): “Expect some degree of deference to their opinions; workaholics; ‘be anything you want to be’; ‘eternal youth—retirement as freedom.’”
  • Generation X (born between 1965-1979): “Comfortable with authority; want to be listened to; will work as hard as needed; ‘don’t count on it’; ‘take care of yourself’; importance of work life balance.”
  • Generation Y (born between 1980-1994): “Respect must be earned. ‘You are special’; ‘achieve now’; technologically savvy; goal and achievement oriented.”
  • Generation Z (born from 1995 and on): “Many traits still to emerge. Digital natives, fast decision makers, highly connected.”

So what does this corporate study have to do with educational institutions? A lot. In John Ortberg’s 2009 Christianity Today article, he retells the 2 Chronicles 10 story of Rehoboam taking over his father’s flock and says, “…it is striking that even in the Bible, one of the ways that human community becomes disrupted is the generational divide. If the generational divide was a gap then, it is a canyon now.”

The generational canyon Ortberg refers to in 2009 is now the Grand Canyon of staffing issues in 2020. Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, leaving Generation X in the valley of the canyon as the smallest generation in the workforce, according to Pew Research.

In a Vanderbloemen Academy lesson on this subject, William Vanderbloemen discusses what he calls the “double-humped camel” problem in our current workforce, often causing friction on leadership teams. He describes this reality: there are more Baby Boomers and Millennials in the workforce than Gen X, which is why developing multigenerational leadership skills is becoming increasingly vital to leaders. Those who can hone their multigenerational leadership skills will be best equipped to serve their teams by fostering personal leadership growth, clearly identifying a vision that everyone can follow, and executing a mission in a way that has everyone on board.

In our work with Christian organizations around the world, we continually hear two primary challenges that leaders face when it comes to staffing: one, help us find high-capacity staff members from the different generations we need represented in our organization; and two, help us foster unity on our team across generations and develop them as leaders who can serve together.

The familiar tone we hear from Baby Boomer leaders sounds like this, “I’m so frustrated with the Millennials on our team. They’re lazy and unmotivated.” And what do we typically hear from Millennial leaders? “I’m so frustrated with the Baby Boomers on our team. They’re resistant to change and out of touch with how the world is changing.”

Reviewing the aforementioned Hay Group report, however, we see that our different generations might be more similar than we realize, particularly when it comes to expectations in the workplace. The report found that five themes emerge as being most important to people on staff in an organization, regardless of their age:

  1. Focus on customers and external stakeholders
  2. Focus on execution
  3. Teamwork
  4. Decision-making
  5. Planning and organizing

Lennon writes, “These priorities reflect the challenges of managing in today’s matrixed and network organizations. A deft blend of drive, working with others, and external focus is seen to be key to leadership success.” So the challenge for us as Christian leaders is this: let’s reflect on our own adaptability and on ourselves as leaders before we blame one generation or another for the silos we see in our organizations and on our teams.

Looking for a starting point? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I lead my individual team members with a one-size-fits-all mentality, or do I differentiate based on the individual?  

Lennon says, “Leaders don’t need to develop generation-specific skills. They should be able to adapt leadership styles to suit the individual.” We love this point because it invites the leader into self-reflection and the consideration of their own responsibility in developing their team members, regardless of the team member’s age. This question applies to both leaders who are leading people older than themselves, as well as younger than themselves. Both pose unique challenges. The reality is that leadership development is not formulaic. Dynamic leadership development should be customized to the individual team member you are leading in each moment.

2. Do I foster opportunities for cross-team and intergenerational collaboration? 

Collaboration is key to creating a contagious staff culture. Silos and cliques cause distrust and tension among teams. Be intentional about creating opportunities for your team to work together, especially if you have teams that have more of one generation represented than another.

Compared to many other types of organizations, your school is uniquely primed for this type of environment. Multiple generations interacting is woven into your very fabric. Do not take this for granted though. Be intentional with how you design interactions. It is one thing to have a multigenerationalschool—but being deliberate with an inter-generational school will create opportunities for everyone to learn and flourish together. Psalm 71:18 speaks of “declaring God’s power to the next generation, God’s mighty acts to all who are to come.” As you consider the development of leaders in your school, there is a responsibility for experienced leaders to invest in your newer leaders—and a richness of rewards when the wisdom of elders is headed.

