Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sacraments Curriculum Planning, Step 1: Creating Benchmarks

This series of posts tracks my planning for the next semester according to the Understanding by Design workbook.

As a religion teacher, I do have one major setback: there are currently no national standards for me to reference for lesson planning. The US Bishops have been putting one together for some time--although, frankly, early reports of their output do not look promising. In fact, I think it's an esoteric, hodge-podge, out-of-touch mess. See what happens when you let bureaucrats do anything important? But we haven't seen the final draft yet, so I will hold out hope and pray.

Rather than (just) complain, however, I am going to create my own standards, modeled after the language and design of those used for social studies and history standards.

For example, consider this list of benchmarks by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) relating to "Production, Distribution, and Consumption":

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, so that the learner can:

  1. explain how the scarcity of productive resources (human, capital, technological, and natural) requires the development of economic systems to make decisions about how goods and services are to be produced and distributed;

  2. analyze the role that supply and demand, prices, incentives, and profits play in determining what is produced and distributed in a competitive market system;

  3. consider the costs and benefits to society of allocating goods and services through private and public sectors;

  4. describe relationships among the various economic institutions that comprise economic systems such as households, business firms, banks, government agencies, labor unions, and corporations;

  5. analyze the role of specialization and exchange in economic processes;

  6. compare how values and beliefs influence economic decisions in different societies;

  7. compare basic economic systems according to how rules and procedures deal with demand, supply, prices, the role of government, banks, labor and labor unions, savings and investments, and capital;

  8. apply economic concepts and reasoning when evaluating historical and contemporary social developments and issues;

  9. distinguish between the domestic and global economic systems, and explain how the two interact;

  10. apply knowledge of production, distribution, and consumption in the analysis of a public issue such as the allocation of health care or the consumption of energy, and devise an economic plan for accomplishing a socially desirable outcome related to that issue;

  11. distinguish between economics as a field of inquiry and the economy.

OK, this won't be too hard. For one thing, I do have something like a standard to begin with: the Diocese's standard for Sacraments. It looks like this:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of concepts underlying the Catholic sacramental life and its relationship to lived grace, ritual, prayer, and service.

  2. describe the relationship between Jesus, the Church, and the seven sacraments.

  3. explain the meaning of the Mystery of the Incarnation, Paschal Mystery, Pentecost, Church as the Body of Christ, and their effect on the development of the seven sacraments.

  4. identify major developments in the history of the sacraments.

  5. explain what realities of human life are celebrated by each of the sacraments.

  6. identify the major symbols used in each of the sacraments and the key aspects of ritualizing these sacraments.

  7. explain Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian lifestyle.

  8. examine and explain the liturgical year as an expression of the sacramental life of the Church.

Alas, having taught this class before, I can't leave this list well enough alone. Here is what I have to consider:
  • There is no standard on how to write standards. The NCSS divides their topics thematically while the OAH (Organization of American Historians) does so, unsurprisingly, by chronology.
  • There is also no standard for length or depth; a standard might apply to the entire of subject of "History" (subdivided into World and US) or to a single course within Social Studies, like Geography (the NCSS version is called "People, Places, and Environments")
  • Apparently, when these big organizations write standards, they don't think about the way classes, or even textbook chapters are divided. Consider sacraments. There are seven of them. Every textbook I've seen (admittedly not many) gives each sacrament its own chapter. Are the Diocese's standards divided by sacraments? Of course not!
  • The upshot of this is that standards tend to be "course blind"; they have little to do with the way or order that the class is taught; but the class must have everything to do with them.
  • Note also that individual standards usually begin with one or more of Bloom's Taxonomy verbs.
Let's begin.

First question: how do I divide my standards? Let's lay everything out on the table. I skimmed the Diocesan standards for the buzz words and major themes. Here they are:
  • Catholic sacramental life (lived grace, ritual, prayer, and service)
  • Jesus (Incarnation, Paschal Mystery)
  • Church (Pentecost, Body of Christ)
  • The seven sacraments (their root)
  • History of the sacraments
  • Realities of human life
  • Major symbols and "ritualizing" the sacraments (incl. liturgical objects/items)
  • Eucharist as "source and summit"
  • Liturgical calendar
I would add only two things to this:
  • Diversity in liturgical expression
  • The Liturgy of the Hours
Let's be practical. This calendar year I will have about 16 more-or-less complete weeks (usually 2-3 full periods, and 1-2 shortened periods). There are two other weeks with only two days apiece, plus the two school-days prior to midterms in December (for review). If I give two weeks to each sacrament, that only gives me time for one more unit. I can probably give some sacraments less time--Anointing of the Sick and Confirmation come to mind--freeing up time for a second extra unit.

