5) “…and Daniel had understanding…”
Here the writer assesses Daniel’s grasp of the reality of his learning. Indeed, there is output from Daniel’s life because of God’s input into it; there is recognition of harvest coming from sown seed, a frequent theme and concept throughout Scripture, as God is not one to waste effort (educational or otherwise). This mention of measure is important, as its inclusion in the text signifies the writer’s (and presumably God’s) concern with honest assessment of learning.
As a teacher or as a parent – regardless of intellectual discipline – change in students is what we long to see: change in thinking; change in convictions; change in behavior; change in results. As educators, we cannot merely hope that understanding is happening without measuring for change, for if there is no way to measure for change, there is no way to measure for understanding.
Biblically speaking, assessment is not a dirty word. Paul implies as much in Romans 12:3 when he says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” As Christian parents and teachers, we are to evaluate our students and ourselves as we journey together the road of teaching and learning.
While there are many means (tests, quizzes, presentations, papers, projects, discussions, etc.) to this end, perhaps frequency of assessment is as or more important than its form, as frequency focuses on the process of evaluation, whereas variety focuses on its event. The “teaching to the test” critique of recent years is precisely what we are trying to address here: if our mentality of assessment is more form- than frequency-based, then we will find ourselves teaching to the test rather than teaching to the student.
Without end-of-class “what did you learn today?” questions, between-class “what did you think of class today?” interactions, and outside-of-class “what are you thinking about from class today?” conversations, we have little comprehension of how our students may actually do on the test, quiz, or project until after it’s given, a practice that encourages students to master the assessment mechanism instead of the material over which they are being assessed.
6) “…in all visions and dreams.”
Here we begin to understand the ultimate why of God giving Daniel gifts. Simply put, everything God gives to Daniel has much to do with what the second half of his book records – specifically its prophetic revelations and Daniel’s ability to interpret visions and dreams concerning Israel’s future. Ultimately, we could say God’s goals for His pupil bring purpose to His pedagogy.
Our hopes for our students must be rooted in God’s goals for them; thus, our pedagogy must be formed not only by what and how to teach, but by why to teach as well. We are called to teach not because we are teachers, but because God is the teacher – One who teaches not just for the sake of comprehension but also for the sake of change in His students and within His created world. Because of this truth, we do not have the luxury of saying we teach subjects; no, we teach students, for subjects matter when God enables students to learn them and change as a result.
This mentality manifests itself (or should) in daily prayer – for God’s will to be done in the world, in the lives of our students, and in us as their parents and teachers. Our students need to see in us hearts for God through our own relationship with Him, that we might model dependence upon God as part of our gifting to help students interpret visions and dreams He gives to them.
Painting: Daniel Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's First Dream, Mattia Preti (undated).