We also recommend planning multigenerational events outside of work. Plan a staff dinner or game night where your team can get to know each other. You’ll see the productivity on your team skyrocket when they genuinely like each other.

3. Do I have a plan for the future?

Workforce demographics are changing. The number of full-time working Baby Boomers is decreasing, and will sharply decline over the course of the next decade. Your school probably has a significant population of faculty and staff who are beginning to consider retirement. Are you prepared for this?

We recently worked with an institution in this very situation. Writing a new strategic plan coincided with the institution’s accreditation renewal process. They decided to use these two processes to have very deliberate conversations about what tenured faculty might look like in 10 years. They asked questions like: “What is our plan for replacing high-capacity, qualified faculty members in key roles?” “How do we ensure that we will not lose critical institutional memory when certain key figures retire?” and “What will the benefits and drawbacks be if we lean more toward adjunct faculty rather than full-time replacements?” Not all of these questions had immediate answers, but there is great wisdom in performing this exercise.

You may be able to use a similar approach if you are in the midst of strategic planning or in a cycle of institutional review. Or just set aside agenda time to start asking some key questions. Either way, you need to start the conversation.

Moving Ahead

These are just three questions to get you started in reflecting on your self-awareness as a multigenerational leader. Your school likely has a healthy representation across three different generations—it is one of the things that makes academic institutions unique and dynamic. Your intentionality as a multigenerational leader will only continue to increase in importance as you develop your teams.

NOTE: This article was originally posted in February 2020 and republished in June 2021 to keep this important topic top of mind.


Sabbath Practices and Well-Being in Christian Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted virtually (pun intended) every aspect of life. Education was no exception. Schools have adapted to a new normal—a shift that led to higher levels of stress among all school community members, including school leadersteachers, students (herehere, and here), and parents. Christian school communities were not immune. A study about ACSI schools during COVID-19 shows that many Christian school leaders expressed their concerns about staff and students’ mental health during the pandemic.

In this challenging time, rest and wellness are more important than ever. Research, predominantly from the field of psychology, consistently documents a positive relationship between rest or “leisure” and mental health (for examples, see herehere, and here). But as Christians, how do we respond to these disruptions? How might Sabbath practices and resting from our labors (Exodus 20:8-11) be related to the wellness of Christian school community members, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?

In seeking the answers to these questions, we surveyed Christian school communities in the U.S., Canada, and Indonesia from January to March 2021, with almost 8,000 individuals, including heads of school, principals, teachers, students, and parents responding (see full report in ACSI’s spring issue of Research in Brief here).

What is “the Sabbath”?

Before discussing the key findings, it is important to note that there are a wide range of theological views on the Sabbath that are held within orthodox Christianity. We found this reflected across the participating Christian school communities in the study, as we asked about respondents’ beliefs relative to the Sabbath. Some of the strongest points of agreement include:

  • God commands we should keep one day in a week holy by resting from our labors (94%);
  • Sunday is the Christian Sabbath to commemorate Christ’s resurrection (83%);
  • Sabbath-keeping is a priority in their schools (82%); and
  • Recreations are permitted on the Sabbath (74%).

For all remaining questions, participants responded with their own definition of the Sabbath in mind (for example, a specific day of the week, versus any time of rest chosen). This is because our study is not intended to promote particular views on Sabbath practices or prescribe specific behaviors, but rather to describe the Sabbath practices and policies of members of Christian school communities and explore any correlations with well-being.