What basic areas could a unit about a single sacrament cover?
  • Theology (origin, purpose, effects) of the sacrament
  • Biblical origins
  • History
  • Ritual and practice
  • Life realities
OK. So what items from the above list would be neglected if I only had seven units, one for each sacrament?
  • Catholic sacramental life (lived grace, ritual, prayer, and service)
  • Jesus (Incarnation, Paschal Mystery)
  • Church (Pentecost, Body of Christ)
  • Liturgical calendar
  • Diversity in liturgical expression
  • The Liturgy of the Hours
How convenient! It so happens that the above six items can be neatly divided into two units, that I might roughly name: "What is a Sacrament?" and "Liturgy and Sacred Time".

All right, this provides us with a solid ground to build a "standard" for this class. The macro-categories should look like this:
  • God, Christ, and the Church
  • The Catholic Sacramental Vision
  • Liturgy and Sacred Time
  • Origins, Purpose, and Effects of the Sacraments
  • Sacraments in Scripture and Tradition
  • Historical Development of the Sacraments
  • Ritual and Practice
  • Sanctification of Human Life
Whew! Now we have to expand these into specific benchmarks. How many? Well, in this case, the more the merrier. The NCSS has about 6-10 benchmarks per sub-topic.

Here is a skeleton outline for my benchmarks.
  1. God, Christ, and the Church
    1. God as a God of love, creation, and salvation
    2. incarnation, Christ as the sacrament of God to the world
    3. paschal mystery, dying and rising to new life
    4. pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and birth of the Church
    5. images of church, body of Christ, bride of Christ, people of God, temple of the Spirit
    6. human and divine aspects of church
  2. The Catholic Sacramental Vision
    1. desire for god
    2. commandment to pray
    3. sacramentum & mysterium
    4. sacrament as a “mini-incarnation”
    5. definition of a sacrament
    6. distinction between ritual and sacrament
    7. grace as wholly God's undeserved, free gift
    8. sacraments as rooted in the words and actions of Jesus
  3. Liturgy and Sacred Time
    1. time as God's creation
    2. “chronos”, sacred time, and silence
    3. the liturgical calendar
    4. Holy days of obligation
    5. the Missal
    6. the Liturgy of the Hours
    7. leitourgia as the work of God on behalf of his people
    8. sacramentals: liturgy beyond the Seven Sacraments
  4. Origins, Purpose, and Effects of the Sacraments
    1. Eucharist as the source and summit of life
    2. Baptism as the first participation in the Paschal Mystery
    3. Confirmation as the seal of the Spirit and completion of Baptism
    4. Penance as reentry into the Communion of Saints
    5. Anointing as prayer for healing and the mystery of suffering and death
    6. Matrimony as the perfection of human love and the domestic church
    7. Orders as the visible continuation of Jesus' ministerial presence
    8. all sacraments and uniting and sanctifying the Body
  5. Sacraments in Scripture and Tradition
    1. prefiguration of the sacraments in the Old Testament
    2. the words and actions of Jesus
    3. primordial sacraments in Acts of the Apostles
    4. Christ as the High Priest in Hebrews
    5. Paul's theology of the Body of Christ and Bride of Christ
    6. Revelation as a liturgical text
    7. writings of the Church Fathers--the Didache, the Apostolic Tradition, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, Cyprian
  6. Historical Development of the Sacraments
    1. concept of development in continuity
    2. Jewish precursors
    3. liturgy in the early Church
    4. developments, corruptions, and innovations of the middle ages
    5. challenges of the Reformation and the Catholic reform
    6. the Second Vatican Council and subsequent developments
  7. Ritual and Practice
    1. the spirit of the liturgy
    2. signs vs. symbols
    3. the meanings of symbols
    4. the parts of the Mass
    5. liturgical objects
    6. lay participation
    7. law, culture, and diversity of practice
  8. Sanctification of Human Life
    1. sacraments uphold and sanctify central human life realities
    2. experience of “church”
    3. concept of a “sacramental life”
    4. sacraments as the fuel of service
    5. sacraments as the transformation of ordinary life
Obviously this list is lacking in detail, but it's a start.

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