Key Findings: Burnout and Well-Being 

Our first finding was that Sabbath practices are strongly and positively associated with mental wellness. There is a significantly lower burnout rate between those who practice Sabbath-keeping with those who do not practice Sabbath-keeping. This trend is observed in almost all categories of school constituents (see Figure 1). Our finding affirms a biblical truth that needs no empirical proof: we are created not only for work but for rest, bearing the image of our Heavenly Father, who in six days made the heavens and the earth and rested on the seventh day.

burnout frequencies

Differences between individuals who “keep the Sabbath” and those who claim they do not may provide us with hints as to why we see differential levels of burnout. Teachers who keep Sabbath practices have a lower likelihood than their counterparts in engaging in school-related work on the Sabbath (see Figure 2).

teachers and sabbath

If Sabbath-keepers are more likely to avoid work-related activities on the Sabbath, how do they spend their Sabbaths? Sabbath-keepers are more likely to engage in church-related activities, including fellowship with their family and other church members on the Sabbath (see Figure 3).

teachers and sabbath practices

Implications of the Findings

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of setting aside time to rest and pause. This truth also applies to Christian school communities. Our findings confirm that the act of resting through Sabbath practices make a difference in one’s wellness. More importantly, we know that observing the Sabbath through rest is an act of worshipful obedience to God, the Creator, and Sustainer of our lives and everything in the world.

Based on our findings, schools may want to prayerfully consider some of the following strategies:

  1. Think about your school’s main priorities. Might there be a tension between pursuing excellence and promoting Sabbath practices?
  2. School leaders may find it helpful to explicitly communicate any guidance or policies around setting aside the Sabbath day for their teachers and staff. At the same time, it is important to consider whether we are creating working environments that make it manageable for teachers to take Sabbath rest.
  3. Teachers should be thoughtful about how their classroom policies may create opportunities for students to remember the Sabbath. A good question to ask is whether we are shepherding students to develop spiritual disciplines, including Sabbath practices.

Rethinking Assessment: A Tool for Learning and Spiritual Formation

What a school decides to measure is particular to each school and expresses what that school community values in the realms of academics, social, physical, and spiritual development. What you measure influences what your students pay attention to. But how we assess carries more subtle and influential implications for our identity in God’s story, because it influences how students see themselves and their God. 

We believe that amidst the growing complexity of assessment vocabulary—formative, summative, diagnostic, interim, performance, standardized—the most important words in assessment are the prepositions: of and for. They define the purpose of the assessment and how it is used. We recognize there is a place for both types of assessments in our schools, but each has implications for learning and for spiritual formation. 

Assessment “OF” Learning

Assessment of learning (sometimes called summative assessment) refers to the assessments we are perhaps most familiar with. Assessment of learning asks the question, “Have students mastered the content and skills expected in this course?” According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, assessment of learning is the “process of collecting and interpreting evidence for the purpose of summarizing learning at a given point in time, to make judgments about the quality of student learning on the basis of established criteria, and to assign a value to represent that quality.” The audience is policy makers, program planners, supervisors, parents, other teachers, or students themselves. It happens after learning has occurred. The teacher’s role is primarily to administer the test carefully, report the results to parents or the district, and in some cases, to create the assessments. Often schools are guided by state standards when it comes to these assessments.

We need to think deeply about the learning experience of students and what are we conveying about God, if assessment of learning is the predominantmethod of measuring student achievement. The student studies everything in the textbook and their notes, hoping they are focusing on material that will be on the test. There’s no way of knowing for sure, and too often little guidance is given in this regard. They take the test, and it is returned to them, wrong answers marked in red. The student breathes a sigh of relief if the score is acceptable; he crumples the test up and tosses it if it is not. No redemption is possible. “I’m just not good at math,” whispers the voice of shame to this despondent one. “You’re a genius!” boasts pride to the “successful” one. Both result in what Carol Dweck refers to as a fixed mindset, which holds that all of us are born good at some things, and not good at others—and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

What image of God does assessment of learning convey? How does it shape the way we understand our relationship with the Creator? God (like the impersonal SAT scorer somewhere in the great beyond) is the “Judge in the Sky” looking down on all our works. We’re not exactly sure what is going to be on the test—probably everything. We stand before Him, trembling on the day of the final exam. “I know I prayed and went to church and we sent our kids to Christian schools. We tithed (most of the time). I did get that divorce, but I wasn’t a Christian then, so maybe it’s OK. Did I study the Bible enough? I never did visit anyone in prison and I usually ignored the homeless. There were all those people at work I never shared the Gospel with. But I did accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Isn’t that enough?” And then it will be thumbs up or thumbs down—dwelling with Him in heaven or… The test is pass/fail. 

As importantly, in the system of assessment of learning, what motivates students to do their work? Grades! Middle and high school teachers lament the predictable chorus that often follows any assignment they present: “Are we going to be graded on this?” “Is it going to be on the test?” “What do I have to do to get an ‘A’?” The prize in assessment of learning is a good grade. And as much as teachers would like to prevent this obsession with grades, a non-graded assignment is code for “this doesn’t really matter.”  Is there a correlation between working to earn good grades in school and trying to earn God’s favor through works in life? We’re not suggesting we do away with grades, but rather to create a culture that runs on godly motivation, not peripheral incentives. Grades should enter like grace, not through the front door of external rewards, but through the back door of work done well as worship. Rightly used, grades are the natural response to our work, not the stimulus. God knows our motivation. God knows what is on the inside, no matter how good we might look to the world. 

Assessment of learning tends to create a system that basically runs on B.F. Skinner’s toolbox of rewards (good grades, awards, parent praise, stickers, pizza parties, etc.) or punishments (bad grades, summer school, parent disapproval, grounding, no video games for a week, etc.). How can we instead use assessment to create a culture of intrinsic motivation, responding to the role God is calling them to in His story? How can we create a school culture that runs on curiosity to learn about the world and discover God in it, or even just the joy of learning something new—fitting another piece into the great puzzle of Creation? We want to build a culture with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset, where “if I work hard I can get better.” If I make a mistake, I can learn from it. Assessment for learning addresses these questions.

Assessment “FOR” Learning

Assessment for learning (sometimes called formative assessment) comes closest to the original meaning of the word “assessment.” It comes from assidere, Latin for “to sit with.” It suggests the idea of sitting with a piece of student work, appreciating its strengths, identifying ways it could be improved. Assessment for learning serves to promote learning and takes place while the student is still learning. Assessment for learning asks the question, “How can I use assessment to improve student learning?” 

According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, it is the “ongoing process of gathering and interpreting evidence about student learning for the purpose of determining where students are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there.” The audience is students and teachers. The information gathered provides feedback to students to focus their learning and for teachers to adjust instruction. Examples are rubrics, self-assessments, descriptive feedback, and student-led conferences. An important component of assessment for learning is students reflecting on themselves as learners. (Some educators refer to this as assessment as learning). They determine where they are in relation to the learning target and what they need to do to reach it. Assessment for learning encourages students to accurately assess their own progress and take responsibility for their own development. 

Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black (1998) found evidence that shows the effectiveness of assessment for learning in raising student achievement. In particular, they found teachers who effectively employ assessment for learning strategies have an effect on students equal to or better than the effects of individual tutoring! And furthermore, these strategies have a greater effect on low-achievers, including students with learning disabilities and English language learners. 

What is the learning experience of students and what are we conveying about God when assessment for learning is the predominant method of measuring student achievement? Students know what is going to be on the test because the learning targets have been made clear. They study their text and notes focusing on those targets. They take the test and the teacher returns it with specific feedback on strengths and weaknesses. They analyze the results to identify what they need to learn or practice in order to meet the target. They notice some errors were careless, and others were misunderstandings. If only students could get help with the concepts they did not understand, be more careful, and take the test again—when assessment is used for learning, they can! 

When assessment is used for learning, we meet a God who instructs, teaches, and counsels us in the way we should go with a loving eye. God is with us step by step, forgiving, correcting, encouraging, patiently presenting the lesson again in a new way until we master it. He calls us to be reflective and to participate fully in this process as sons and daughters, even as friends. In assessment for learning, failure invites growth, not self-condemnation and shame. In our spiritual lives, failure can bring us into deeper humility and greater dependence on a God who does not condemn us, but presents us with opportunities for growth. 

Suggested Strategies

We suggest the following eight strategies to assess for learning, which in turn shape a very different understanding of our relationship with God than assessment of learning (adapted from Stiggins et al. 2004):

  1.  Provide a clear and understandable vision of the learning target. When God instructs us, the “learning target” is crystal clear. Think, for example, of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. These are “learning targets” to become like Christ.
  2.  Examine examples of strong and weak work with students. The Bible is full of examples of weak and strong characters and they’re in there, at least in part, for our edification.
  3.  Provide descriptive feedback. The Holy Spirit gives timely, specific, descriptive feedback. The Spirit points a laser at our souls convicting us of where we failed to live up to the character of Christ. “You just gossiped about that parent,” the Spirit might say. It is specific, and timely.
  4.  Teach students to self-assess and set goals. God calls us to examine ourselves and see if there is “any sin in us.” And Paul describes the goal for every devoted follower of Jesus:“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
  5.  Design lessons to focus on one skill, concept, or strategy at a time. God generally deals with us on one issue at a time. Trying to improve too many things at a time usually results in not improving in anything.
  6.  Teach students focused revision. God lets us practice over and over, putting us in similar situations until we receive the grace we need to be changed.
  7. Engage students in self-reflection and let them keep track of their own progress. We are called to reflect on our ways: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28, NIV).
  8. Use assessment information to refine curriculum and guide instruction. God’s instruction is wisely and lovingly tailored to what each of us needs. In Psalm 32:8-9 (NIV), God tells us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

If we use assessment for learning strategies well, students will be prepared to do well when it is time to do the assessment of learning. More importantly, they will come to know the lovingkindness of the Lord, and trust that with God, all things are possible—even acing that math test!


Christian Education Snippets March 2021

Dear Colleagues, 

He was my soccer coach, my swimming coach, my mentor, role model, and most importantly, he was my Grade 6 teacher. I don’t think he was a Christian but then neither was I. He had a love for young people and a deep desire to impact them for the good! I was one of a group that used to hang onto every word he said. I can remember how I used to look forward to getting my end of term report from him simply because it mattered to me what he thought of me! His comments were incisive and invariably accurate – he seemed to know what we were thinking about and whether this was good for us in the long run – he was not afraid to call a spade a spade! My parents recognised the value of having someone like him in my life. If they threatened me with a visit to Mr.W. I would modify my behaviour quickly and do whatever it took to avoid the latter! Such is the power of a good mentor! 

A few years after Gateway Primary School started I was sitting in my office finishing off some things that I had to do before the next day, the secretaries had gone home and the school was quiet. I heard footprints coming towards my office, a head popped round the corner and there was Mr. W. as large as life! 

He happened to be in the area and had heard that I was the Headmaster of a new school and decided to see if he could catch me before I went home. We chatted together for a while catching up on the many years that had elapsed since our last meeting. He was about to leave the country for the UK. That was the last time I saw him. 

In my school days teachers of his calibre were rare, and to think that I just took his influence for granted! I wish I could see him again for five minutes to thank him for the impact that he had in my life! Is there a teacher in your life who has helped you to become the person that you are today – a Mr Fish or a Mrs Betani? Why don’t you write them a note or email them to thank them for being the people that they are/were and for being the positive influence that they have been in your life! 

If you are currently teaching in a school, pause and reflect on the positive impact you are having or should be having on the pupils you teach or coach. As Christian teachers we have a God-given opportunity to make a difference in these young lives, for eternity. Don’t let us waste one precious moment. As C.T. Studd said, ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.’ 

K.M. Ricquebourg 


Letter From The Chair January 2021

 15th January 2021 

Dear Christian Educators, 

Transformed leaders transform schools. This was an encouragement from a recent PSI training I did and it has challenged me to think what does a transformed leader look like? 

As we begin our new year, I am sure like me you had many plans and expectations both personally and for your school community and then lockdown and covid continues and we are thrown off our track. We have to rethink our plans. We need to relook at creative ideas to teach, learn, and build and encourage our community. Then as I ponder, what is Jesus asking of me, I am reminded that in Him all things were made, all Truth comes from Him, the source of all Truth and all creativity is God, and He tells us that when we lack wisdom we can ask and He gives generously without finding fault. In other words, I can go to God, not because I am worthy, but because He is faithful and wants to bless and use us, just like Jesus did with His disciples. 

So what do transformed leaders look like? The disciples! Jesus took ordinary men and did extraordinarily things through them. A few fishermen, a tax collector, a doubter, all became men on a mission for Christ. They met Jesus, followed Him, learnt from Him, saw His resurrection, knew His forgiveness and experienced His promise of the power of the Holy Spirit, and obeyed Christ’s call. That too can be our experience, right now, right where God has placed us, in our schools in Zimbabwe in 2021. 

Let us take courage from Jesus’ invitation – all who are weary come to Me. Let’s go to the author of ALL Truth, ask Him for new creative ways to teach our subjects, to build community, to make His name known. 

Many times in my capacity as a mother, a teacher, a nurse, a pastors wife, I have felt overwhelmed or felt I have needed creativity in my lessons, and as I have prayed and sought God’s presence I have found ideas and joy and excitement far beyond my own capacity. May this be your story too. Share with us how God gives you new and fresh ideas and ways to do things. We look forward to hearing from you! Learning is a lifelong gift. Let’s be good students, learning at the feet of Jesus, staying in His Word, relying on His grace and strength and as we learn, so we can be equipped to teach, and transform our schools as Christ transforms us. God is near. 


Sarah Cross 

Board Members: 

Sarah Cross (Chair), Caroline Chirume, Charmian Deysel, Tavonga Goto, George Faneti, Tungamurai Mashungu, Lenard Mudiwa, Daniel Pswarai, Kevin Ricquebourg, Mark Warhurst 


Christian Education Snippets June 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

I wonder if you have ever been in a situation where you get bad news followed by worse news, much like Job experienced losing his livestock, servants, his children and then his health in quick succession! 

Of the “righteous man”, Psalm 112 has the following to say: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Easy to say or write but a very different matter to do

Jairus , the ruler of the synagogue has much to teach us when it comes to having faith in tough times! 

We read in Mark’s gospel that his daughter was sick to the point of death. Despite the cynicism and out-right hostility that many of his colleagues displayed towards Jesus, Jairus was amazed by this man who could calm storms, command evil spirits to leave people and heal diseases. Finding Jesus was no problem as His exploits were on the lips of everyone. When Jairus found Jesus returning from the region of the Gerasenes, He was, as usual, surrounded by a vast throng. Not put off by this, he ran to Jesus, fell on his knees and pleaded with Him. He cuts to the chase immediately – “My little daughter is dying. Please, put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live”. Despite the demands of the crowd with its press-ing needy people we read of Jesus’s response to Jairus: “So Jesus went with him.” 

What do we learn from this? 

Firstly, we do not get the impression that Jesus felt interrupted. Taking care of Jairus’s daughter was part of His agenda for that day. Growing the faith of Jairus was also part of that agenda, as we can see from the events which followed. A lady, who had been haemorrhaging for 12 years and who was at her wits end, touched his garment and immediately brought proceedings to a halt. With no sense of rush or urgen-cy, Jesus, gave His undivided attention to another individual! We can just imagine how Jairus must have felt at this stage. When he left his daughter she was almost dead. And now this delay would surely prove very costly to him. As if to confirm his feelings some men from his house arrived and told him, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher anymore?” From a bad situation Jairus’s problem has just moved to worst-case scenario. His daughter had died! If we were reading the account for the first time we would probably feel the same – it’s too late to fix this! I find what happens next most instructive. The narrative, instead of switching to Jairus, keeps its focus on Jesus and what Jesus does in this clash be-tween light and darkness. “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” 

There is much bad news out there today, right now, inviting us to believe it. It’s on our phones, in the newspapers we read, on the lips of our friends, on countless screens – everywhere! And what is its mes-sage? It is simple. 

There is No Hope… No hope… No hope… No hope! 


Scripture says that we are transformed “by the renewing of our minds.” This is so important we need to pause for a few moments and ask ourselves if the problems we have living in this country at this time in our history are because we have let them enter our minds and rob us of our peace?! 

The solution is to believe God’s Word instead of our feelings. We may feel very afraid or discouraged, but the truth is that God is with us and He is sovereign over the affairs of men, and He has told us not to be afraid. Which are we going to listen to – the feelings or the Word 

K.M. Ricquebourg 

ACSI Zimbabwe Coordinator